Rajesh Khanna (pronounced [rɑːˈdʒeːʃ kʰənˈnə]) (pronunciation; born Jatin Khanna; 29 December 1942 – 18 July 2012) was an Indian actor, film producer and politician who worked in Hindi films. Considered as one of the greatest and most successful actors in the history of Indian cinema, he is known as the first Superstar of Indian cinema.[3][4] He has consecutively starred in a record 15 solo hero successful films between 1969 and 1971, with his superstardom lasting till about 1975.[5][6][7] He was the highest-paid actor in Hindi cinema throughout the 1970s and 1980s.[8] His accolades include five Filmfare Awards, and in 2013, he was posthumously awarded the Padma Bhushan, India's third highest civilian honour.

Rajesh Khanna
Born
Jatin Khanna

(1942-12-29)29 December 1942
Died18 July 2012(2012-07-18) (aged 69)
NationalityIndian
EducationK. C. College
Occupations
  • Actor
  • film producer
  • politician
Years active1966–2012
WorksFull list
Political partyIndian National Congress
Spouse
(m. 1973; sep. 1982)
PartnersAnju Mahendru (1966–1972)[2]
Children
Relatives
Awards
Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha
In office
1992–1996
Preceded byL. K. Advani
Succeeded byJagmohan
ConstituencyNew Delhi
Majority28,256
Signature

Khanna made his debut in 1966 Aakhri Khat which was India's first official Academy Awards entry in 1967.[9] In 2005, he was honoured with the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award on the 50th anniversary of the Filmfare Awards.[10][11] He was a Member of Parliament in the 10th Lok Sabha from New Delhi Lok Sabha constituency between 1992 and 1996, elected in the 1992 New Delhi by-election as an Indian National Congress candidate.[12] He was married to Dimple Kapadia in March 1973, eight months before her debut film Bobby was released and had two daughters from the marriage. Their elder daughter Twinkle Khanna is an actress who is married to actor Akshay Kumar, while they also have a younger daughter Rinke Khanna.[13]

Khanna died on 18 July 2012, after a period of illness.[14] He has been honoured with a stamp and statue in his likeness, and a road renamed after him by the Prime Minister of India.

Early life and background edit

 
Khanna's ancestral residence in Burewala, Punjab Pakistan

Rajesh Khanna was born on 29 December 1942, in Amritsar in the Punjab Province of British India,[1] as 'Jatin Khanna' into a Punjabi Hindu Khatri family.[15][16][17][18] He was adopted and raised by Chunnilal Khanna and Leelawati Khanna,[19] who were relatives of his biological parents. His father had migrated from West Punjab to Gali Tiwarian in Amritsar. His biological parents were Lala Hiranand Khanna and Chandrani Khanna. Lala worked as headmaster of the MC High School in Burewala (in present-day Vehari District, Punjab, Pakistan).[20][21] His adoptive parents belonged to a family of railway contractors who had moved from Lahore to Bombay in 1935.[22] Khanna lived in Saraswati Niwas,[23] in Thakur-dwar near Girgaon, Mumbai.

He attended St. Sebastian's Goan High School with his friend Ravi Kapoor, who later took the stage name Jeetendra.[24] Khanna gradually started taking an interest in theatre, did many stage and theatre plays in his school and college days, and won many prizes in inter-college drama competitions.[25]

In 1962 Khanna played a wounded mute soldier in the play Andha Yug and impressed with his performance; the chief guest suggested that he get into films soon.[26] Khanna became a rare newcomer who had his own MG sports car, who once struggled to get work in theatre and films in the early 1960s.[27]

Khanna did his first two years of Bachelor of Arts at Nowrosjee Wadia College in Pune from 1959 to 1961.[28] He later studied at Kishinchand Chellaram College, Mumbai and Jeetendra studied at Siddharth Jain College. Khanna tutored Jeetendra for his first film audition. Khanna's uncle KK Talwar changed Khanna's first name to Rajesh when he decided to enter films.[29] His friends and his wife called him Kaka (meaning a baby faced boy in Punjabi).[30]

Acting career edit

Early career (1966–1968) edit

Rajesh Khanna was one of eight finalists from more than 10,000 contestants in the 1965 All India Talent Contest, organised by United Producers and Filmfare, along with other FTII students Subhash Ghai and Dheeraj Kumar.[31][32] Khanna won the contest along with Farida Jalal.[33] BR Chopra, Bimal Roy, GP Sippy, HS Rawail, Nasir Husain, J.Om Prakash, Mohan Saigal, Shakti Samanta and Subodh Mukherji and others had created the United Producers organisation and were then judges of the contest.[22]

He made his film debut in the 1966 film Aakhri Khat, directed by Chetan Anand, followed by Raaz (1967), directed by Ravindra Dave, both of which were a part of his predetermined prize for winning the All-India United Producers' Talent Competition.[34] G.P. Sippy and Nasir Hussain were the first to sign Khanna after he won the contest.[35]

"Though 'Aakhri Khat' is my first film, I received my first break as a leading actor in Ravindra Dave's, 'Raaz', in 1967. My heroine was Babita, already a popular actress then. Though I had lots of confidence, I was shy in facing the camera initially. In my first three shots, I had to perform with stress on my body language and dialogue delivery. Though I was right with my dialogues, my movements were not up to the mark. Ravindra Dave explained me my scenes and movements very clearly correcting my way of walking."

Khanna's remarks after Aakhri Khat was India's entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 40th Oscar Academy Awards in 1967.[36]

Being under contract with United Producers, he got projects, such as Aurat (1967) and Baharon Ke Sapne (1967), both of which were only moderately successful.[37][38]

Superstardom (1969–1975) edit

In 1969, he starred in Shakti Samanta's romantic musical Aradhana, which proved to be his breakthrough film and made him an overnight Superstar.[39][40] The same year, he delivered another historic blockbuster with Raj Khosla's family drama Do Raaste and followed it with the hit films – Bandhan, Doli and Ittefaq.[41][42] The success of these films marked the beginning of Rajesh Khanna Mania of the early 70s.[29][43] Khanna continued his domination at the box office in 1970 and 1971 with films, such as – Safar, The Train, Sachaa Jhutha, Aan Milo Sajna, Kati Patang, Anand, Andaz, Maryada, Haathi Mere Saathi, Chhoti Bahu, Dushmun and Amar Prem, eventually giving 17 consecutive hits in a span of three years, a record which remains unbroken till date.[44] Khanna won his first Filmfare Award for Best Actor for playing a double role in Sachaa Jhutha.[45] He won his second Filmfare Award for Best Actor and first BFJA Award for Best Actor (Hindi) for portraying a cancer-patient in Anand which is also considered his career-best performance by many of his fans as well as critics.[46] Khanna began 1972 with the action drama Apna Desh alongside Mumtaz.[47] It performed extremely well at the box office and was declared a blockbuster by the end of its run. It also had some highly popular songs like "Duniya Mein Logon Ko", "Kajra Lagake Gajra Sajake", "Ro Na Kabhi Nahin Rona".[48] In late 72, his amazing run came to an abrupt halt as six of his films flopped. These were – Badnam Farishte, Bawarchi, Joroo Ka Ghulam, Mere Jeevan Saathi, Maalik and Dil Daulat Duniya.[49] Out of them, Hrishikesh Mukherjee's musical comedy drama Bawarchi is regarded as a cult classic today and got remade in many Indian langauges, including Hindi itself.[50] It also won Khanna his second BFJA Award for Best Actor (Hindi).[51] In spite of the minor setback, Khanna concluded the year on a satisfactory note with a semi-hit in Shehzada and one more blockbuster with Anuraag in which he had an extended cameo appearance.[52]

Khanna's first release of 1973 was Sachin Bhowmick's romantic drama Raja Rani in which he starred alongside his Aradhana co-star Sharmila Tagore. Despite huge expectations, it ended up as a commercially unsuccessful venture. After this, he reunited with Tagore for Yash Chopra's maiden production and sixth directional venture Daag: A Poem of Love which also had Rakhee in the lead.[53] Inspired from Thomas Hardy's novel The Mayor of Casterbridge, it was a major critical and commercial success, eventually emerging a blockbuster and laying the foundation of Yash Raj Films (which is the biggest production house in India till today).[54][52] His final release was the social drama Namak Haraam which also opened to positive response from critics and proved to be a hit at the box office.[55][56] Khanna received his fifth nomination in the best actor category at the Filmfare Awards for Daag and won his third BFJA Award for Best Actor (Hindi) for Namak Haraam. 1974 was a great year for Khanna with both critical and commercial appreciation coming his way. His first film Humshakal performed poorly at the box office, but his second release Aap Ki Kasam which was also J. Om Prakash's debut as a filmmaker proved to be a superhit.[57] All of its songs were major hits too, especially "Zindagi Ke Safar Mein Guzar Jate Hain Jo Maqaam" sung by Kishore Kumar.[58] This was followed by Prem Nagar which was a remake of Akkineni Nageswara Rao's all time Telugu hit Prema Nagar (1971).[59] Prem Nagar like the original opened to excellent response from the audience, eventually doing more business than Khanna's last big hit Aap Ki Kasam and emerging a blockbuster.[52] Basu Bhattacharya's Avishkaar and Shakti Samanta's Ajanabee were his next two releases.[60][61] Ajanabee did moderately well and was declared an average grosser by the end of its run.[62] On the other hand, Avishkaar was a box office failure, but received big thumbs up from reviewers and won Khanna his third and final Filmfare Award for Best Actor for his subtle portrayal of an unhappy husband.[63] His last film of the year was Manmohan Desai's action drama Roti which released alongside another biggie Roti Kapada Aur Makaan, but still went on to become a massive blockbuster.[52] Due to its huge success, Roti was also remade in Telugu as Neram Nadi Kadu Akalidi (1976).[64]

Career fluctuations, occasional success and comeback (1976-1990) edit

The declaration of emergency in 1975 had angered the masses and this helped films having the lead character revolting against corruption and establishment to become successes. The shift from romantic and social movies to action oriented multi-starrers changed the box office equation. The year saw the rise of another Superstar Amitabh Bachchan who also co-starred alongside Khanna in Anand and Namak Haraam. With the rise of Bachchan and Khanna's poor choice of films towards late 70s, he suffered a major career setback and eventually, lost his superstardom.[65][66]

In 1975, Khanna starred alongside Shashi Kapoor and Mumtaz in Raj Khosla's Prem Kahani and did a guest appearance in the war film Aakraman.[67][68] The former emerged a box office success, but his contemporaries, including Bachchan, Dharmendra and Manoj Kumar had bigger hits in their kitty with Sholay, Deewaar, Pratiggya and Sanyasi, which were also among the top 5 highest-grossing films of the year.[69][70] Khanna's career declined and eventually hit rock-bottom between 1976 and 1978 with almost all his films during this period proving to be critical and commercial failures.[71] These films included Mehbooba, Maha Chor, Bundal Baaz, Tyaag, Aashiq Hoon Baharon Ka, Karm, Chalta Purza, Palkon Ki Chhaon Mein, Bhola Bhala, Naukri, Chakravyuha, which were directed by Shakti Samanta, Narendra Bedi, Shammi Kapoor, Din Dayal Sharma, J. Om Prakash, B.R. Chopra, Bhappi Sonie, Meraj, Satpal, Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chatterjee respectively.[72][73][74][75] Joy Mukherjee's suspense thriller Chhailla Babu (1977) opposite Zeenat Aman was his only major success in these 3 years.[76] Khanna was the first choice of director Raj Kapoor for the lead role in Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978), but some members from the Raj Kapoor camp opposed his presence. Many other reasons are stated but the role eventually went to Shashi Kapoor.[77]

After a string of flops and critically panned films for a brief period of time, Khanna concluded the decade with a hit in Amar Deep and a moderate success in Prem Bandhan.[57] He also received a nomination in the Filmfare Award for Best Actor category for his performance in Amar Deep.[78]

He began the 80s with Bharathiraja's psychological thriller Red Rose.[79] A remake of blockbuster Tamil film Sigappu Rojakkal, the film couldn't repeat the success of original and flopped commercially.[80] His next release was Esmayeel Shroff's family drama Thodisi Bewafaii opposite Shabana Azmi.[81] It performed well at the box office and proved to be a hit with Khanna receiving his 12th nomination in the Filmfare Award for Best Actor category and Kishore Kumar winning Filmfare Award for Best Male Playback Singer for the song "Hazaar Rahen Mud Ke Dekhin".[82][83] His other releases of the year were - Danny Denzongpa's horror thriller Phir Wahi Raat, Anil Ganguly's drama film Aanchal and K. Bapaiah's romantic drama Bandish.[84][85][86] While Phir Wahi Raat and Aanchal were commercial failures, Bandish emerged a box office success.[87] In 1981, he co-starred alongside Raaj Kumar, Vinod Khanna, Hema Malini and Priya Rajvansh in Chetan Anand's reincarnation drama Kudrat.[88] Despite blockbuster music and presence of some of the biggest stars of the time, Kudrat was rejected at ticket counters and proved to be a commercial debacle.[89][90] Khanna's next two releases, the romantic drama Dhanwan and crime drama Dard met the same fate. However, his performance in the latter earned him praise and got him another nomination in the Filmfare Award for Best Actor category. His final release of the year Fiffty Fiffty alongside Tina Munim did average business at the box office.[91] 1982 proved to be a decent year for Khanna as he starred in successful multi-starrers like Rajput, Ashanti and Dharam Kanta.[92] He also played a brief role in the superhit dance film Disco Dancer.[93] It became the first Indian film to gross 1 billion worldwide.[94] The song "Goron Ki Na Kalon Ki" filmed on Khanna went on to become a chartbuster. The Disco Dancer soundtrack was popular worldwide, particularly in India, the Soviet Union, and China.[95] The soundtrack went Platinum in India,[96] equivalent to 1 million sales,[97] and received a Gold Award in China.[95]

After almost a decade of lukewarm success, Khanna made a massive comeback in 1983. His first release Nishaan didn't do well, but his second release, Mohan Kumar's Avtaar went on to become a blockbuster & was among the highest-grossing films of the year.[98] Khanna received his 14th and final nomination in the Filmfare Award for Best Actor category for Avtaar.[99][100] His next release was Saawan Kumar Tak's romantic drama Souten.[101] It was the first Hindi film ever to be shot in Mauritius and had a chartbuster soundtrack composed by Usha Khanna with songs "Shayad Meri Shaadi Ka Khayal" and "Zindagi Pyaar Ka Geet Hai" topping the musical chart that year.[102] The film emerged a superhit and also one of the best selling Bollywood albums of 1980s.[103][89] Khanna completed his hat-trick with another hit in Lekh Tandon's Agar Tum Na Hote.[104] With three back-to-back hits in 1983, Khanna proved that audience still adored him.[38] The flow of hits continued in 1984 with Maqsad and Dharm Aur Qanoon.[105][106] However, his other releases like Naya Kadam, Aaj Ka M.L.A. Ram Avtar, Asha Jyoti and Awaaz fared poorly at the box office.[107] 1985 proved to be the busiest year of Khanna's career with 11 releases out of which only Masterji tasted success while rest of the films, including multi-starrers, such as – Zamana, Bewafai, Alag Alag (which he also produced) sank without a trace.[108]

In 1986, he reunited with Mohan Kumar for Amrit opposite Smita Patil.[109] It went on to become a critical and commercial success with Khanna winning his fourth and final BFJA Award for Best Actor (Hindi) for his performance in the film.[110] The success of Amrit was followed by another hit in Aravind Sen's Nasihat co-starring Shabana Azmi, Mithun Chakraborty and Deepti Naval.[111][57] Khanna did few films in 1987 and 1988 with notable ones being B. R. Chopra's Awam (1987) and Yash Chopra's Vijay (1988). Despite huge expectations, both Awam and Vijay proved to be critical and commercial disasters.[112] In 1989, he appeared in Ghar Ka Chiraag alongside Chunky Pandey and Neelam, which emerged a hit at the box office.[113] In 1990, he starred in David Dhawan's Swarg, an adaptation of Ashok Kumar starrer Mehrban (1967), it went on to become a hit and established Dhawan's career as a director.[114] Swarg also proved to be the last successful film of Khanna's career.[115]

Final works (1991–2012) edit

In 1991, Khanna appeared in three films that were – Begunaah, Rupaye Dus Karod and Ghar Parivar. After this, he quit acting for sometime to focus on his political career.[116] From 1992 to 1996, he had only two releases with Khudai (1994) and Sautela Bhai (1996), both of which were commercially unsuccessful ventures.[117][failed verification]

In 1999, Khanna starred in Rishi Kapoor's directional debut Aa Ab Laut Chalen.[118] Despite being hugely hyped before its release, the film received negative reviews from critics and ended up as a below average grosser.[119][120]

In the 2000s, he tried to make a comeback with films, such as Pyaar Zindagi Hai (2001), Kyaa Dil Ne Kahaa (2002), Wafa: A Deadly Love Story (2008), but none of them could re-establish him.[121][122][123] Khanna's final film appearance was in Ashok Tyagi's much delayed action film Riyasat, which released after his death in 2014.[124] It was panned by critics across the board and was a box office flop.[125][126]

Khanna appeared in a rare interview in the show Aap Ki Adalat in 1992, where he quoted to the interviewer Rajat Sharma, "I would just ask if I am arrogant, how come all these producers made so many films with me. My fans who turned this actor into a superstar would have never accepted me if I was arrogant. If I was arrogant people would not have made me a Lok Sabha member because if someone is arrogant, that arrogance is visible. And this public knows everything and understand everything".[127]

Khanna was a life member of the International Film And Television Research Centre, the International Film And Television Club and the Asian Academy of Film & Television.[128] He was Faculty Guest of "Specialised Cinema Courses At Asian School Of Media Studies". On 10 April 1999 Khanna inaugurated the live concert of S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, held at Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium, Hyderabad as a tribute to R. D. Burman.[129] In 2001 and 2002, Khanna played the lead in two television serials: Aapne Parai (B4U and DD Metro) and Ittefaq (Zee TV).[130] He performed in a video album based on Tagore's songs (Rabindra Sangeet) without payment.[131] He also endorsed Star se Superstar tak – a talent hunt programme in 2007 and donated a Gold Trophy of Rs.1 crore. In its Silver Jubilee Episode on 14–15 March 2008, K for Kishore aired a Rajesh Khanna special. He signed on to star in a TV serial with Creative Eye Banner, (Dhiraj Kumar) in 2007, and in 2008 performed in a TV serial, Bhabhima, with Leena Ganguly as his co-star. His successful TV serial Raghukul Reet Sada Chali Aayi began in November 2008 and ended in September 2009.[132] Khanna cited the lack of good roles for actors like him in films as the reason for him not appearing much in films after 2001. He said in an interview on being queried about his decision to do TV serials: "The reach of TV is much more than cinema today and one episode of my serial is likely to be watched by more people than a super-hit film".[133] In 2009, on his 67th birthday, Shemaroo Entertainment released his films and a song collection titled Screen Legends-Rajesh Khanna-the Original Superstar.[134] In May 2012, Havells, the fan making company endorsed Khanna as Brand Ambassador for their new ad campaign featuring him in solo advertisements.[135]

Political and business career edit

At the insistence of Rajiv Gandhi, Khanna started campaigning for Indian National Congress after 1984.[136] In the election for New Delhi seat in the 1991 Lok Sabha election, Khanna lost to L.K. Advani by a narrow margin of 1589 votes, after which Khanna stood on the grounds at the counting station insisting that he had been cheated of a win.[137] In 1992, a by-election was called after the resignation of the incumbent Member of Parliament L.K. Advani. Khanna contested the seat again, won the by-election by defeating Shatrughan Sinha by 25,000 votes.[138] Khanna was a member of Parliament for the Indian National Congress, from the New Delhi constituency, where he won the 1992 by-election, retaining his seat until 1996 after which he was not interested in active politics. When Khanna was MP, he did not accept new acting assignments, but only acted in the film Khudai (1994).[116] After leaving parliament, he was a political activist for the INC and campaigned for the party till the 2012 Punjab election.[139]

Khanna and a group of foreign investors bought land in Shirdi in which built a religious resort for disciples of Sai Baba of Shirdi.[140]

Personal life edit

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Khanna fell in love with the then fashion designer and actress Anju Mahendru.[141] They were in a relationship for seven years. Khanna's sudden stardom and his insistence that Mahendru quit her acting career eventually ended their relationship.[142] Mahendru states that the couple did not speak to each other for 17 years after the break-up.[143] Later Khanna – 31 at that time – married the budding actress Dimple Kapadia who was then 15 years old, in March 1973, before Kapadia's debut film Bobby released in September that year.[144] Khanna and Kapadia have two daughters from the marriage; Twinkle and Rinke.[145] Khanna and Kapadia separated in 1982, but never completed the divorce proceedings.[146][147] According to Yasser Usman's biography of Khanna, the couple separated because Kapadia wished to return to acting. She had quit acting when she married Khanna since the latter wanted his partner to be a housewife. A few years after their marriage Kapadia decided to resume her career. However, Khanna remained adamant that his wife will not work. Kapadia eventually left Khanna and started her career in films. In the 1980s, Tina Munim was in love with Khanna. She had been a fan of him since her school days.[148] They appeared in ten films together between 1981 and 1986. According to website Bollywood Mantra reporter, Khanna refused to marry her as their marriage would have a bad impact on his daughters. Khanna and Kapadia however maintained an amicable relationship where they both were seen together at parties and family functions. Kapadia also campaigned for Khanna's election and worked in his film Jai Shiv Shankar (1990),[149] although the film never got released. After Tina Munim's exit, Khanna resumed his friendship with Anju Mahendru.[142]

Khanna's elder daughter Twinkle Khanna, an interior decorator and a former film actress, is married to actor Akshay Kumar, while his younger daughter Rinke Khanna, also a former Hindi film actress,[150] is married to London-based investment banker Samir Saran.[151][152][153][154][155]

Influences edit

Khanna considered Guru Dutt, Meena Kumari and Geeta Bali to be his idols. Khanna said in an interview: "My inspirations include Dilip Kumar's dedication and intensity, Raj Kapoor's spontaneity, Dev Anand's style and Shammi Kapoor's rhythm."[36] In an interview given to The Hindu in 2011, Khanna specially mentioned Mahanayak Uttam Kumar, the greatest actor of Bengali cinema, as his idol. In that interview, Khanna also claimed that Uttam Kumar was the greatest living actor of his time.[156]

Legacy edit

 
Rajesh Khanna on a 2013 stamp of India

Khanna is regarded as one of the greatest actors of Indian cinema.[157] Khanna is noted for his acting, style, musicals and dance. One of the most successful and highest-paid actors of 1970s and 1980s, Khanna appeared in Box Office India's "Top Actors" list six times from 1969 to 1974. He topped the list thrice (1969–1971).[158] In 2022, he was placed in Outlook India's "75 Best Bollywood Actors" list.[159] Khanna was placed ninth among the "Greatest Bollywood Stars" in a UK poll celebrating 100 years of Indian cinema in 2013.[160] Khanna has the record for the most films as the solo lead hero in Hindi films – 106.[161]

Khanna acted alongside Mumtaz in ten films. They were neighbours and got along very well, which translated onto the screen. Mumtaz stated "I would pull his leg and tease him about his fan following. Whenever Rajesh entered a hotel in Madras, there was a queue of 600 girls waiting to see him at midnight. As a result, even I would get some importance, as people would ask for my autograph as well. He was very generous with his associates, and would party a lot."[162] During the peak of his career he would be mobbed during public appearances. Fans kissed his car, which would be covered with lipstick marks, and lined the road, cheering and chanting his name. Female fans sent him letters written in their blood.[163] There used to be a line of cars of his producers and hysterical fans outside his bungalow every day. Actor Mehmood parodied him in Bombay to Goa where the driver and conductor of the bus were called 'Rajesh' and 'Khanna' respectively. Even today, he remains the favourite of mimicry artists, who copy his trademark style and dialogue delivery. During the filming of Amar Prem there was a scene that needed to be shot at Howrah Bridge with a boat carrying Khanna and Sharmila under the bridge. The authorities ruled this scene out as they realised that if the public found out that the star would be there, it may create problems on the bridge and that it might collapse due to the number of people trying to get a glimpse of their favourite actor.[164] Film critic Monojit Lahiri remembers "Girls married themselves to photographs of Rajesh Khanna, cutting their fingers and applying the blood as sindoor. Rajesh was God, there has never been such hysteria."[165] Several songs sung by Kishore Kumar in the 1970s were based on Khanna. During the filming of the song "Mere Sapnon Ki Rani" in Aradhana, Sharmila Tagore was shooting for a Satyajit Ray film and director Shakti Samanta had to shoot their scenes separately and then join the scenes together. In the 1970s, his chemistry with Sharmila Tagore, Mumtaz, Asha Parekh, Zeenat Aman, Tanuja and Hema Malini were also popular with audiences.[166]

In 1973, BBC also made a documentary on him named as Bombay Superstar as a part of their Man Alive series.[167] Shooting began when he got married and his film Daag premiered.[168] In the video it can be noticed that Khanna was shooting for Aap Ki Kasam. A textbook prescribed by the Mumbai University contained an essay, "The Charisma of Rajesh Khanna!"[169]

Sharmila Tagore said in an interview to The Indian Express that "women came out in droves to see Kaka. They would stand in queues outside the studios to catch a glimpse, they would marry his photographs, they would pull at his clothes. Delhi girls were crazier for him than Mumbai girls. He needed police protection when he was in public. I have never seen anything like this before or since."[170] Music remained one of the biggest attractions of all Khanna films throughout his career. His films were always known for the music with chartbuster soundtracks. The reason for this was that Khanna used to personally sit in music sessions with music directors such as Kalyanji–Anandji, R. D. Burman, Shankar-Jaikishan, Laxmikant–Pyarelal, S. D. Burman, Bappi Lahiri and select tunes for duets and solo songs in his films. He used to be personally present for recording of the solo songs to be picturised on him.[171]

Munim and Khanna became an on and off screen couple of the eighties with movies, such as Fiffty Fiffty, Souten, Suraag, Aakhir Kyon?, Bewafai, Insaaf Main Karoonga, Alag Alag and Adhikar.[172] Ram Awatar Agnihotri wrote that Tina Munim showed the first sparks of the dedicated actress she would become in the films Alag Alag and Adhikar, both with Khanna.[173] His on-screen pairings with Shabana Azmi, Smita Patil, Padmini Kolhapure and Poonam Dhillon were also popular in the eighties.[174] He also acted in the Marathi hit film Sundara Satarkar in 1981.[175] Many of the musical scores for Khanna's films were composed by Laxmikant–Pyarelal, Sachin Dev Burman and R. D. Burman. The trio of Rajesh Khanna, Kishore Kumar and R.D. Burman went on to make a number of popular films, including Kati Patang, Amar Prem, Shehzada, Apna Desh, Mere Jeevan Saathi, Namak Haraam, Aap Ki Kasam, Ajnabee, Maha Chor, Karm, Phir Wohi Raat, Aanchal, Kudrat, Ashanti, Agar Tum Na Hote, Awaaz, Hum Dono and Alag Alag.[176][177]

Kamal Haasan was a close friend of Khanna. Khanna starred in Hindi remakes of 3 Tamil films originally starring Kamal, and Kamal acted in 2 remakes of Khanna's films. Kamal quoted in an interview, to narrate how he experienced Khanna's stardom in an incident in 1985 – "He probably hadn't been to a public theatre since he became a star. When we reached, things were okay. He enjoyed the mediocre film (The Swarm) thoroughly 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. He stayed on till the end. The inevitable happened after the show. All hell broke loose as audiences realised he was there. I became Rajesh Khanna's bodyguard and security officer as I took him through the crowd. His shirt was torn, but he was enjoying himself thoroughly. He giggled and chuckled like a child."[178] Celebrities of the post-2000 era, like Madhur Bhandarkar, said that they took at least three or four turns in Carter Road at that time, just to see Khanna. The younger generation actors like Imran Khan still regard Khanna as someone who would take the top slot as the most romantic hero of all time.[179] Shah Rukh Khan idolised Khanna and has opined; "Rajesh Khanna, you can't touch".[180] Anupam Kher said "Kishore Kumar, Sanjeev Kumar, S. D. Burman, R. D. Burman, Rajesh Khanna and Smita Patil changed the face of Indian cinema. They're remembered by the films that they did."[181] Actor Tom Alter confessed "I still dream of being Rajesh Khanna. For me, in the early 1970s, he was the only hero – romantic to the core, not larger than life, so Indian and real – he was my hero; the reason I came into films and he still is."[182] Actor Irrfan Khan stated in an interview, "The kind of craze witnessed by Rajesh Khanna has not been duplicated by anyone. He was the biggest and the most real star Bollywood has produced. I'd say stardom is that feeling of being possessed by your idol; you are so overwhelmed with euphoria you lose touch with reality."[183] The trend of wearing guru kurtas and belts on shirts became famous in the seventies and eighties because of Khanna.[184] Javed Akhthar, in an interview, told about his experience with Khanna's stardom: "Bangalore used to have a state lottery and the government asked him to draw the lucky number. They organised it in a stadium. I was with him as we were discussing some scripts. I don't know if I will experience that again, the sound of 50,000 people gasping (when they saw him). He was like Caesar. It was unbelievable".[185] Actor Salman Khan has told in many interviews that he or Aamir or Shahrukh have not even achieved 10 per cent of the achievements Khanna had in acting, or his stardom.[186]

Rediff.com placed him 8th in its "Top 10 Bollywood Actors of All Time" list.[187]

Filmography edit

Illness and death edit

 
Khanna's funeral procession in Mumbai on 19 July 2012

In June 2012, it was reported that Khanna's health had been deteriorating for some time.[188][189] On 23 June he was admitted to Lilavati Hospital in Mumbai due to health complications. He was discharged on 8 July from the hospital and was reportedly fine.[190][191][192][193]

On 14 July, Khanna was readmitted to the Lilavati Hospital, but was discharged on 16 July.[194][195] He died on 18 July 2012, at his bungalow, Aashirwad, in Mumbai. Sources confirmed that his health had been deteriorating since July 2011 as he was diagnosed with cancer.[196][197] After his death his co-star Mumtaz said that he was suffering from cancer for the duration of the prior year and had undergone chemotherapy sessions.[198] His funeral took place on 19 July at 11:00.[13] His funeral ceremony was attended by 9 lakh (900,000) people and his fans came from places like Surat, Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Pune, Bangalore and other countries.[199][200] Police had to resort to a lathi-charge to control the crowd of fans who had gathered for the procession from his Bandra house to the crematorium.[201] He died in the presence of his wife Dimple Kapadia, daughters Rinke Khanna and Twinkle Khanna, son-in-law Akshay Kumar, Grandchildren, Anju Mahendru and other close relatives.[202][203] His pyre was lit by his grandson, Aarav, with the assistance of Akshay Kumar.[204][205] Amitabh Bachchan cited that Rajesh Khanna's last words were "Time is up, Pack up".[206][207] In a pre-recorded message to his family, friends and fans that was played on his "chautha", he thanked and saluted his friends and fans for the love they showered on him and also shared how he became a successful actor without having any godfather behind him.[208][209] On 25 July 2012, his ashes were immersed in the Ganges at Rishikesh, Uttarakhand by his wife Dimple Kapadia and daughter Rinke Khanna.[210]

Honors and tributes edit

The President of India, Pratibha Patil, lamented the passing away of the actor. In a press release she said "I am saddened to learn about the passing away of Rajesh Khanna. In his prime as an actor he was the heartthrob of the young generation of 1970s, who tried to model themselves on him and his style."[211] Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi who used to be Chief Minister of Gujarat mourn on his death.[212] Many celebrities including Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Karan Johar, Shabana Azmi, Rishi Kapoor and many politicians also paid homage to him after his death.[13][213][214] His prayer meeting, organised in a grand way at the Taj Land's End hotel in Bandra, Mumbai on 21 July 2012, was attended by many.[215][216][217]

 
Khanna on a 2013 stamp of India

A postage stamp featuring Khanna was released by the India Post on 3 May 2013.[218] On his first death anniversary, a bronze statue of Khanna was unveiled at Bandra Bandstand, Mumbai.[219] A chowk (intersection) in Girgaon has been named "Superstar Rajesh Khanna Chowk" in his memory.[220] In 2014, his biography Rajesh Khanna: The Untold Story of India's First Superstar by Yasser Usman was published by Penguin Books.[221] In 2022, his biography Rajesh Khanna The Most Versatile Superstar Actor of Hindi Cinem by Narayanan Subramanian was released.[222] In 2018, a one kilometre fitness trail in Lajpat Nagar National Park was named after Khanna, which was inaugurated by his wife Dimple Kapadia.[223]

Accolades edit

Khanna won seven All-India Critics Association (AICA) Best Actor Awards, and received 10 nominations. He won four Best Actor Awards in the Bengal Film Journalists' Association Awards, and received 25 nominations. He won three Filmfare Best Actor Awards, one Filmfare Special Guest Actor Award in 1973, and received a Filmfare Special Award in 1991, after 25 years in the Hindi film industry. He received the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award at the 50th anniversary Filmfare Awards ceremony in 2005. He also received the IIFA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.

Further reading edit

  • Usman, Yasser (2014). Rajesh Khanna: The Untold Story of India's First Superstar. Penguin India. ISBN 978-9-351-18875-9.
  • Subramanian, Narayanan, ed. (2022). Rajesh Khanna: The Most Versatile Superstar Actor of Hindi Cinema. Independent by Author. ISBN 979-8-838-15790-4.

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