This article was published in Word Splash, an e-zine, in the August issue Living a Legend
When I was a child, I was never glued to the television set. Watching a full movie undoubtedly was out of the question. I was never what people may term as a movie-buff. I started watching movies much later. Though several times I tried sitting with my parents to watch a movie, I would be in my seat for only a few minutes because my boredom cells almost always compelled me to leave the room within a few minutes.
The first movie that I fully watched was one of Rajesh Khanna’s. And I cried after it was over. Watching the legend cry on screen, I could not stop my tears. My sibling and cousins laughed at me when I wept after watching the movie in the tiny television set of the 90’s. When I tried wiping his tears in the television set itself, everyone around me broke into a hysterical laughter. The film was the famousHaathi Mere Saathi, made for children with itsDisney-ish appeal replete with a friendly elephant. The more appealing character in the film was the hero of this movie, the legendary Rajesh Khanna. He became my favorite actor ever since, and still comes first in my list.
The “first superstar” of Hindi Cinema, as he is still referred to, had seen it all; he had been an actor, a director as well as a politician. His first movie Aakhri Khat (Last Letter) is dated back to 1966. Incredible as it may sound, 73 of his movies ran for more than 50-weeks each (Golden Jubilee Hits) in movie theatres across the country. He remained the highest paid Indian actor for a decade till 1979. In the period from 1980-1987 he still was the highest paid along with veteran actor Amitabh Bachhan.
Unlike the highly paid actors of our generation, Khanna was not born with a silver spoon. His real name was Jatin Khanna. With no father or relative in the film industry, he had participated in a talent hunt organized by Filmfare and United Producers in 1965 and was the winner that year. He then changed his name to Rajesh Khanna at the advice of an uncle. He rose to fame with blockbusters like Aradhana, Ittefaq, Baharon Ke Sapne, and many more.
Apart from being an actor and winning numerous Filmfare awards, he served as a Lok Sabha member of the Indian National Congress from New Delhi constituency from 1992-1996.
Rajesh Khanna, fondly called Kaka, was the one who gave Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar their first break in Indian Cinema as screenwriters for the movie Haathi Mere Saathi. The duo became so famous that it was mainly because of them that the job of being a writer for films became popular.
Rajesh Khanna can be named as the most popular actor in the history of Hindi cinema. His obsessive fans used to write him letters using their own blood as ink. His cars were often found to be smeared with lipstick marks. He was mobbed by fans in his public appearances and they would keep cheering and chanting his name as he passed by. The craze for him was so intense that girls used to marry his photograph and used their own blood as the vermillion.
The demise of the legendary actor has left his numerous fans, friends and family grief-stricken. He died at the age of 69 on 18th July 2012 due to deteriorating health. As a tribute to their father, both his daughters – Twinkle and Rinkie Khanna have expressed their desire to convert his bungalow, Aashirvaad into a museum.
The superstar has left on his final journey, perhaps to join the celestial stars as children say. But his last words still ring in our ears reminding us of the great actor he was. At his last breath, all he said while leaving the world forever were the words an actor says while leaving the sets of a film shoot “Time is up. Pack up.”