Harish Jharia

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19 July 2012

Superstar Rajesh Khanna Passes Away On 18 July 2012: The Rarest Romantic Phenomenon of Bollywood Vanishes

© Harish Jharia 

The 18th July 2012 will always be remembered as the worst day in the history of Indian cinema as it has lost the most loved film star Rajesh Khanna on this day. Succumbing to an undisclosed prolonged illness, probably some chronic liver disease like cirrhosis, he breathed his last at his Bandra home Ashirwad. 

His mortal remains have been cremated at Pawan Hans crematorium on the following day at 11am. Rajesh Khanna’s body was kept in a see-through glass casket, placed on an elevated platform on an automobile heavily decorated with white flowers in the funeral procession in the early hours of 19 July 2012. His last journey was arranged in the same grand and royal style as he lived his life. 

Thousands of people were lined-up by the side of the road leading to the crematorium. A huge crowd was waiting outside the Pawan Hans crematorium and police had to resort to light ‘lathi-charge’ for making way for Rajesh Khanna’s family members and friends including Dimple Khanna, their daughter, son-in-law Akshay Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan etc. Many celebrities including Manoj Kumar could not get entry inside the crematorium because of the jam-packed entrance. 

In the year 1966 a new film actor Rajesh Khanna was noticed on the silver screen in a Chetan Anand’s film Akhri Khat. He again appeared in a Ravindra Dave’s film ‘Raaz’ in the year 1967. Rajesh Khanna was not much recognized by the cine-goers in these films. Nevertheless, they started talking about him that he was the one who was selected in a countrywide star-hunt organized jointly by United Producers and Filmfare Magazine. 
In 1960s, there were three big film stars dominating Bollywood. They were Dilip Kumar, Devanand and Raj Kapoor. The cine-goers of that time were so very mesmerized with the larger than life persona of these three actors that it was just impossible to imagine any actor beyond the profiles of them. Whenever some new actor used to appear on the silver screen; he was simply compared with these three actors. Critics used to analyze the new-comer whether he was copying Dilip, Dev or Raj…!

In addition to these three, there were about twenty other film actors like Ashok Kumar, Guru Dutt, Balraj Sahni, Manoj Kumar, Rajendra Kumar, Sunil Dutt, Raj Kumar, Dharmendra, Shammi Kapoor, Shashi Kapoor, Vijay Anand, Kishor Kumar, Joy Mukherjee, Biswajeet, Sanjeev Kumar, Bharat Bhooshan, Feeroz Khan, Sanjay Khan, Jitendra, Mehmood etc  who were also popular and successfully working in the Hindi film industry. 

The Bombay (now Mumbai) film industry was absolutely saturated with about twenty-five male lead actors and it was just impossible for newcomers to get a job (contract) in any Hindi film. The film industry was dominated by production houses controlled by teams of film professionals based on regional, linguistic and community affiliations. Struggling actors had to approach the production houses matching with their own regional, linguistic and community affiliations for getting a job (contract). These were the basic requirements for any newcomer for entering Bollywood. 

Thousands of strugglers languishing in chauls, slums and dormitories in suburban Bombay, used to chase the film producers and directors and beg for roles in films. Most of them used to end up as junior artists and some of them died out of starvation rather than getting a break in a film. 

In such a critical situation for any new entrant in Bollywood, it was Rajesh Khanna who kept signing one contract after the other and came with a super hit film ‘Aradhna’ in 1969. Paired with Sharmila Tagore, directed By Shakti Samanta and singing songs composed by SD Burman and played back by Kishor Kumar, Rajesh Khanna broke all the previous records at box-office and became a romantic phenomenon overnight.  

He became the prince charming of young girls and darling of men and women. Mothers wished to have a son like Rajesh Khanna, sisters hoped to have a brother like him and young girls wished to have him only as their life partner rather than his lookalikes. Girls used to keep his picture under their pillows, wrote letters to him written with their blood and even married with his photographs. Rajesh Khanna was not only the first superstar; he was rather a sensation and a craze among everybody across genders and all age groups. 

Thereafter, Rajesh Khanna ruled the hearts of the people and dictated terms to the box office. He gave 15 super-hit movies just in four years between 1969 and 1973. He catapulted the careers of all the 25 plus well established Indian film stars of that era. Film producers used to lineup in front of his abodes and mobbed around him for attracting his little attention. They even resorted to book rooms and private wards of hotels and hospitals, respectively, where Rajesh Khanna used to stay. 

Rajesh Khanna kept ascending the ladder of progress, fame and fortune until, out of a spontaneous decision, he married Dimple Kapadia. Dimple Kapadia was a 16 year teenager when they tied the nuptial knot and ventured into a married life. This marriage gave them two pretty daughters and the relation lasted for about 11 years, before they separated. The reason of separation was obviously Dimple’s ambitions of pursuing her career of a film actress that she left abruptly after doing her first blockbuster film Bobby pairing with raj Kapoor’s son Rishi Kapoor.

Dimple Kapadia left her house along with her 2 daughters leaving behind Rajesh Khanna all alone in their house Ashirvad. Rajesh Khanna was caught unawares and slowly went into self-imposed solitude. He kept himself busy with his acting, tried his hand in production and did a term of elected Member of Parliament (MP). Nevertheless, his personal life slowly dilapidated and eventually affected his career severely. He failed in his political career and loosened his grip over his stardom in Bollywood. 

His aimless life slowly turned into worthless existence and Rajesh Khanna immersed himself in liquor.  Thereafter, Rajesh Khanna’a life came to a standstill. The world kept moving ahead, but, he kept himself away from the world.  He squeezed his social life within a few friends who also shared his worries and wines.  

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