Rajesh Khanna, RIP

The prolific lyricist of Bollywood could not have been more prophetic. His friend Kaka, Rajesh Khanna the super star to his fans, breathed his last on sawan amavasya, just a day after Shivratri, in Mumbai on Wednesday. Kaka's immemorable picturisation of Shivratri song Jai Jai Shiv Shankar, in Aap Ki Kasam has kept the journey of kawadiyas from the source of Gangajal to their revered Shiv temples across north India going for four decades now.

Rajesh Khanna would be celebrated for long as prince charming, the king of romance and style guru but not many would recall that he actually risked stardom to do the 'other' cinema for friends. At the height of his commercial success, in 1972 he agreed to do
for Hrishikesh Mukherjee breaking from his screen image of a romantic hero to play role of a good samaritan acting as guardian angel to an orphan Jaya Bhaduri in a typical Indian middle-class joint family beset with squabbles and feuds. Similarly he agreed to play a character role in Shakti Samata's Anurag. Even his most successful film Anand (1970), again directed by Mukherjee, had once again no romantic lead with him.

But what is Khanna story without talking about his leading ladies. While Sharmila, Mumtaz and Asha Parekh would always be remembered as the heroines of his commercial successes, Kaka's histrionic abilities were best showcased when he held against thespians like Meena Kumari [
], Waheed Rahman [Khamoshi], Nutan [Anurag], Shabana Azmi [Avtar, Thodi Si Bewafi] and Smita Patil [Amrit].  

How does one quantify popularity of Rajesh Khanna? Bollywood's legendary showman Raj Kapoor gave answer to it 40 years ago. In 1973, a nearly impoverished and bankrupt Kapoor was launching son Rishi Kapoor in Bobby. The leading lady of the film was Dimple Kapadia, whom Kaka had married  a few months ahead of the film release. Having bitten dust with Mera Naam Joker, Kapoor could not afford another flop. He came with a master-stroke, the film after interval would screen short feature on Khanna-Kapadia marriage.
went onto to become a blockbuster.

Born Jatin Khanna  in 1942, Kaka, a Punjabi looked more bhadralok than any of his contemporaries from Bengal and he actually set the Hoogly on fire with Chingari koi bhadke, toh sawan use bujhain in Shakti Samanta's superhit Amar Prem starring opposite Sharmila Tagore. Kaka's success presented a true mosaic of India  culture. He associated with Bengali directors like Asit Sen (Khamoshi), Mukherjee (Anand, Namak Haram, Bawarchi), Samanta (Aradhana, Amar Prem, Kati Patang, Anurag, Mehbooba) and even pioneer of parallel cinema Basu Bhattacharya (Aavishkar) .

He would be best remembered for his association with another Bengali – playback singer Kishore Kumar. The two geniuses got together with maestros SD Burman and his son Pancham to churn out one chart-burster after another. Starting with Aradhana in late 1960s to the middle of the 1970s, they ruled the roost. Kishore gave several unforgettable for Khanna under the wand of other masters too like Hemant Kumar (Khamoshi), Shankar-Jaikishan (Andaz) , Kalyanji-Anandji (Safar), Laxmikant-Pyarelal (Haathi Mere Saathi) and of course Khayyam (Thodi Si Bewafai).

To bid adieu to Kaka,  Anand Bakshi's lines, Zindagi ke safar mein gujar jaate hain jo mukam, who phir nahi aate...
are most appropriate. There shall indeed not be another Rajesh Khanna.

Hero of Waterloo

At the height of Ram Janambhoomi movement, BJP was saved major embarrassment when party veteran Lal Krishna Advani managed to win the prestigious New Delhi Lok Sabha seat by a whisker. The Congress candidate was Rajesh Khanna, who after the defeat had said in his inimitable style, 'who remembers the winner of battle of Waterloo.' A shaken Advani abandoned New Delhi seat for Gandhinagar and Khanna worsted it from the BJP in 1992 bypoll defeating Bollywood compatriot Shatrughan Sinha. Khanna last contested poll in 1996 losing to Jagmohan.
Our Correspondent.
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