Revisiting Rajesh Khanna

February 8, 2015

Two books trace back into rise and rise of India’s first superstar, Rajesh Khanna

Revisiting Rajesh Khanna

He was the first superstar of the Indian film industry; no actor, not even any of the much-worshipped Khans, has been able to match the success of Rajesh Khanna. Yet, until recently, his life and legacy had only been chronicled by articles in newspapers and magazines, giving his fans only fragmented glimpses of the man behind the actor. Two books - Dark Star: The Loneliness of Being Rajesh Khanna by Gautam Chintamani and Yasser Usman’s Rajesh Khanna – The Untold Story of India’s First Superstar - give fans a chance to get up close and personal with the man who made women go weak in their knees, got men to mimic his style to impress the ladies and changed the face of Hindi cinema forever.

In Dark Star: The Loneliness of Being Rajesh Khanna, author Gautam Chintamani does a commendable job of painting the true picture of the actor who remained in the limelight for his 17 consecutive blockbusters during 1969 and 1972. He traces Khanna’s roots to his ancestral home, writes about his adoption at an early age, talks to veteran journalists who had interviewed Rajesh Khanna and people who had seen Rajesh Khanna’s rise to superstardom. He also chronologically details the actor’s career from his first appearance to his last and mentions all his positive and negative traits that saw his downfall from the top.

The names of chapters in this book have been taken from the songs filmed on Rajesh Khanna such as Prem Kahani Main Ik Ladka Hota Hai for the introduction and Acha To Hum Chalte Hain for the last one. An anecdote that stands out in the book is regarding the shoot of a film directed by Shakti Samantha, the director who made the most films with Rajesh Khanna. When the unsatisfied director asked the ex-superstar to retake the shot, Rajesh Khanna replied, "Is se acha shot aapko pooray India main koi nahi dega. (No one in all of India can give you a better shot)." On hearing this, the director called for a break and took the actor for a walk, during which he told him, "Rajesh Khanna is dead."

The author, however, fails to address Rajesh Khanna’s marriage to Dimple Kapadia, or why he was prone to turn up late for his shoots, even when he was an industry newbie.

On the other hand, Yasser Usman’s Rajesh Khanna – The Untold Story of India’s First Superstar fills in the blanks left by the other book; in fact, reading both books gives you comprehensive insight into the phenomenon known as Rajesh Khanna. Be it his first romance with a neighbor Surekha, his meeting with future on-off girlfriend Anju Mahendroo, his first meeting with Dimple Kapadia (and her appearances at Aashirwaad), and his choices of films in his own words (courtesy his many interviews including one joint interview with Amitabh Bachchan in the last ‘80s), this book covers many details about the man known as Rajesh Khanna. There isn’t much written about the ‘Oopar Aaka, Neeche Kaka’ phenomenon on the rise in early ‘70s but you will get to know all about his affair with Anju, his marital life with Dimple (who was engaged to his Bobby co-star Rishi Kapoor) and the many reasons why the two (Rajesh Khanna and Dimple Kapadia) chose never to get a divorce.

The two books have the same stand on many things including his chance meeting with actress Geeta Bali, the Filmfare - United Producers Combine Talent Hunt which Rajesh Khanna won in style, his rivalry with Amitabh Bachchan which was one-way all the time and Yash Chopra’s tribute to Rajesh Khanna by naming his company Yash Raj Films. We’re also taken behind the scenes to his affair on the sets of Souten that saw Tina Munim nearly becoming the next Mrs. Khanna. We learn how Ravi Kapoor took his friend’s real name to become the actor Jeetendra and the ultimately we are taken into the darbaar that was held at his home daily, one that was in the end responsible for his downfall.

Both books also extensively cover the one and only TV commercial ‘Kaka’ ever did - the Havells’ ad that paid tribute to his millions of ‘fans’ who used to send him letters in blood, covered his car with kisses, dressed like him and used to wait outside his residence for a glimpse of him. His last public appearance with his son-in-law Akshay Kumar on the balcony of Aashirwaad made him ‘Breaking News’ once again, after which he bade farewell to all with his trademark smile, tilt of the head and the lines Acha To Hum Chalte Hain from his super hit song!

Omair Alavi works for Geo TV and can be contacted at [email protected]


5 Things You Didn’t

Know About Rajesh Khanna

1.       Jaya’s Prophecy: During the shooting of Bawarchi, Rajesh Khanna made fun of Amitabh Bachchan who used to visit his then girlfriend Jaya Bhaduri on the sets. While Big B (a flop actor in those days) remained calm, it was his future wife who went to Rajesh Khanna and told him that one day people will forget about him and talk about Amitabh. How true!

2.       Rajesh Khanna and Dimple: Before Dimple Kapadia became his wife, Rajesh Khanna owned ‘Dimple’, the house he purchased from actor Rajendra Kumar, which was named so since Jubilee Kumar’s daughter’s name was also Dimple. Rajesh Khanna renamed the house Aashirwaad and stayed there till his last breath.

3.       Changing scripts: Rajesh Khanna was fond of making script writers change their scripts in his favour. While the ploy worked in Haathi Mere Saathi, it backfired in Namak Haraam - which helped Amitabh Bachchan’s career big time - and Souten where director Saawan Kumar Tuk decided to stall the film rather than bow down to Kaka’s wishes.

4.       Late arrival and tantrums: Except for a few occasions, Rajesh Khanna never arrived at the sets on time; he was also fond of throwing tantrums and in one of the books, it is mentioned that director Mehmood had to slap him during one such period to bring him down to the level of an actor, from a superstar.

5.       The Pakistan connection: While one book clearly states that Rajesh Khanna was born in Amritsar and was adopted by his uncle and aunt, the other keeps his early life mysterious. It says that he could have been born in Lahore or Burewala (both in Pakistan). But both books agree that he was named Jatin (short of Jatinder) at a naming ceremony held in a village called Dhapalpur, near Karachi.

Revisiting Rajesh Khanna