The Life & Death of Rajesh Khanna


Rajesh Khanna passed away on July 18, 2012 and somehow I was sensing it for quite a few months. And I know you don’t have to be a psychic for that, a lot of people had the same feeling as well. Everybody knew it was going to happen and everybody knew they would feel terrible about it, unless for some reason they either hated Rajesh Khanna or old Bollywood.

Speaking of people hating Rajesh Khanna, it was only a coincidence that the May 2012 issue of Stardust had republished an article dating May 1986 in their “Blast from the Past” section, reading “How Rajesh Khanna Tried to Molest a Newcomer” with the subheading of “A Star-Mother’s Cry of Anguish”. The article features explicit references of Rajesh Khanna’s attempts of molesting the then-newcomer actress Sabia and how Dimple Kapadia’s father detested him as a pervert.

While this would forever establish Rajesh Khanna as a typical male culprit in the eyes of many, I must confess that it only makes him more interesting and mysterious to a part of some of us. Without glorifying the alleged acts. Though not sure how trustworthy this gossipy magazine is. Also, It is worth noticing how Rajesh Khanna would have felt a couple of months before his death had he noticed this article himself. Why I am talking about this, I am not sure but just because this has brought forth to me a dark yet fascinating and mysterious side of a superstar who is a household name.

Source: Mid Day

I cannot really say if I have been a huge Rajesh Khanna fan, or one at all, but I had absolutely no choice on how much his films would influence my life, as would be the case with many of you, because I literally grew up watching them. I am a huge old Bollywood fan and it was the golden age of Bollywood when Rajesh Khanna reigned supreme as the undisputed superstar of the silverscreen, particularly the fascinating 70s. He had a haunting face, it disturbed me as a child, yet I could not tell if I loved it or hated it. It was impossible to ignore him.

Some of my most favorite Bollywood songs were from the movies of Rajesh Khanna and that is something which becomes a part of you forever and ever. It is just a matter of feeling it and it is just a matter of acknowledging it, or you could just choose to ignore it. I think the day of his death was a good occasion when at least I would consider it important to stop ignoring it. I must confess I have been thinking about the old man quite a lot over many months. How he must be living. What must be going through his mind. How his relation would have evolved with Dimple Kapadia after the separation.

I think Rajesh Khanna was an important actor, though I cannot say that he was a great actor, but an important one because he appeared in very important motion pictures such as “Anand”, “Amar Prem”, “Aradhana”, “Kati Patang” and “Mere Jeevan Saathi”. I am missing a lot in this list I know, especially the mention of his killer pair with one of my favorites Sharmila Tagore. However, this was a time when Bollywood still pursued somewhat intellectual subjects in its filmmaking in a subtle manner, confronting existential issues, reflecting on life and death and how humans coped with tragedies, much of which has been turned into monkey circus, especially in the last two decades of Bollywood.

I think Rajesh Khanna was an actor that marked the golden era of Bollywood, the end of which just saw the beginning of its monkey circus. This is why he is important and this is why he needs to be remembered, regardless of the fact that he must be overrated and perhaps not as skilled an actor as his worshiping fans may claim him to be, as some would like to point out. It does not matter, he achieved all that and at the end of the day, you cannot help but like him.

One of the reasons I am a Rajesh Khanna fan is the fact that Kishore Kumar, who is my all-time favorite singer, was always the voice behind his face on the screen. This is something that I simply cannot ignore. One of the greatest songs that touched me from his movie “Safar” was none other than “Zindagi Ka Safar”. I often wondered while listening to this song what Kishore Kumar would have felt while singing it and what Rajesh Khanna would have gone through filming it, and especially when he would have looked back at it after all the years that had passed.

Whatever those thoughts maybe, I simply cannot get this song out of my head ever since Rajesh Khanna’s demise.

Rest in Peace.


August 24, 2012 – 1720 HRS

Update: Thanks to Roshni Mitra, a correction in the post. The film “Kora Kagaz” did not feature Rajesh Khanna. Thanks for pointing it out. Corrected.