Known as the First Superstar of Indian cinema, Rajesh Khanna needs no introduction as such. Affectionately known as Kaka, Rajesh Khanna was known to have caused mass hysteria among his female fans in his heydays, many of whom wrote him letters written in blood and also married his photographs.
Born in Amristar, Rajesh Khanna completed his education in Mumbai and appeared at the 1965 All India Talent Contest organised by United Producers and Filmfare, where he was one of the eight finalists selected from more than ten thousand contestants.
Khanna made his film debut with Aakhri Khat, which was directed by Chetan Anand. Following this, Rajesh Khanna went on to act in many movies and got noticed for his roles in movies like Aurat, Doli, Ittefaq and Aradhana, in which he played a double role. It was with Aradhana, in which he played a pilot that he rose to ‘instant national fame’ and film critics referred to him as the first superstar of India.
Known for his trademark dialogue delivery and the half smile accompanied by the slight tilting of the head, which drove millions of fans crazy, Rajesh Khanna appeared in many hit movies like Anand, Namak Haram, Roti, Amar Prem, Daag, Bawarchi, Haathi Mere Saathi and many others.
Khanna’s fan following was so vast that his Aradhana co-star Sharmila Tagore was quoted to have once said in an interview that ‘women came out in droves to see Kaka (Khanna). They would stand in queues outside the studios to catch a glimpse, they would marry his photographs, they would pull at his clothes. Delhi girls were crazier for him than Mumbai girls. He needed police protection when he was in public. I have never seen anything like this before and since.’
Even Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, known as the ‘King of Romance’ for the romantic roles that he has played, is said to have remarked once that ‘no one can touch Rajesh Khanna’. Filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar claimed once that whenever he passed by Carter Road, he hoped to catch a glimpse of the superstar.
In the 90s, Rajesh Khanna took a break from acting and served as Member of Parliament of New Delhi constituency from 1991 to 1996 before making a comeback with Aa Ab Laut Chalen and Kyaa Dil Ne Kahaa. Khanna was recently seen in the television commercial for Havells Fans, which focused on the fan following that the now deceased superstar enjoyed during his heydays.
Khanna had been unwell since the past few days and though he recently made an appearance from his bungalow balcony and waved to his fans and showed them the ‘V for Victory’ sign, Kaka was admitted again at the Lilavati hospital on June 23, 2012.
Today, Bollywood’s First Superstar passed away at his residence in suburban Mumbai in the presence of his family members and Bollywood lost a legend forever. Though film industry’s beloved Kaka is no more, he shall always have a special place in our memories …
(Weekly feature By Jaidev Hemmady on the various trends showing up in Bollywood)