Last few weeks we were following the news of Rajesh Khanna being hospitalised just to be discharged later. This time also when he was hospitalized and then released on Monday, his fans sighed relief. People thought now everything would be alright, only to be disappointed in two days time with the sad news of his demise. The uncertainity of life is such as he himself said in one of his immortal songs, ` zindagi ka safar hain yeh kaisa safar koi samaza nahi koi jana nahi.....
Rajesh Khanna or Kaka as he was fondly called by the people from his coterie was not just a star or even the first superstar, he was a phenomenon, a mass hysteria. His career can be compared only to a massive tidal wave, tsunami. While it lasted it swept everything in its force and then after it reached its crescendo it slowly ebbed giving way to the next wave. When he was at the peak of his career, he was mobbed by people. Girls married his photographs. Women were ready to give their right arm just to get a glimpse of him. It is said that his white car used to turn pink because of the kisses from the girls. Never before and after something like this was seen or heard.
Born in 1942, in Amritsar, Rajesh originally named Jatin was raised by his relatives in Girgaum the middle class neighbourhood of Mumbai. Having brought up in middle class area also could not suppress his inherent flamboyant spirit. He must be the only newcomer who used to struggle in his MG sports car. Although his first movie `Akhari Khat’ did not do well on box office, it brought him into the focus of right people and then he never turned back. Soon there was a sring of hits such as Aradhana, Amar Prem, Safar, Haathi Mere Sathi, Anand, Andaz and so on. He was regarded as the man with the Midas touch. Whatever he touched turned into gold on the box office. During this period he gave seventeen consecutive hits which is a record of the sorts and is yet to be broken. He wove a magical web on audience with the help of exceptionally talented Kishor Kumar who was his voice on screen and the great R D Burman who gave the most unforgettable chartbusters. His pairing with Sharmila Tagore and Mumtaz scorched the silver screen. Who can ever forget the sizzling ` Roop tera Mastana’ from Aradhana or `Jai jai Shiv Shankar’ from Aap ki Kasam.
He was the quintessential romantic hero. Pasha of passion. Millions of hearts melted when he serenaded to Tanuja in Mere Jeevan Sathi with ` O mere Dil Ke Chain’ or tried to woo widowed Asha Parekh with `Pyar Diwana hota hain, or when he beckoned Sharmila Tagore with ` Mere Sapanon ki Rani kab aayegi tu’. Girls wanted to drown in his soulful eyes as he crooned ` kahi door jab din dhal jaye’ , wanted to comfort him with ‘Aaja piya tohe pyar dun’ or wanted to take him their arms and soothe him as he played mentally disturbed man in `khamoshi’. The nation cried with him as he played the terminally ill character of Anand in the critically acclaimed film with the same name or as he quietly suffered in Safar and the audience went berserk with happiness as he taught a lesson to villains with the help of his faithful elephant friend in ‘hathi mere sathi’. They wept inconsolably when he delivered the final dialogue to Babu Moshai and laughed till the tape got over. His every trademark move was copied, may it be the tilting of the head, twisting of the wrists, nodding his head with a twinkle in his eye or his signature dance moves.
Girls drooled over his crinkly smile till he shocked everyone by marrying Dimple, another heartthrob who shot to fame with the biggest superhit of the time Bobby in 1973. This fairy tale marriage broke hearts of his millions female fans. Some of them reportedly committed suicides. Rajesh Khanna ruled supreme on the film industry for a decade before the rise of another euphoria by the name of angry young man emerged on the screen. In this new tide of action films also Rajesh Khanna kept the romance alive with his remarkable performances in Namak Haram, Daag. He was the highest paid actor of seventies.
In 80s also he gave some memorable performances such as Sauten, Fifty Fifty, Avatar which proved commercially successful as well, but the original charming spirit of Rajesh Khanna was missing from them. He changed his hairstyle to cover his receding hair line and started wearing guru shirts to hide his belly. The life of excess had started showing their tell-tale signs on his face. His appearances became far and between. He was shrewd enough to recognise the changing times and entered politics. That marks the second phase of his life. He was not the one to enter the political field through the back door as a member of Rajya sabha but won the election with a margin from New Delhi constituency and made grand entry as a popularly elected member of the parliament in 1994. He retained his seat till 1996. Later his career went downhill. He appeared on television in a few programmes but what we saw was ashadow of the original superstar.
Recently, in May 2012, he did an ad for Havell’s fans which has a tagline of `Fans are forever’. It has depicted young Rajesh Khanna thronged by his female fans. Cut two – his older but stylish persona surrounded by Havell’s fans and the tag line delivered with unmistakable tilt of his head,`` Babu moshai, mere fans mujhse koi nahi chin sakata.’’ Truly his fans were delighted to see their hero after such a long gap and had started hoping that one day he may make a comeback with another scintillating performance, but little did they know what destiny had in store for their beloved hero. In less than two months time they would have to digest the news of his passing away. If Rajesh Khanna gets a chance to appear for a short while on earth from his heavenly abode, I am sure he will tell all the mourners to wipe tears in his inimitable style, “ Pochh do ye aansu, ye saline water, Pushpa! I hate tears.’’