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FeaturesCinema & TVFrom an Amritsar boy to Bollywood’s first Superstar

From an Amritsar boy to Bollywood’s first Superstar

Published: 19th Jul 2021 6:26 pm

Hyderabad: On Rajesh Khanna’s ninth death anniversary (July 18), a peek into the journey of one of the most celebrated stars and his fabled anecdotes

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From his larger-than-life character in ‘Anand’ to a hopeless romantic in ‘Amar Prem’, Bollywood’s first superstar Rajesh Khanna has given his fans and a whole generation many moments to remember.

Bollywood’s dashing heartthrob, who ruled the hearts of millions, regrettably breathed his last on July 18, 2012. Time passed by, but the memories of Khanna – someone who achieved fame that no other film star had ever experienced before – still live.

On his ninth death anniversary, here are some tales from the actor’s life that biographer Yasser Usman captures in his audiobook ‘Rajesh Khanna: The Untold Story of India’s First Superstar’, available on ‘Audible.in’.

A long queue of women awaited him where he worked:

In the audiobook, Sharmila Tagore, superstar Rajesh Khanna’s favourite co-star, mentions that women came out in droves to see him. She also highlights how they would stand in queues outside the studios to catch a glimpse of him, marry his photographs, pull at his clothes and what not. More than just a heartthrob, Khanna was an idol to them.

Says Sharmila: “There was a long queue of women outside the studio where we worked. The hysteria was unprecedented.” Sharmila also mentions, “He (Rajesh Khanna) probably didn’t have the attributes that are normally associated with a hero – what he had was a disarming smile, youthful energy, an innate sense of drama and a well-modulated voice which he used to his fullest advantage.”

To this, Yasser Usman adds, “Mostly remembered as a romantic actor, as he had a vulnerable lost air about him that made women of all ages feel safe around him.”

“The news of Rajesh Khanna tying a knot ended up becoming the biggest event of the year. Hordes of women were left heart-broken; some of them went into a state of shock, while some who previously married his photo decided to wear white to symbolise widowhood.” As per the magazine ‘Devi’, the entire act of his wedding with Dimple Kapadia was “nothing more than a publicity stunt for whatever it was worth”.

Khanna’s off-screen troubles and altercations:

In an altercation about a retake for a scene (in ‘Aradhana’), Rajesh Khanna looked at director Shakti Samanta straight in the eyes and said “Isse better performance aapko India mein koi nahi dega.” To which Samanta later confided, “Rajesh Khanna is finished. He is dead. If he thinks this third-rateshot was great, obviously his mind wasn’t working.” But the history books would disagree since ‘Aradhana’ was a part of Khanna’s steps towards stardom.

Another such incident happened on the sets of the 1979 movie ‘Janta Hawaldar’. Noted comic-actor Mehmood complained that working with Khanna was a “harrowing experience”. “Mehmood even beat up Khanna before the end of filming,” tells Yasser. “Mehmood complained that it was the company that Khanna kept that destroyed his career.”

With more than three flop movies in a row and the not-so-“cute boy” looks, Khanna could see his career coming to an end in front of his eyes. “Most filmmakers thought that Khanna’s off-screen troubles seeped into his work. He was popular enough to attract roles but his failures made him a second-round star.” Yasser in the audiobook mentions, “His fascination for whiskey and love for food started showing more than he would have liked.”

Face of mainstream cinema from 1969 to 1972:

A boy with big dreams, Jatin Khanna, hailing from Amritsar, adopted the on-screen name ‘Rajesh’. And who knew that it would be etched in the memories of so many hearts across the globe! He did it the hard way as Yasser tells listeners, “During the United Producers Combine Talent hunt contest (1965), Jatin used his well-modulated voice to engross the judges with each passing line as he delivered a monologue during the finals, which made him beat 10,000 participants.” He adds, “Rajesh Khanna’s struggles ended the day signed his contract with the United Producers Combine.”


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