On Rajesh Khanna and the Ephemerality of Life

I saw very few films till I was about ten years old. Till then, my father had been posted in small towns that had rather dreadful cinema halls. Then, in late 1982, we acquired a TV. And suddenly, though there wasn’t a spate of films to see (Doordarshan’s Sunday 5:45 PM film was the highlight of our week), there were some films to see. And, thankfully, I was old enough to understand what was happening onscreen.

One of my earliest recollections of that period is of watching Anand. For me—exposed till then to the usual Hindi film, where the hero always had a love interest, and where there were few (and mostly pretty melodramatic) moments of tragedy—Anand was different.
There was never any doubt that Rajesh Khanna’s character was the hero. He was ebullient, full of life, charming, friendly, yet (in those moments of solitude) sensitive. I kept waiting for a heroine to pop up.

Instead, what came was the deathbed scene. There was Anand, slipping away from life, falling suddenly silent—and his friend, the helpless doctor (played by Amitabh Bachchan) breaking down, begging Anand to speak.

I couldn’t believe it. For me, heroes in Hindi films didn’t die. They were indestructible; through fire, explosions, crippling illnesses, armies of attacking villains—whatever. They came through it all. Most of all, they didn’t die of a disease I could barely pronounce. I was certain this was a ploy. Somewhere, it would turn out, someone had messed up. Medical reports had been bungled, and it would emerge that Anand was perfectly well. Just about now, he would open his eyes and smile that trademark smile. And all would be well.

And then came Anand’s voice. “Babu moshai, zindagi aur maut uparwaale ke haath hain, jahanpanah. Use na toh aap badal sakte hain, na main. Hum sab toh rangmanch ki katputliyaan hain…” (“Life and death are in the hands of the Almighty, Babu moshai. Neither you can change that, nor I. We are all merely puppets on a stage…”)

It was the tape spooling, of course. Anand was dead. Irrevocably and completely dead, and that was one of the first times I remember crying over a film.

That was what came first to my mind when I learnt that Rajesh Khanna had died, just 69 years old, yesterday, on July 18th, 2012. A life snatched away suddenly and tragically—and it reminded me of some of my favourite Rajesh Khanna films. For a blog that focuses on pre-70s films, that might be considered a drawback—because some of Rajesh Khanna’s most popular films were after 1970. But my favourite Kaka films—Anand, Khamoshi, Safar, Aradhana, Kati Patang, Ittefaq among them—are from the late 60s, or from 1970.

And if you look closely at these films, there’s an odd thread of life and death running through them. Kati Patang and Ittefaq are more mainstream (though it took guts to work in a film like Ittefaq, bereft of songs and with a very unexpected plot twist)…

…but as for the others, why was it that Rajesh Khanna—always the embodiment of charm and youth and good looks—ended up playing a man with tragedy waiting just around the corner? In Khamoshi, he was the mental patient who’s cured and falls in love with the woman who heals him—a woman who will never be able to love him because her heart belongs to the man she can never have.

And in Amar Prem, he played the married lover of a ‘fallen woman’, a man who, all of a sudden, finds that the one woman he loves has vanished from his life.

Worst of all, he played men who died.

In Anand, of course. And in a film that echoes—in just the fact that its hero suffers from an incurable disease—Anand: Safar. In Safar too, Rajesh Khanna’s character, a struggling young artist named Avinash, is heading inexorably towards death, this time from leukaemia. Unlike the outwardly cheerful (almost irritatingly cheerful) Anand, Avinash finds it difficult to control his anxieties and his depression.

—and, while Anand resigns himself to the unfathomable puzzle that is life—beautifully expressed in Zindagi kaisi hai paheli haai (“What a riddle is life…”), Avinash’s thoughts are darker. “Zindagi ka safar hai yeh kaisa safar, koi samjhaa nahin, koi jaana nahin (“What a journey is the journey of life; nobody has understood it, nobody has known it”). Sad words, in both songs, for a man to sing when he knows he will die without having savoured all that life could have offered.

But both Anand and Safar prepare us for what is coming (yes, now that I’ve grown up, I don’t expect every dying hero to suddenly be cured). What came as a bolt out of the blue was the sudden death—in Aradhana, for example. This was a film that a pre-teen me watched, swooning rapturously over the ridiculously good-looking Rajesh Khanna in his uniform. As Flight Lieutenant Arun Verma, he was the ultimate in irresistibility: I couldn’t wait to see where his love story with the lovely Vandana would go.

The last thing I expected was to have Arun Verma die.

Yes, Rajesh Khanna was (sort of) resurrected in Aradhana as Arun Verma’s son, but I still remember the jolt of seeing that photograph that Sharmila Tagore’s Vandana carried about with her, and thinking: she’s not going to see him, ever again.

And there was Andaz. Andaz, which was Shammi Kapoor’s film and in which Rajesh Khanna had a mere cameo—but what a cameo. With another song of life and death and all that it means. Zindagi ek safar hai suhaana, yahaan kal kya ho kisne jaana (“Life is a wonderful journey; who knows what tomorrow will bring?”)

Not just tomorrow, but the next hour, the next minute. The newspapers had carried photos, just a few days back, of Rajesh Khanna standing on the balcony of his home, reassuring fans that he was well. Even I, busy posting a review yesterday, didn’t realise till well into the afternoon, that he was gone. Gone, never to return, like Anand and Avinash and Arun…

Rest in peace, Kaka. Thank you for the films you gave us. Thank you for your smile and your laughing eyes. Thank you for your life.

125 thoughts on “On Rajesh Khanna and the Ephemerality of Life

    • Thank you, Suzanne. I’m still getting over the fact that Hindi cinema has lost so many of its biggest and brightest stars over the past few months.

      • Sadly I think there will be one more (loss) possibly before the year is over. It’s really too much for us fans of old bolly.

        Btw, I loved the last lines of your review. Checked your blog a few times but only saw your review now.

        …Rajesh Khanna’s most popular films were after 1970…
        And writing about RK is not an excursion ;) Sort of expected you to write about him. It’s still a long long time ago.

          • Yes, but how wonderful that they live on for generations through celluloid. I have been reliving the magic of Rajesh Khanna through Aradhana, Kati Patang, Safar etc & my 5 year old daughter sits mesmerised by the iconic face & voice she sees on screen & sings those timeless songs eg ‘yeh jo mohabbat hai’…oh yes the Rajesh Khanna Phenomenol Magic Lives On………

  1. I repeat myself: My small tribute to the departed Superstar!

    Rajesh Khanna’s `Aradhana ‘does not end here..He might have flown away like a ‘Kati patang’, without any ‘Bandish’ but his fans still harbour ‘Amar prem’ for him…He was the ‘Roti’ and butter of the bygone 70s , hisd songs and movies replayed on computers even today. In ‘Apna Desh’, he wwill always be coveted under our ‘Palkon ki chaaon mein!’
    ‘Dil daulat Duniya’ might have changed him over the years, but we always will not attach any ‘Daag’ to you, ‘Aap Ki kasam’!

    • That’s one film I’m yet to see, though I love the songs, and I’ve heard that it’s a good one.

      P.S. Karthik, will you please check your blog comments? I’d posted a comment on your latest post, but can’t see it – maybe it went into spam or something…? :-(

    • Aaja piya tohe pyar doon is the ultimate song to inspirs a dejected lover. Asha Parekh is at her beautiful best. Rajesh Khanna looks as if he has received the jolt of his life, his face expresses sadness, yet he is charming as always. Probably the best performance by a “listener” in a song..

  2. Madhulika, you said it correctly–he was a risk taker (Ittefaq etc) and died the most on screen, including in Andaz and Namak Haram. something in him liked to play the doomed hero (Prem Nagar, Aap ki Kasam et al)

    • True, Sidharth – he played a lot of tormented (or imperfect) heroes too. As you rightly point out, in Prem Nagar and Aap ki Kasam; also (from what I’ve heard, though I’ve not seen the film) Aakhri Khat. Another film that Greta reviewed on her blog and which seems to have Rajesh Khanna playing a truly awful character was Red Rose. Incidentally, in Dushman too, he begins as a hard-drinking, whoring truck driver who accidentally runs over and kills a passing farmer.

      It takes a lot of guts to be able to take on roles like that. Not many leading actors in those days would have done that.

      • Aakhri Khat needs to be rediscovered; not only was it a charming film with lovely songs (including one by Bhupinder in a club), but it was quite a risky film. They let a 15 month old child wander on the streets of Bombay while they filmed it from a distance. He did make a lot of awful films later and could not control his mannerisms, but more than many others, he was ready to take chances. Plus he had no qualms about sharing screen space with the heroines. I think his feminine side was quite strong, and female audiences loved him for that sensitivity

        • Yes, I’ve heard a lot about Aakhri Khat, and Rut jawaan jawaan raat meherbaan is probably my favourite Bhupinder song – much more even than his later, better-known songs. The film also had a great song by Manna Dey, Hai kuchh bhi nahin o my darling, which I believe was edited out from the DVDs available.

          Your observation about ‘sharing screen space with the heroines’ made me think – after all, films like Aradhana, Kati Patang, Safar and Aap ki Kasam are really rather more from the woman’s point of view.

  3. How nicely you have put the three different descriptions of LIFE in the songs from his three different films.

    -Zindagi kaisi hai paheli hai….
    -Zindagi ka safar hai yeh kaisa safar…
    -Zindagi ek safar hai suhana….

    After Dev Anand it is Rajesh Khanna who fitted Kishore Kumar’s voice so well, as though he himself was singing.

    One suddenly realises that he actually did quite a few good films which were not run of the mill.

    The combination of Rajesh, Kishore and RDB produced a whole lot of fabulous songs of which we can never tire.

    • While I saw a lot of Rajesh Khanna’s more run-of-the-mill films when I was younger (Sachcha Jhootha, The Train, Haathi Mere Saathi, Mere Jeevansaathi, etc), the ones that really stayed with me were the offbeat ones. Somehow, he shone in those. They gave him a chance to act.

      But yes, even in the films where he needn’t have done much except the usual herogiri, at least he got to lipsynch to some of the most memorable songs of the 70s!

    • Here’s another beautiful song, also from Safar, which, while it is primarily in praise of a pair of eyes, also touches on life. “Jeevan se bhari teri aankhein majboor karein jeene ke liye“. Indeevar’s lyrics for Safar were outstanding.

  4. Rajeshkhanna came like a sunami in70’s. Except perhaps dev anand and darmendra most of the heros packed off from the industry. His raise is phenomenal. His hairstyle and kurta is largely imitated by the youth .and he is a fine actor too. The past one year has seen exit of many bollywood stars. Like dev anand and shammikapoor there can never be another rajeshkhanna.RIP Rajesh.

    • I’ve always been of the opinion that Rajesh Khanna – like Dev Anand, in that respect – let his stardom go to his head, to the extent that his acting was swamped by the mannerisms he adopted. But before that happened, the Rajesh Khanna of films like Anand or Safar was truly a fine actor. And an icon.

  5. You have tracked the theme of death very well in this post. Yes in spite of being a romantic hero, he often ended up dying on screen. I believe that there is something spl in the deaths in both Safar and Anand. While Safar is more close to reality, Anand is a rarity. People react the way Avinash reacts in teh first instance and yet, both looked so convincing. And to think of it both came in the same year. Do read my tribute to kaka as well….

  6. I have read many tributes to Rajesh Khanna since yesterday, but this has got to be the best!

    Rather sad, of course, but it befits the mood of the moment.

    RIP Rajesh Khanna.

    • Ava, that is a huge compliment. Thank you. I suppose that’s because I wrote from the heart. The bulk of this post was ‘written’ in my head while I sat in a doctor’s waiting room, waiting for my appointment… and the TV on the wall was showing Rajesh Khanna’s funeral procession making its way through the streets. Interspersed with it were shots of Kaka in his heyday, and there was something terribly poignant in the contrast between the two images.

  7. In spite of his image of an actor of mainstream commercial cinema, Rajesh Khanna gave sensitive performances in some movies and his voice had a special quality – it had feeling, resonance and softness combined with clarity. Anand, Safar, Aavishkar are typical examples. He overdid his style very often, but he had some saving grace which will make us remember him as an actor.

    • I think his mannerisms got him down, eventually – that, and the fact that (like some of his contemporaries, especially Jeetendra) he continued to act the young man when he was far too old to be convincing. There were all these Rajesh Khanna movies in the 80s which had him paired opposite women who looked young enough to be his daughters.

      But I’ll always remember him as the Rajesh Khanna of Anand, Safar, Aradhana or Khamoshi: a pleasure to watch.

      • You are right, when we think of Rajesh Khanna the films that come instantly to mind are Anand, Aradhana, Ittefaq.

        I feel that though the title of Angry Young Man went to Amitabh, the act of angry young man started with Rajesh Khanna. In my view, he was the first to bring on screen that anger, the will to fight back and hit back bringing some action in hitherto “romantic only” type of heroes.

        • I would disagree about the title of the ‘angry young man’ starting with Rajesh Khanna, even – because there were other actors who did those sort of roles earlier too. Most prominently, Dev Anand in some of the Navketan films of the 1950s. Films like Jaal, Baazi, Kaala Bazaar etc have him much less as a romantic hero than as one who’s lone, embittered and fighting against an inimical system.

  8. RIP Rajesh Khanna.
    a very well written tribute.
    I liked his pairing with Mumtaz , though his films with Sharmila Tagore were arguably better. He also did a lot of films with Smita Patil in the 80s which were better than the films Big B did in that decade. ‘Avatar’ is one of those. Here is another song with ‘Zindagi’ in it [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFfYG4e–ao]

    • For those who’d like to see the song Chris linked to (it’s Zindagi pyaar ka geet hai), here is the link:

      I agree with you, Chris, re: his pairing with Mumtaz – I think he was fantastic with her, especially in Sachcha Jhootha. Which reminds me of another song (from a Rajesh Khanna-Mumtaz film), which is also about life. Zindagi ke safar mein guzar jaate hain, from Aap ki Kasam:

      One of my favourite songs.

      • Let me add to the obvious – indeed a tribute that would really put Rajesh Khanna’s histrionic soul to eternal peace. His tryst with Zindagi has been so vividly captured as to provide a platform of immortality that he does deserve as an Actor.

        50s and 60s was the period where more ‘successful’ artists ‘preferred’ to die on the screen /stage, because that probably gave them more lasting place in the emotional space of the audience.

        But, their real test as artist was always – whether they have been able to perform beyond their type-cast. And if the performance challenged the type-cast to a limit, to completely shatter it, artists would draw huge accolades from the critics as well as the audience.

        Rajesh Khanna did such daring acts several times, and succeeded as well.

        • Very true, Ashokji. The ability to perform to the extent that the audience forgets the star and sees only the character he/she is playing onscreen… that is acting, indeed. Dilip Kumar did some of those roles, but I think by the end of the 60s, that ‘preference to die onscreen’ was disappearing. So Rajesh Khanna’s willingness to take on these roles (and the other more offbeat ones) was an interesting reflection on his enthusiasm for taking risks…

          • Vry true sir…
            Tragedy is not when the actor dies but is when the audience is in tears..
            Poignancy at its best..
            Bye rajesh kumar

  9. He really DID die in a lot of movies, Namak Haaram too…One of my favorite things about him was his willingness to experiment. I think he truly loved being an actor and becoming a superstar is possibly the worst thing that ever happened to him.

    • Well said, Greta. I admire those who can withstand the burden of being big stars and yet maintain their hold on the core of their work: acting. I don’t know how many can manage that…

  10. I started to write a tribute, but reading yours and Anu’s excellent pieces decided to comment here.
    Although I do remember seeing a couple of movies earlier, Aradhana is the first big movie in a theater. The year was 1969, the first man had landed on the moon, and judging by the atmosphere in India, you could be forgiven for believing it was Rajesh Khanna and not Neil Armstrong. I vividly remember several details; people listening to Aradhana songs on Binaca Geetmala and arguing about which one should be #1, news reports about the behavior of fans, and the title of superstar. Those were the formative years of my movie going experience, and Aradhana was one of top three or four most influential. The others were Johnny Mera Naam, Jewel Thief, & Where Eagles Dare; and Dev, Rajesh & Clint Eastwood became my favorites. Looking back analytically, Dev belonged to a much earlier generation, Clint belonged to Hollywood; and hence Rajesh Khanna was the defining actor of our generation. We grew up on his films, his songs,his superstar antics, his romances, his press coverage. He established the standard for the late 60’s to the early 70’s;
    and we all idolized him. To complete the story, we also started gravitating towards Amitabh Bachchan in the middle 70’s; in essence our generation gave Rajesh Khanna his superstardom, and also snatched it away from him.

    In one of your earlier posts you had mentioned doing a different career post on Dev Anand, what with him playing a CID, a lawyer, a Guide, a PocketMaar etc. Although Dev remains my favorite, there is nothing in my personal career that I can relate to any of Dev’s or Shammi’s or Amitabh’s movie persona. Rajesh comes the closest, I think he plays the best pilot among all Hindi film heros (others being Raj in Sangam, Dev in HRHK, Raj Kumar in Hindustan Ki Kasam,
    Shashi in Silsila). The image of a Rajesh Khanna attired in an Indian Air Force uniform against the backdrop of the Himalayas in Aradhana is one for the ages. I am not a pilot in real-life (although I did briefly pilot a small plane for a few minutes), but I did some work for NASA & Boeing in the US Space program. Juxtaposing the two defining moments of 1969, I believe Rajesh Khanna to be a superstar because in a small way he inspired me to reach for the real stars.

    • Samir, that’s a wonderfully personal experience of the Rajesh Khanna era! I missed out on all of that first-hand, but my sister saw it, to some extent: her favourite song for a long time (when she was a little girl) was Achha toh hum chalte hain, though she (in all the innocence of childhood!) used to sing the second line as “phir kab hiloge?” And, when my sister was just learning to walk, an elder cousin of ours used to encourage her along by standing at the other end of the room and singing to her, “Mere sapnon ki rani kab aayegi tu“. My sister’s name is Swapna, you see…

      I love the way you talk about Rajesh Khanna’s pilot in Aradhana inspiring you, in a way, to reach literally for the stars. Lovely.

    • Samir, you have written so beautifully here. Thank you.

      Lekin really – Dev Anand was up in the air for one second in HRHK as a pilot. Raj and Raj at least get to strut around a lot more in their movies. But I agree wholeheartedly – NO ONE played the perfect AF guy like Rajesh did. No wonder i always had a soft corner for guys in uniform.

      • I’d even forgotten that Dev Anand was supposed to be a pilot in Hare Rama Hare Krishna. Hindustan ki Kasam, in comparison, had a lot of piloting happening. Oh, and as for men in uniform, Haqeeqat

        By the way, Samir: Dharmendra plays a commercial pilot in Neela Akash. Looks wonderful. :-)

        • I tried looking up Dharam in Neela Akash on youtube, but only got two songs. He did look good though, and I am sure he made a decent pilot.
          Have you found any good songs in airplanes ?
          The only one I found so far is from the HWood classic “Top Gun”,

            • How could I have forgotten Dharam and “Pyar Ke Is Khel Mein” !!!. Right up my 70’s Masala OTT alley.
              BTW, how is it that you remembered this one, hopefully my repeated 70’s songs insertion has not corrupted you :)))
              Thanks for that wonderful review on “Neela Akash”, Dharam looks good as a pilot. But then, in those times, he looked good no matter what he was.

              • Hehe. ;-) I did wonder how I happened to remember that song while our local 70s aficionado didn’t! But then, I do like quite a few movies – and a lot of music – from the 70s, so it’s not surprising, I guess.

    • Wow, awesome post. :D

      But Raj Kapoor wasn’t a very good pilot in Sangam. If he hadn’t crashed, he wouldn’t have caused the whole mess with Rajendra and Vvjayanthi. But never mind.

      Dev wasn’t a very good pilot either – I was cringing at the whole movie. Not a very good thing to watch after Tere Ghar Ke Samne, oh gosh. But yes, Rajesh Khanna just makes my heart melt into goop when I see him in that Air Force uniform. So. Handsome.

    • Samir, beautiful narration! Please allow me to comment on one point though: The ‘gravitation’ towards Amitabh Bachchan at that time in mid- seventies was (1) created by the script writes/directors/producers who were offended for various reasons by Rajesh Khanna in the height of his superstardom, who deliberately excluded him and created another channel of movies promoting violence – giving birth to so called Angry young Man’ (2) There was also a change in historical context in India where young spectators identified with that kind of movies that fed violence/anger over family values, romantic love, duty, commitment.

      It is completely false to say, even assume that Amitabh ‘took’ his place. No one can or will ever take over or replace Rajesh Khanna’s talent, acting abilities, the magic he created on screen. It is 2 nd generated since, he is loved by the young and old.

  11. Wow, nice observation and nice tribute. My eyes welled up with tears while reading this. Darn… this has been really terrible, hasn’t it? :(

  12. A wonderfully written piece (as usual!). He died at the age of 69 and it was 1969 that changed it all for him, for Rafi, for Kishore Kumar (Kishore Kumar became new Rafi!), meaning of superstar (or phenomenon!), Hindi films and film music. Since that is also the watershed year for music to stop for my blog, not many songs of his would appear on Songs of Yore. But I do remember very clearly the impact the opening song of Aradhana made on me. There is no way I can describe what Mere sapno ki rani kab ayegi tu did to me as it would have done to million others like me. Rajesh Khanna in uniform, the jeep, harmonica by Sujit Kumar, the hill train, Sharmila Tagore trying to read Alistair Maclean barely able to resist looking at the handsome, sweet, romantic man. Everything looked as if history was going to be made, and as they say – sometimes you can only desrcibe reality in cliches – rest was history. May his soul rest in peace.


    • Mere sapnon ki rani was iconic, wasn’t it? One couldn’t blame Sharmila Tagore’s character for falling for this romantic stranger like a ton of bricks! (I was reading a newspaper article yesterday in which it was mentioned that, as a result of Aradhana and that particular song, Alistair Maclean suddenly became very popular among Indian teenaged girls around that time).

  13. Very nicely written, Madhulika! It’s the same dialog that I remembered and posted too. For me, RK was the original chocolate hero, definitely the kind to take home to parents. All the films you’ve mentioned are on my mind since yesterday. May Kaka rest in peace.

    • Thank you, Kanan. Am off to read your post after this!

      I guess that is one of Rajesh Khanna’s most famous dialogues, isn’t it? That, and the Amar Prem one, “Pushpa, I hate tears“.

      • Thank you, Madhulika, for your comments & responses. Completely agree about the famous dialogs and Amar Prem was actually the film that taught me real meaning of love. I was in high school when I watched it and I remember I cried and cried to see them go through so much and still not be able to be together. It was one movie that I respected the most at the time. My respect for Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore increased by leaps and bounds. I should watch it again. I haven’t seen it since.. more than some 20 years now.

        • Amar Prem was an unusual film. I guess films like Safar wouldn’t have been considered that unusual, because there had been leading men dying onscreen before, but to have two people, in love with each other but unable to marry… most scriptwriters would have contrived a quick death and some near-miracle which would have allowed Pushpa and her lover to marry.

          Long time since I watched it, too. I must see it again.

  14. What a wonderful tribute to a Superstar, the likes of whom will definitely not come again in my time! As I have mentioned earlier, I had a huge crush on him after seeing Aradhana and listening to the songs over and over again with my friends. That movie remains my favorite movie to date, I had its cassette with me whenever we took road trips and my sons knew the songs right from the opening bars. That was also one of the first DVDs I bought when we bought a DVD player – I guess I missed out on the VHS version, though!
    I have been watching his movies since last night, bits and pieces, actually, but I was struck once again by how such an ordinary looking guy could have played those romantic roles so well and the charm of his smile and the head tilted back – oh, I could go on and on, but the kitchen beckons, alas! So, let me end by thanking you for the wonderful journey down memory lane, with my hero, Rajesh Khanna!

    • Ordinary looking“? Lalitha!! *bug eyes*

      Well, I guess you could call him fairly run of the mill in the later films where he’d put on weight and his hair fell over his collar…but he’s gorgeous in Aradhana. Just the mere thought of him makes me go all dreamy-eyed.

      Glad you liked the post!

      • Oops! Well, he wasn’t tall, to begin with, and in those days, I liked tall guys, but he was my hero, despite the drawback! Actually, he reminded us (my cousins and me) of a watchman in our grandfather’s place, which is why we considered him ordinary looking!

        • Ah, the height…yes, I can understand that.

          I love that anecdote about how he reminded you guys of a watchman, so you thought him ordinary-looking! I wonder if the watchman would’ve been flattered if he knew you thought he looked like Rajesh Khanna?!

          • Besides, it was that head-tilted-back smile with the eyes all crinkled up that made him gorgeous! the watchman didn’t smile at us, ever, and we never told him what we thought about him and Rajesh Khanna! Tidbit – there were plenty of guys in college who went about in kurta pajamas during those days, and his haircut, and we snickered at them, thinking of how far they were from resembling their idol!

    • Creative! And, what a coincidence – your translation of the Anand dialogue is exactly the same as mine! And you managed to get a screen grab that was the same as one I’ve uploaded, too. :-)

    • Thanks for looking up & liking my tribute, Madhulika! It is also thanks to the ‘coincidental’ (as it seems to you) sameness of the translation of Anand dialogue & the screen grab of Kaka that I was directed to your blog while searching the famous words on the net so I could ‘google & ugal!’ (‘find’ & ‘copy/paste’) them for use in my write up to save some typing effort. And boy was I glad I googled for them! I got a great bargain for the effort, being rewarded with the discovery of this beuautiful blog of yours & the creative wonder of a writer that you are. Had about an hour’s time on my hands last night & quickly rummaged through much of your stuff on the blog for a most satisfying experience of reading the mind of a fellow creative writer through her pen pourings. Acknowledging your blog to be the source of the ‘identical’ translation/Kaka’s screen shot & hoping sincerely to be forgiven for the transgression, if one is still perceived in these times of ‘google & ugal (offload)’, I wish to focus more on the glee of my discovery of you instead. As you might have noticed while perusing my fun-tribute after being directed to my blog through the link, I am no mean wordsmith myself. Apart from enjoying creative writing in various genres, with ‘humorous reflections’ on all things worldly being my specialty, I too am an aficionados of olden goldies from Bollywood & Hollywood & love to write about them. So you can imagine my joy at discovering your ‘nostalgia treasure’ & your special talent of providing cool & fun memorabilia in packages of ‘ten favourites’! I was enchanted & promise to look up your stuff for greater, detailed relish during the weekend. I have myself posted a song/theme review of Tarachand Barjatya’s classic “DOSTI” on my blog under the category ‘Nostalgic Fun’ & am in the process of completing an ‘Omnibus Ode’ to Shammi Kapoor (my turn to proclaim now the ‘coincidence’ of our mutual great interest in him) showcasing his histrionic mettle through his movie songs which I will be uploading on August 14 to commemorate him on his first ‘Absentia Anniversary’ (hate to call it Death Anniversary). Hope you would decide to look up my post on ‘DOSTI’ at “http://www.humourmedicine.com/yeh-dosti-hum-nahi-todenge/” & subsequently, if this should be to your liking, check out my words at “Meet The Doctor” & “Doctor’s Diary” among other categories. Looking forward to a literary ‘DOSTI’ & ‘Alliance of Inspiration’ with you whereby I might be enthused to find more time for & make greater efforts with my own ‘Nostalgic Fun’ outpourings!

  15. What a wonderful tribute to Rajesh Khanna.

    The last bit “Rest in peace, Kaka. Thank you for the films you gave us. Thank you for your smile and your laughing eyes. Thank you for your life.” brought tears to my eyes – I cannot thank him enough for giving me those wonderful memories in my childhood, watching his movies and trying to copy him with that head-tilt or that eyes-lowering.

    I know he had a lot of failings – by his own admission, he was put on SUCH a pedestal SO quickly in his career that he did not know how to handle it. And he had sycophants around him too – that hardly helped him to be in touch with reality. Those were different times – in today’s world, stars learn early how to manage the media, manipulate the media. I don’t think Rajesh did this – and the media extracted their pound of flesh from him (and more) when he was on his way down. I remember reading lots of nasty stuff written about him even in the late 70s. Any wonder he chose to lead a somewhat secluded life after all that? I don’t think he ever came quite fully to terms that he had lost his aura.

    Anyway, that’s all in the past. He’s hopefully in a better place now, with Kishore, RD and Anand Bakshi.

    He did die in a lot of his movies – that’s partly because when he started dying, his movies became hits. I distinctly remember when Roti was released. I read then that the story was supposed to end with Rajesh being captured – but he insisted he wanted to die, so they changed the end accordingly.

    He has taken a big part of my childhood with him. I don’t grudge him that though – he gave me so much more in return.

    • Thank you, Raja. Your observation about him being put on a pedestal and not being able to handle it reminded me of an article I read yesterday, from an interview with Sharmila Tagore:


      After beginning my Rajesh Khanna journey with films like Anand, I watched some of his films that were contemporary back then; the run-of-the-mill films with the usual love story, villains, disapproving parents, etc – and decided I’d much rather stick to the Rajesh Khanna of the early days. So I’ve actually ended up not watching too many of his later films. For me, Rajesh Khanna will always be the Rajesh Khanna of Aradhana or Anand, or other films of that period.

  16. Wow, nice tribute!! Absolutely moved by your words.

    It’s sad that we are losing so many good actors in such a short span of time. Very unfair for the fans of Hindi films, as these people are irreplaceable.

  17. A sincere homage to the first super star of Hindi cinema,–Rajesh Khanna– a frenzy,a craze , a deewanapan of girls for his blink, his nod , his songs, a hysteria never seen before & even today.It is a pity his super stardom lasted a short span of years & he faded away with time.Thanks for this wonderful tribute to the one & only Rajesh Khanna !!

    • Yes, you’re so right about the fact that his superstardom lasted for such a short while – barely even a decade, isn’t it? Because he shot to the top with Aradhana, and then with Amitabh Bachchan’s star ascending in the mid-70s, Rajesh Khanna shifted down the ladder.

  18. I really loved your tribute. Totally agree that Rahesh Khanna was always an actor. He never let stardom & image dictate his choice of roles. How many top stars would do a guest appearance like this one in Anurag? He is a very convincing rustic!

    I haven’t seen many of his post-hero films, but he was good in Dard (with Hema Malini) and Avtar. Too many write-ups about him are saying he was a romantic hero and non-actor, which is JUST NOT TRUE. I wish he had continued acting.

    • Thank you, Sunny. I’m glad you liked this tribute.

      I’ve watched the Ram kare babua song before, but since I haven’t seen Anurag, I hadn’t realised this was a guest appearance by Rajesh Khanna.

  19. So what’s new something or the other always keeps me away from cyber space. When Rajesh Khanna decided to join my parents I missed not having my own film blog, after all there are loads of memories that I would like to share with film lovers, maybe God willing at some time in future I may fulfill this wish but as for now what comes to my mind is Rajesh Khanna, the then superstar, rushing to our home to pay his respects to dad (with whom he shared a warm relation) on his(dad’s) last journey. We later learnt from some of dad’s industry colleagues that dad’s sudden demise had moved Rajesh Khanna to tears. May you find peace up there Kakaji.

    • Thank you for sharing that, Shilpi. It’s very touching. I’d completely forgotten that Rajesh Khanna had acted along with your father in two films that I’ve seen (Aan Milo Sajna and Chhoti Bahu). Hope to read more about their interactions sometime, whenever you launch your website about your father.

  20. Thanks for the tribute to Rajesh Khanna….I liked the Samir’s superb comments over the rising stardon of Rajesh khanna in 1969….Jewel Thief, Aradhana & Where Eagles Dare….C’mon all my favorites…he bring that alive for someone like me who born much later in the era of cheap n worst late 80s and early 90s garbage movies sparring few good movies..Thanks Samir & Dusted Off

    • You’re welcome, Gaurav! Glad you liked this tribute. I agree about the 80s and 90s being a bad time for movies: now, when I look back at the films I’ve watched, I realise that those two decades are probably the ones in which I’m familiar with the least movies.

  21. Very well written tribute. I felt almost the same when my sister (her name is Madhulika as well) sent me a message about his passing.

    Dara ji and Rajesh ji passed away within a week. This is the scene that came to my mind.

    • Now how did I forget about that scene? Wonderful – but then, I have a soft spot for Anand, all of it.

      Ah, so your sister is named Madhulika too. I’m always happy to come across another, because there seem to be so few of us around!

  22. Dusted Off – This was beautifully done. Thank you. Several years ago I remember thanking you for something you wrote about him and saying that given the prevailing tempo at that time in the B’wood blog world (which unanimously HATED him!) that we, his fans, were grateful for any crumbs from the table. This outpouring all across the media, social networks, blogs, etc. has truly astonished even his most ardent adherents. And I am more sad than anything else because the one who would have loved this the most isn’t there to see any of it. Some of us are gutted. As I told Raja a few days back, there’s no logic to it – the heart cries nevertheless.

    But then there’s this – that he’s going to have the time of his ‘life’ up there :-) [I refer to Satish Acharya’s stuff below]. Superstar forever!




    • Suhan, that you should have liked my post is enough to convince that it was worth writing. Thank you.

      I can’t understand this overwhelming need for a lot of people to either completely idolise an actor (or filmmaker, author, sportsperson, whatever) or utterly hate him/her. I tend to judge people by individual performances – and then, not really judge, because, after all, everybody’s human. So while a Rajesh Khanna in Shaayad meri shaadi ka khayaal does not appeal to me, I will never deny that he was fantastic in Anand, Aradhana or Kati Patang – and more.

      Thank you for the links to the cartoons! I’d seen the second one on Facebook, but the first one was new to me. Cute!

  23. To quote Satyajit Ray “….Even the best of actors loses his edge and languishes ….. It is even worse with ‘stars’, whom circumstances have brought to the pitch where they must stick to their ‘image’ or topple. And this usually means doing the same thing over or over again. An artist, however, must always be judged by his best work.”


    So we judiciously avert our gaze from the Kaka of the 80s barring ‘Kudrat’, ‘Avtaar’, ‘Rajput’ and a few others and remember him from his heydays in the early 70s, and even the mid to late 70s for ‘Palkon ki chhaon mein’, ‘Naukri’, ‘Karm’, ‘Tyaag’, etc.

    On the issue of loving and hating folks in the filmi duniya, have never understood the hate (so much of energy expended on something so useless!), but love, well, it’s hard to explain why the heart does certain things :-)

  24. First, I loved the tribute, one of the best. In addition to the films listed by the blogger, I also really liked Palkon ki Chchau Mein, and his non-starry performance in Aavishkar. I am not a big Bollywood watcher, but some actors and their films really stayed with us (Guru Dutt, Rajesh Khanna and Sanjeev Kumar are three such actors for me). Rajesh Khanna could portray vulnerability, charm, warmth and love all in one (and he was incredibly photogenic). No wonder he was such a sensation. But he also provided more overt sexuality than anyone else. Is it any wonder that Roop tera mastana is so popular? When we watch him romancing someone, we know that it is not boyish love, nor a platonic one. Very little has been said of this, but given the rigid puritanism displayed by the censors, it was pretty hard to portray sexuality in films (of course wet sarees were fine). Mostly romance scenes seemed very chaste. But Rajesh looked like he enjoyed kissing his girls (and they liked it!), making love, and generally actinglike normal adult. I guess because I grew up primarily watching American, British and French films, I could never understand such prudishness in our films. And when I saw the hum tum number in Bobby, my jaw dropped. Two teenagers in love in a locked room, and they have to sing a fairy song???
    Whatever… Roop tera mastana was a welcome change, and it was mostly Rajesh’s expressiveness that made it so convincing. He did it in other songs too. We know that in Amar Prem his relationship with Pushpa is not platonic (despite Shakti Samanta’s efforts to dilute it), we suspect he had an affair in Aavishkar, we know his playboy reputation in Mere Jeevan Saathi is not all gossip (and his romancing Tanuja was not all innocent), and we definitely know what Flight Lieutenant Arun had in mind (note that he introduces Sharmila to boss Ashok Kumar and then admits “hum ek dusro ko chahte hain”). And he is not suffering from any guilt later either. Way to go Kaka…(and he was pretty open about his real life relationships too).
    Sidebar: my heart was broken too that Vandana and Arun could not live happily ever after…Also did enrollment in Indian Air Force increase after Aradhana?

    • That’s an interesting take… and, now that I think of it, pretty true too when I look back at the films you’ve mentioned. (I’ll add another to that: Andaaz).

  25. Nice tribute. Rajesh khanna had the guts to do offbeat roles even early in his career. He was a hero without a heroine (a rarity in hindi cinema) in films like anand, baawarchi, shatru etc., He never shied away from doing heroine centric films & yet walked away with the honours.

  26. A majority of his films could be viewed by the family. Also, he had a few firsts. His Karm touched on the live-in relationship & its impact, his anokha rishta was about a young girl falling in love with an older man, his avatar spoke on the dignity of the aged etc.,

  27. Rajesh Khanna was India’s greatest actor/ artiste. No other performed had created such an impact over millions of people in an era devoid of marketing, PR, 24 hour channels, TV, Internet, mobile phones, publicists .and the impact is felt to this day in sept 2016

    • Simply Sublime! The face,the smile,the gestures,the charisma,the lilting voice,the songs & the movies. There is so much acting talent amongst the current generation,for instance, in the shape of Ranbir & Ranveer,along with the magnetic charm of an older generation, e.g. SRK plus of course the generation straddling icon that is Amitabh Buchan. Yet still, Rajesh Khanna (he of Aradhana,Kati Patang,Anand) sparkles amongst them. What was Nassuredin Shah thinking when he made such baseless comments I wonder?!

      • I cannot agree with you more! Rajesh Khanna is the shiniest among all – past, present, I am sure future too. Unmatched talent combined with charisma- he is pure magic!

  28. RO was loved bcos he was one of the family, o perfect devar to all bhabis, a perfect bro, a perfect son, .
    He looked best in full shirts and pants ,flowery prints just like y and me dressed,
    Remember nanhe bhaisab of the d.d serial hum log ?
    He was ours of us like us and loved

  29. no one can touch your height dear Rajesh, u was ,u are and u will be the first and last superstar , rest in peace my love rajesh, we will always love u and miss u a lot, no one can take your place , no never

  30. Tbh, I never understood the appeal of Rajesh Khanna in films like Aradhana and Kati Patang. Today, they seem really run-of-the-mill, but then could be cause premarital sex is now considered ‘normal’. I liked him in more offbeat films like Amar Prem and Aavishkar. Aavishkar was in fact where I noticed the actor in him.

    Btw, the last 60s like movie that could be reviewed on this blog is Daag. I personally think the release of Zanjeer kick-started a whole new era of Bollywood. In fact most movies pre-Zanjeer or pre-73, still have a strong 60s vibe.

      • “How utterly bizarre!

        I don’t think ‘bizarre’ is the word for it. Possibly ‘perspective’ describes it better? Or, in other words, ‘Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder’ – another way of accommodating conflicting perspectives. Just because someone likes something you don’t doesn’t make their opinion bizarre.

    • I’m not sure the idea of pre-marital sex is what makes Aradhana or Kati Patang (though from what I recall, Kati Patang didn’t have any…) so popular. More a combination of great music, an attractive lead pair, and a scenic setting, combined with a huge of melodrama, which was pretty popular back then. To be honest, while I find Rajesh Khanna handsome in his early films, I can’t really understand the madness that seems to have gripped fans (and continues to do so). Plus, the mannerisms later on in his career get on my nerves.

      My favourite film of his is Ittefaq. Really good. :-)

  31. Thank you Madhulika ji for a beautiful tribute to Rajesh Khanna, actor who left unparalleled, unforgettable mark in Cinema. Thank you for penning this tribute appreciative of a great artist, kalakar, it is one of the best reviews about Rajesh Khanna. Many reviews go on to talk about irrelevant details how other actors ‘replaced’ him – when in actual effect no one has replaced him, no one can replace him, how his luck changed at a certain period of time etc, rather than appreciating unmatched natural talent of this shining star and the memories he left for several hundreds of years. My special thanks to you for bringing back heart touching memories of Rajesh Khanna.

  32. One thing I noticed about Rajesh Khanna was how transitional his peak phase (1970-1975) was. There are some films that seem like an extension of the Jumping Jack-Shashi Kapoor 60s era (Sachaa Jhutha, Kati Patang) and there are films that show signs of the turbulent 70s (Anand, Amar Prem, Namak Haraam, Roti). I think another reason why he is not as relevant as Amitabh Bachchan despite being a far bigger youth icon is because he cannot be pinned to a decade. Some people see him as the last gasp of the 60’s innocence, and other people see him as a gamechanger.

    • That’s a very insightful comment. That never occurred to me, but I agree with you, he does seem to be that odd actor who cannot be assigned easily to either the 60s or the 70s.

  33. Just came upon this beautiful tribute when I was looking at your latest posting. I was in Chennai visiting Vidya Mandir School where my brother was studying. He wanted to show me the neighboring mansion where Sigappu Rojakkal starring Kamalahasan was filmed. I was looking at the house trying to recall not sure if it was the same house, when on the balcony who appeared but Rajesh Khanna along with Director Bharati Raja. I guess they were shooting Red Rose the hindi version.

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