Rajesh Khanna Retrospective: A Tribute to Indian Cinema's Greatest Superstar

Our Tribute to Indian Cinema's Greatest Superstar: Rajesh Khanna

rajesh khanna, anand, directed by hrishikesh mukherjee

It’s a very sad day for Indian Cinema. The nation has lost its first superstar. Veteran Actor Rajesh Khanna has passed away at the age of 69, leaving behind a legacy of inspiration not only for actors or artistes but also for the entire youth of the nation. He is survived by his wife Dimple Kapadia and two daughters Twinkle and Rinke. My heart is filled with grave sadness and my eyes are on the brink of shedding tears but I dare not cry, for someone very dear had once so emphatically stated: “Pushpa, I hate tears!” 2012 has been a very sad year for Hindi Cinema, one that has witnessed three of the most prominent stars from the movie galaxy phase into abysmal darkness. First, it was veteran actor Joy Mukherjee who passed away back in March followed by the demise of Rustam-E-Hind, Dara Singh on the 12th of this month. And, today, the heartthrob of the nation, superstar Rajesh Khanna.
Rajesh Khanna, popularly known as Kaka, was the first actor in Indian Cinema to be crowned as “superstar”. Khanna still holds the record of delivering 15 back-to-back solo hits between 1969 and 1972. It was this spree of unprecedented success that catapulted Khanna into superstardom. Rajesh Khanna (birth name Jatin Khanna) was born in Amritsar on 29 December 1942. After the untimely demise of his parents, Khanna was brought up by foster parents who were relatives of his biological parents. Right from an early age, Khanna showed his interest in theater and drama. After brewing his talent in theater, Khanna came to Mumbai (then Bombay) in the early 1960s to start his acting struggle. Khanna shot to fame by winning the All India Talent Contest organized by Filmfare and United Producers where he overhauled ten thousand fellow contestants. By the virtue of his win, Khanna also secured berths in two Hindi feature films: Aakhri Khat, directed by Chetan Anand and Raaz, directed by Ravindra Dave. And the rest is history.

From the late-60s to the mid-70s, Rajesh Khanna was at the pinnacle of stardom. The fans would queue outside his bungalow to get a mere glimpse of his while the producers would wait for months just to get his dates. He would often get mobbed by his fans at shooting locations and functions while his hysteric female fans would send him love letters written in their blood. “Girls married themselves to photographs of Rajesh Khanna, cutting their fingers and applying the blood as sindoor. Rajesh was God, there has never been such hysteria,” reminisces renowned film critic Monojit Lahiri. Khanna was such a phenomenon that even his collaborators used to bask in his starry glory. This applied to his female leads, male co-actors, directors, producers, and also playback singers. While actresses like Sharmila Tagore, Asha Parekh, and Mumtaz blossomed in Khanna’s stellar presence, the Hindi Cinema also witnessed the resurgence of singer Kishore Kumar, courtesy the "Kishore-Khanna" connection. The duo of Rajesh Khanna and Kishore Kumar, bolstered by musical genius of R. D. Burman, became the most successful actor-singer pair in the history of Indian Cinema as the latter became the official voice of the former on the celluloid. Even today when Amitabh Bachchan is widely regarded as the superstar of the millennium, Khanna’s superstardom remains unparalleled, for never again in the history of Indian cinema has any actor succeeded in sustaining such unmatched supremacy. Interestingly, it was Bachchan’s supporting acts in Rajesh Khanna starrer Anand (1971) and Namak Haraam (1973) that had finally helped him gain identity in Hindi Cinema during his early days. Coincidently, it was also Khanna who had helped Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar get their first break as screenplay writers. Saleem and Javed were the architects behind Bachchan's now iconic ‘Angry Young Man’ image with movies like Zanjeer (1973), Deewar (1975), and Sholay (1975).

In a career that spanned over three decades, Khanna acted in over 160 motion-pictures—128 of which were lead performances—winning Filmfare Best Actor Award thrice and the coveted BFJA Award for Best Actor (Hindi) record four times. While Khanna delivered a plethora of unforgettable performances during his illustrious movie career, his heart-wrenching portrayal of a cancer patient in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Anand (1971) remains most memorable. Rajesh Khanna, overwhelmed by his failed marriage to actress Dimple Kapadia, took to drinking as his superstardom slowly started to fade. In the 90s Khanna quit acting and entered active politics. He became the Member of Parliament from the New Delhi Constituency by winning the by-election in 1992. Even after completion of his tenure in 1996, Khanna remained affiliated to the Indian National Congress. Khanna even campaigned for the party in the 2012 Punjab elections. However, all his attempts of making a comeback to the celluloid failed drastically. Khanna had expressed his keenness to participate as a contestant in the reality show Big Boss but he decided to stayed away from it on the request of his son-in-law, actor Akshay Kumar. The actor had been reportedly unwell since last month and had been undergoing treatment at Lilavati Hospital, Mumbai. He might have lost his battle with death, but he will continue to live in the hearts of billions of his diehard fans in India as well as abroad. Rajesh “Superstar” Khanna was a phenomenon whose extraordinary exploits as a performer made him much more than just a man, something incredibly formidable:  a legend and a god.   

By Murtaza Ali

rajesh khanna, amitabh khanna, anand, hrishikesh mukherjee

rajesh khanna, sharmila tagore in aradhana

rajesh khanna, asha parekh in kati patang

rajesh khanna in bawarchi

rajesh khanna in amar prem

rajesh khanna, mumtaz in aap ki kasam

rajesh khanna, sharmila tagore, daag

rajesh khanna, hema malini in dard

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  1. That one is a heartfelt tribute to the great man, tracing his meteoric rise, his political journey and the sad end.

  2. A stellar journey of a Titan named Rajesh Khanna :-)

  3. That too a legacy that's unparalleled!!!

  4. HaricharanpudipeddiJuly 19, 2012 at 12:32 PM

    I've grown up watching his film. I simply love his mannerisms by which he carries himself. Indeed it's a mighty loss for Indian cinema nevertheless we'll have to gather up energy and march forward, hoping for bigger superstars to rise :)

  5. The damage is indeed irreparable. Rajesh Khanna epitomized superstardom in Indian Cinema and it was his exploits on the celluloid that have made way for the actors of the coming generation. Indian Cinema will surely miss him!!!  

  6. Velayudhan ManoharanOctober 24, 2013 at 8:12 PM

    Rajesh Khanna - The real and only super star of indian cinema.

  7. Amitabh Bachchan has to just look at his face in the mirror whenever he wants to believe that he has grown in stature than Rajesh Khanna. This very simple exercise will address his ego and bring its levels to normal.


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