The film buffs of Shah
Rukh-Salman-Saif-Amir-Ajay-Akshay-Hrithik generation might find it
immensely difficult to imagine the craze that Jatin Khanna alias Rajesh
Khanna alias Kaka created between the year 1969 and 1974.
It all started when this1942-born pampered
son of Punjabi parents qualified the United Producers-Filmfare talent
search contest, sometime in the mid-1960s. The initial films like Raaz,
Bandhan, Baharon Ke Sapne, Ittefaq, Aakhri Khat were not exactly box
office hits, though quite watchable.
But in 1969, when Shakti Samanta’s
Aradhana and Raj Khosla’s Do Raaste released within a span of few
months, then a new chapter was added to Hindi film history. Rajesh
Khanna’s emergence as the first ever superstar on the Eastman colour
horizon of Hindi films, at the turn of a decade was very symbolic. He
heralded a new era on silver screen - of rose, romance, love songs,
mirth, music and moist eyes.
It is not that, heroes those who preceded
Rajesh Khanna were not popular. Be it the triumvirate of Raj Kapoor-Dev
Anand-Dillip Kumar or that way Shammi Kapoor, Rajendra Kumar, Manoj
Kumar, Dharmendra and Jeetendra---all had their brand of films and
enjoyed viewership as well.
But the kind of attention that Rajesh
Khanna drew after the release of Aradhana or the popularity that he
achieved with his subsequent films were unprecedented till that time.
His sweeping popularity and magical impact
on the youth mass, provided thesis material for film critics and
sociologists of that time. His on-screen persona and off-screen
personality became chapters in university syllabus.
Fans getting married to his photographs,
writing letters to him with their own blood are part of film folklore
now. His hair style and dress code too set trends. (Have you seen
fascination for a film star flaring up a fashion, in today’s time?)
Interestingly enough, in film ‘Guddi/1971’, in one place, even
Dharmendra refers to the Rajesh mania.
In the laugh riot ‘Bombay To Goa/1971’,
Mehmood and his brother Anwar Ali play characters, who are great fans of
Rajesh Khanna. And hence divide his name between them. Mehmood is called
‘Rajesh’ and Anwar is named ‘Khanna’. These cinematic salutes, in a way,
give hints of the hysteria that Rajesh Khanna unleashed.
There was no television at that time for
breathless promotion. Films also didn’t release in 1000 theatres
simultaneously, courtesy UFO. Instead, in that era, films took months
after release, to reach small centres and still were eagerly awaited and
avidly watched. No doubt Rajesh Khanna was called the first superstar of
But ‘the Phenomenon’ (some say, famous
publicist Bunny Ruben coined it for Rajesh Khanna and very cleverly
planted it in media circle) had a very brief rule of only five years.
The hit run that started with Aradhana/1969, ended with Roti/1974. After
that, a long and tragic downhill journey started, with stray
consolations like Dhanwan, Amardeep, Thodi Si Bewafai, Souten, Avataar,
Agar Tum Na Hote happening in irregular intervals.
Rajesh Khanna lacked foresight perhaps.
Without proper guidance, perhaps he could not organize his career like a
professional. Also it is said that, he fell into bad company of
sycophants and spongers who converted him into an arrogant,
indiscipline, spoilt brat.
To add to this, the decade of 1970s was
assailed with an array of political and social upheavals. Be it the
Indo-Pak war, Railway strike, unemployment, price rise or that way
Emergency, all warranted cinematic reproduction. And Rajesh Khanna, with
his romantic persona could not fulfil the angst ridden demands of the
In that critical hour, arrived Amitabh
Bachchan. He fitted the bill and hijacked all the billboard space that
was once reserved for Rajesh Khanna. With Amitabh’s emergence, the
alphabets and idioms of cinematic expression too underwent a total
transformation. Romance was replaced with rage, Amor with angst.
Smouldering and seething anger smoked out soulful songs. The tall,
lanky, brooding rebel usurped the throne, dislodging the besotted
balladeer. Anand lost out to Vijay. The songster to gangster.
But today in retrospect, one will like to
overlook the Khanna-Bachchan rivalry. Instead, one will prefer to brood
over movies like Anand and Namak Haram - Movies which became
masterpieces, because of their magical pairing and marvellous
performance. Well, Hrishikesh Mukherjee deserves special mention for
And when one looks back through the mist
of bygone years, one will also like to forget the fall of a Phenomenon
that was Rajesh Khanna. Instead one will like to remember his celluloid
classics like Safar, Amar Prem, Kati Patang, Daag, Aap Ki Kasam and many
more. Films which were rewarding cinematic experiences then and are nice
memories now. All because of his sensitive portrayal.
In ‘Anand’, Rajesh Khanna has this
dialogue—‘’Aare Babu Mosai, Bombai Sahar Ka Jawab Nahin. Punjab,
Sindh, Gujrat, Maratha, Dravida, Utkala, Banga, Sab Log Yahan To Hain.
Main Faisala Karliya Babu Mosai, Jeena To Bambai Men, Marna to Bambai
Men’’. Very futuristic. Truly enough, in that movie metropolis,
Rajesh Khanna savoured all the seasons of life. Name, fame, glory,
gloom, cheers, tears and much more.
And one day, in that very city he breathed
his last and became lasting memory. The icon became ashes and
metaphysics. Faded into immortality.
Maraa Nahin. Anand Marte Nahin."
birthday Kaka. Hope you are happy there in heaven. R.I.P.
is an alumnus of FTII, Pune and is active in Film and Television sector
since last twenty years. He has shouldered varied relevant
responsibilities in Mumbai and Hyderabad. Presently he is based in