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'I will always be thankful to Vinod Khanna'

April 27, 2017 16:28 IST

Vinod Khanna and Shabana Azmi

'One day, (director) Manmohan Desai turned up at a studio I was shooting in and said in his inimitable manner: 'I'm producing a film for the first time. It's called Amar Akbar Anthony and I want you to be a part of it. Frankly, there's no role for you but woh Vinod meri jaan kha jayega that Amitabh and Rishi have heroines opposite them, I need one too!''

Shabana Azmi shares some beautiful stories of her frequent co-star Vinod Khanna.

Shabana Azmi has worked with Vinod Khanna in quite a few films like Shaque, Khoon Ki Pukar, Parvarish and Amar Akbar Anthony.

She says his death was quite unexpected, and pays a rich tribute to him:

Photographs showing an ailing Vinod Khanna -- a pale shadow of his dashing former self -- had insensitively been circulated on the social media a few weeks ago. And now, he is gone.

Farooque Sheikh, Om Puri , Vinod... three co actors with whom I worked a lot have passed away in quick succession. Makes me come to terms with my own mortality.

I first worked with Vinod in Aruna-Vikas's Shaque. I remember being terrified because Aruna and Vikas, who were married then and co-directing the film, demonstrated how they wanted a particularly intimate scene to be done.

I was awkward and embarrassed.

Vinod, who sensed this, came to my rescue.

When we started rehearsing, he put his arm around me and asked the directors if he held me in that position, would I miss the camera? Would it be better if he held my arm higher?

Suddenly, I felt 'Oh, this is such a technical thing. There's no need to be embarrassed.' I started breathing again.

I will always be thankful to him for this.

He was a big star and I, a rank newcomer. If he had asked me to relax, I would have been even more tense. What a considerate thing to do.

We did many films together. He was different from most movie stars. On outdoor schedules, it's common to have fans shower hospitality on stars, bring home cooked food and generally be at the star's beck and call.

We are happy to partake of their hospitality but avoid their phone calls when they come to our city.

Vinod would not only be accessible, he would also invite them on the sets and be extremely courteous.

It was a rare quality.

I did a whole gamut of films with Vinod from Shaque to Khoon Ki Pukar and particularly enjoyed doing Parvarish with him.

One day, (director) Manmohan Desai turned up at a studio I was shooting in and said in his inimitable manner: 'I'm producing a film for the first time. It's called Amar Akbar Anthony and I want you to be a part of it. Frankly, there's no role for you but woh Vinod meri jaan kha jayega that Amitabh and Rishi have heroines opposite them, I need one too!'

I was utterly disarmed and said yes right away.

I've watched Vinod through various phases in his life. His Rajneesh phase in the prime of his stardom. He had lost his mother and a close cousin almost simultaneously and was battling metaphysical questions about life and death. He felt cut off and disconnected with everything and everybody.

Rajneesh gave him the solace he was seeking. He became the butt of ridicule in whispers in the film industry. 'Such a handsome successful star... what's wrong with him? Sab kuch to hai kyun panga lena?'

Then one day, he just left, leaving behind angry producers with incomplete films. I wonder if anybody other than Mahesh Bhatt and Jhonny Bakshi understood the turmoil Vinod was going through.

He came back some five years later and the film industry opened its arms to him again. He did substantial work but needed to do more than just be a Hindi film actor. Inevitably, he joined politics and was overwhelmed by the huge mandate he got.

He gave himself wholeheartedly to politics -- he even became a Minister of State for External Affairs. I had political differences with him but we continued to be fond of each other. I learned he often enquired after me from common friends but we lost touch.

And now he is gone...

I regret not going to see him after I learned about his illness. Perhaps because I want to remember him as he was -- handsome , warm and considerate.

Subhash K Jha