Kamal Haasan's shares his memories of the superstar on Rajesh Khanna's 74th birth anniversary on December 29.
Not many know that Rajesh Khanna shared a good rapport with Kamal Haasan and that they spent many hours ruminating on life and success.
On RK's 74th birth anniversary, Kamal Haasan looks back at the superstar.
"I refused to call him Kaka like everyone did," he says. "I was willing to call him Bade Bhaiyya or Mr Khanna but not Kaka. We spent many, many hours together. I was this 'upcoming actor from the South' -- that's how he introduced me in Mumbai. He was the undisputed King of Hindi cinema."
Since Rajesh Khanna did a lot of South Indian remakes, he was often in Chennai. That's how the friendship started.
"We spent a lot of time discussing cinema and life," Kamal says. "He would sometimes get philosophical about the in consequentiality of life. Once we went to a movie together, a mediocre American film called The Swarm, and I decided to take him to a theatre at the heart of the city. He didn't know we were going to a public screening. He probably hadn't been to a public theatre since he became a star. When we reached, things were okay.
"He enjoyed the film and refused to leave until the end titles. That's when I panicked. This was Rajesh Khanna, THE star of the millennium. If audiences got to know he was present, there would be a stampede and blood on my hands. But Mr Khanna refused to listen and stayed on till the end.
"The inevitable happened after the show. All hell broke loose, as audiences realised he was there. I became THE Rajesh Khanna's bodyguard and security officer as I took him through the crowd. His shirt was torn but he enjoyed himself thoroughly."
Rajesh Khanna's wife Dimple Kapadia gave her friend Kamal Haasan (they have been friends ever since they starred in Ramesh Sippy's Sagar) a piece of her mind. "She wanted to know what was I thinking when I took him to a public screening. Anything could have happened."
Rajesh Khanna watched a lot of Kamal Haasan's films for remake rights. One of them Sigappu Rojjakal was remade as Red Rose.
One day, the phone rang in Kamal Haasan's office.
"My assistant, a big Rajesh Khanna fan, was over the moon as God himself asked him about his well being. Mr Khanna announced he was doing a remake of my film Sigappu Rojjakal, and that the mahurat was the very next day and would I please send him the cap that I wore for my character? I agreed. He also asked me to be present at the mahurat in Mumbai the next day. I protested saying, I wasn't needed. He insisted as he wanted to introduce me as the upcoming star from the South. Anyway, the cap was sent from Chennai to Mumbai by hand delivery by a man who unfortunately, turned out to be a fan of Rajesh Khanna and Kamal Haasan."
The fan decided he did not want to part with the cap.
"Mr Khanna was livid," Kamal laughs. "'Since you were coming, why couldn't you bring it with you?' he asked me. Many other caps were brought forth but he wanted only that cap."
Kamal was fascinated by Rajesh Khanna's aura.
"I never wanted to be a star. I observed him. Our friendship came to a sorry end at a party in his house where he was less than polite. But my friendship with Dimple is forever. It's like the lines from the immortal Geeta Dutt song, 'Beqaraar dil iss terah miley jiss terah kabhi humjuda na the'. Whenever we meet, no matter how long the gap is, it's like we had never stopped meeting. We'll remain friends for as long as we're alive. My daughter Shruti will make sure of that. She's even fonder of Dimple than I am," he signs off.