Rajesh Khanna: Undisputed king of Bollywood in the 1960s and '70s
Friday 20 July 2012
Rajesh Khanna, the first real superstar of Indian cinema, was the undisputed king of Bollywood in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Fans both male and female would send him letters written in their blood. "Women came out in droves to see him," said Sharmila Tagore, who acted with him in nine films. "They'd stand in queues outside the studios to catch a glimpse, they'd marry themselves to his photographs, they'd pull at his clothes… He needed police protection. I've never seen anything like it before or since."
Amitabh Bachchan, who was to dethrone him as India's leading film idol, said that for all the adulation he received he never generated the same kind of frenzy, admitting that he only became famous because he worked with Khanna, in Anand (1971) and Namak Haram (1974).
Born Jatin Khanna and affectionately called Kaka, he was an adopted, much pampered child. He acted at school and college in Mumbai, and after a stint in theatre made his largely unnoticed film debut in Aakhri Khat (1966). His fourth film, Aradhana (1969), made him a heartthrob, driving an open-top jeep while serenading Sharmila through the winding routes of a hill train in Darjeeling. Aradhana also marked the resurgence of singer Kishore Kumar, who became Khanna's playback voice for many years.
Later that year came Do Raaste, which consolidated his position at the box-office, and Khanna had an unbroken sequence of runaway hits until 1974. Even a Khanna cameo could bring a film success: his 15-minute appearance in Andaz (1971), where he yodeled Kumar's immortal "Zindgi ek safar hai suhana" on a motorbike with Hema Malini on the back, overshadowed the film's star, Shammi Kapoor. Khanna's success, indeed, overshadowed all his contemporaries, however illustrious. Khanna admitted there were times when he felt "next to god". His crinkling eyes and velvety voice drove fans into raptures, and the Khanna haircut, suits, and slacks that stopped short at the ankle made him a fashion icon.
He was in fact a gifted and sensitive actor who, despite his romantic image could also give voice to the underdog, as he demonstrated in Ittefaq (1969), a rare successful experiment of a Hindi film doing well without songs, in which he lent a vulnerability to the role of a suspected killer on the run from a psychiatric home, and Khamoshi (1970), in which he was similarly outstanding as a psychiatric patient. Probably his greatest performance, though, was a cancer sufferer the following year in Anand.
But Khanna could not cope with his superstardom. Later he admitted that he had not been mature enough to handle it; success made him arrogant, forcing producers and directors to give in to every whim and fancy, and when they saw a similar spark in Bachchan many shifted loyalties.
Convinced he could do no wrong, Khanna made bad choices, taking roles that exposed his limitations; his mannerisms became an embarrassment and without strong stories not even he could salvage poor films. He became a parody of the former superstar and audiences laughed at his attempts to pull off action roles, with which he was never comfortable, and at his maudlin sentimentalism. The 1973 BBC documentary Rajesh Khanna: Bombay Superstar came only just in time.
Like many film stars, Khanna went into politics, joining the Congress Party and entering parliament in 1992. He later appeared in several television serials, and also produced one.
In 1973, Khanna married Dimple Kapadia, who was only 16 and basking in the success of her debut film Bobby. They separated in 1984. Their elder daughter, the actress Twinkle Khanna, is married to the actor Akshay Kumar, while the younger daughter, Rinke, is also an actress and is married to a London-based investment banker.
Jatin Khanna (Rajesh Khanna), actor, politician and television producer: born Amritsar, Punjab 29 December 1942; married 1973 Dimple Kapadia (separated 1984; two daughters); died Mumbai 18 July 2012.
The battle for control of Stieg Larsson's £30m legacy
Geoffrey Macnab does not like the comedian's big screen debut
Look beyond the usual shows for the best festive telly
Michelle Nijhuis' daughter insists (s)he is, and she learnt a valuable lesson on gender in books
newsFormer soldier taped 33 of the animals to the floor and then stamped on them one by one
Kennington bus crash: 32 injured after double decker hits tree in south London
Robin Thicke named sexist of the year 2013
PAs cleared of fraud - and Nigella Lawson left reeling at 'ridiculous sideshow' of drug allegations and public dissection of marriage to Charles Saatchi
Cycle death inquest: Boyfriend hugs driver of 32 tonne tipper truck that killed his girlfriend
Apollo Theatre collapse: Scores injured after ceiling collapses in London's West End
Exclusive: Young people ‘want UK to stay in Europe’: Four in 10 adults aged 18 to 24 are ‘firmly in favour’ of membership, poll shows
Tom Daley ‘is gay because his father died’ says UK evangelist
Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
PM denies two child limit for benefits is part of Tory welfare policy
Anachronistic and iniquitous, grammar schools are a blot on the British education system
- 1 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 2 Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
- 3 Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
- 4 Cycle death inquest: Boyfriend hugs driver of 32 tonne tipper truck that killed his girlfriend
- 5 Burglar steals video tapes of child abuse, hands them into police
- < Previous
- Next >
£40000 - £55000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: This Big 4 giant is seeking ...
£35000 - £50000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: Do you have personal tax exp...
£22000 - £37000 per annum: Capita Education Resourcing Permanent Team: This se...
£27000 - £30000 per annum: Capita Education Resourcing Permanent Team: Capita ...