A TRIBUTE TO RAJESH KHANNA: Remembering the Phenomenon on his 4th Death Anniversary

By

Sharada Iyer

It is four years since Rajesh Khanna left us leaving behind a void which can never be filled. With his death the era of romance in Hindi cinema came to an end. Much like his character in the film Anand, Rajesh Khanna in real life also succumbed to cancer and embraced death with dignity and a smile. It is said that his last words before he died were “It is time to pack up!”

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The city gave its beloved superstar a fitting farewell when thousands of his fans, supporters and industry people turned up braving the pouring rain to catch a glimpse of their favourite star who had touched the lives of so many with his endearing screen-persona, his handsome face, his heart-warming smile, his natural acting and a repertoire of memorable songs to be stored in our hearts forever.

khanna1He was just a young man of 25 or 26 when he became a superstar overnight, had 16-17 super-hit films in a row and probably was not even equipped to deal with the kind of frenzy he whipped up. With the result he could never really grasp the real reason behind his extraordinary downfall either. To his credit he handled these extreme phases as best as he could and over a period of time actually came to terms with it gracefully.

It is easy today to sit back and point out at his shortcomings and the mistakes he made but one has to understand that he had neither bargained for nor dreamt of in his wildest dreams that he would ever see such extreme phases in his career. And where is the guarantee that in his place anyone else would not have behaved like that?

Interestingly apart from his on-screen popular pairing with heroines like Mumtaz, Sharmila Tagore and Hema Malini, Rajesh Khanna  also shared a terrific rapport with some great character actors of that time like  Ashok Kumar, Om Prakash, A K Hangal, Prem Chopra, Sujit Kumar, Helen, Bindu, Asrani, etc., which translated into great on-screen tuning whenever they shared screen space.

The very mention of Rajesh Khanna’s name brings to our mind innumerable songs picturized on him most of them sung by Kishore Kumar who came to be known as his voice. Almost all his songs were super-hits probably because his facial expressions and expressive eyes added so much life in the songs that they became extensions of his personality.

In this blog I am presenting some of his songs which are not featured commonly when articles are written on him or a list of his popular songs are compiled. The songs have been taken from those films which either did not do too well or if they did, this song was overtaken in popularity by other song/songs of the same film. Hence they remain sort of hidden in his repertoire even though the ‘Rajesh Khanna magic’ is intact in each of them…

Raaz (1967)

Director Ravindra Dave whipped up a murder mystery with newcomers Rajesh Khanna and Babita along with I S Johar , Sapru and Kamal Kapoor.  Rajesh Khanna  was lucky to play a double role in the very first film he signed though his ‘Aakhri Khat’ hit the theatres earlier. In the story,one of them is in Africa and is repeatedly haunted by images in his sleep of a place in India and when he comes to India to investigate, a lot of mysterious things are uncovered. Also the villagers are stunned to see him as they keep telling him that he has actually been murdered and buried. All this suspense on print which had the potential for a blockbuster could not be translated into a successful film as the audience felt cheated by the loose narrative, too many songs and side stories.

However to be fair, the film starts off very well , the lead pair look fresh and super-confident in their debut film and also come up with praiseworthy performances. The song ‘Akele Hain Chale aao …’ became so popular that somehow this lovely Mukesh-Lata duet which I have posted here remains hidden unless you go looking for it… 

Aurat (1967)

A family social with plenty of melodrama typical of films remade from South Indian blockbusters. This one was a remake of ‘Chitti’ and Padmini essayed the role of the sacrificing protagonist in both languages. Since this was Rajesh Khanna’s third film after Aakhri Khat and Raaz, he had a small role and was part of a stellar cast which included Pran, Kanhaiyyalal, Lalita Pawar and Feroze Khan in important roles. He plays Padmini’s brother who falls in love with the Pran’s daughter Nazima.

In the song Khanna looks so nice and boyish and seems very confident for a newcomer. Nazima  looks good opposite him.

Choti Bahu (1971)

This film was based on Sarat Chandra Chatterjee’s Bengali story ‘Bindur Chheley’ and had a good cast of Rajesh Khanna, Sharmila Tagore, Nirupa Roy , Tarun Bose , Satyen Kappu and Baby Sarika  as a boy. In keeping with the other stories written by the author, this one too has a complicated plot and  well-etched out characters though the female protagonist here is not exactly likeable!

Sharmila Tagore essays the title role wherein the character grows up doting on a doll and every time someone snatches it from her, she has an epileptic fit. Her father is told that she will be cured of this malady only when she gets married and has a kid of her own. Her alliance is sent to Khanna’s family who agree immediately but the truth about her condition is kept hidden. Understandably, the plot opens itself for a lot of confrontations, complications and drama before reaching the end!

Acting by the entire cast is noteworthy with Rajesh Khanna playing a doctor. In this film again the popularity of the song ‘Hey re kanhaiyya, kisko kahega tu maiyya …’ with meaningful lyrics apt for the situation eclipses the others which end up being a mere shadow of this brilliant song which is incidentally picturized on an extra.

The song chosen here is a soft romantic number sung by Rafi conveying Khanna’s pining for his wife…

Dil Daulat Duniya (1972)

This fun-filled social drama starring Om Prakash, Ashok Kumar, Rajesh Khanna , Sadhna and Agha directed by P N Arora was a remake of the 1948 film Pugree , which in turn was a remake  of the 1947 Hollywood film It Happened on Fifth Avenue. It had a sweet story wherein a homeless man Om Prakash enters the mansion of a rich businessman who is away every year for six months at a stretch, pretends to be the owner and offers shelter for that period to other homeless and jobless people like him. Circumstances lead to the real owner Ashok Kumar disguising as a vagabond and  coming and staying in his own house without revealing his real identity and the ensuing series of events is enjoyable.

The film sadly did not do well and music by Shankar-Jaikishen though not outstanding was pleasant. This song is picturized on the trio of Rajesh Khanna-Sadhna and Helen. Somehow the Rajesh Khanna-Sadhna pair did not look good as she looked much older than him.

Joroo Ka Gulaam (1972)

I have never understood why this gem of a film hardly finds a mention in either Rajesh Khanna’s list of best films or in the list of best comedy films produced in Hindi cinema. The story has elements of fun and romance in the right proportion with foot-tapping music by Kalyanji-Anandji. Rajesh Khanna-Nanda pair share a great chemistry and their comic timing is superb to watch. 

When rich girl Nanda decides to marry a not so well-off Khanna, parental objections make her run away and get married and since they stay in another city Nanda’s parents have never met Khanna. When Nanda gives birth to a son, the parents decide to forgive and forget and express their wish to come and stay with Nanda. Complications arise as Nanda had written letters with lying about her husband’s new job and how wealthy they are. The film thereafter is a laugh-riot and needless to say Om Prakash gets to play another delightful role as Nanda’s father.

This particular song is picturized so imaginatively and fits the situation perfectly to show Rajesh Khanna’s predicament in the film where he is pretending to be a cook in his wife’s house.

Shehzaada (1972)

This is a film which is hardly talked about while mentioning his films. Set in time of pre-independent India the film is quite enjoyable in spite of the fairly predictable twists and turns that happen. Veena plays a dominant role in this and Rajesh Khanna is her grandson. Raakhee and Rajesh Khanna make a winsome pair.

Usually when we think of rain songs, it is the popular Rajesh-Zeenat number ‘Bheegi bheegi raaton mein…’ from Ajnabi  which comes to our mind. The song I have chosen from the film is also a romantic song in the rain which is very enjoyable but not heard very often on radio or seen on any television channels.

Humshakal (1974)

Rajesh Khanna gets to play an interesting double role here-that of a poor man who is paired opposite Moushmi Chatterjee and his affluent look-alike who is paired opposite Tanuja. Due to certain circumstances, the poor man has to juggle between both the households pretending to be Tanuja’s husband also for some time. He struggles to keep this lifestyle a secret from both the women but things take a turn for the worse and Moushmi misunderstands him. Also a tragedy befalls them but finally things fall in place.

The film had many lovely songs but the song I have chosen is the least heard of the lot. It is a beautiful song rendered with a lot of feeling by Kishore Kumar and picturized on the ‘poor’ Khanna pretending to be the father to the ‘affluent’ Khanna’s daughter.

Bundalbaaz (1976)

This film directed by Shammi Kapoor had Shammi himself playing a genie with magical powers as can be seen in the song.  Rajesh Khanna though a graduate is forced due to circumstances to take up the job of a ragpicker in the film selling old bottles and papers. One day he chances upon a bottle from which a genie appears and insisis on serving him for at least one year. Soon his life changes overnight and he also gets to woo the rich girl of his dreams. Again it was a new kind of film for its time and though not a super-hit it did reasonably well. Sulakshna Pandit gets to star opposite him in this fantasy film.

Here is a Rafi-Lata duet where the stars are dressed as ShahJahan and Mumtaz Mahal…

The Red Rose (1980)

This film was remake of the super-hit Tamil film ‘Sigappu Rojakkal’ starring Kamalahasan . Directed by BharatiRaja it was said to have been inspired by the killings of Raman Raghav the psychological serial killer who committed chilling murders in the sixties. Rajesh Khanna plays a mentally disturbed killer who preys on young girls, rapes and murders them, buries them in his backyard and plants a red rose on the ground.

What made Khanna choose such a weird role remains a mystery. Somehow his romantic image was too overpowering for the audience to accept him in the role of a cold-blooded killer but one must admire Khanna’s guts to take on such a horrific role at that time. Probably if the audience had been as receptive as they are today , the film may have become a super-hit (actor Nawazuddin Siddique has received rave reviews for playing a psychotic killer in the recently released Raman Raghav).

Poonam Dhillon stars opposite Khanna and also marries him unaware of his disturbed past. It is only after marriage that she gets to know and plot has enough scenes which are scary and revolting. This Kishore Kumar song is a breezy number with the typical R D Burman beats…

 

Maalik (1972)

In this film, a devout Krishna devotee Rajesh Khanna falls in love and marries an atheist Sharmila Tagore. Needless to say there is enough juice for a lot of clashes and arguments between their ideologies throughout the film. Things take a major turn when the son born to them has a deadly incurable illness which may cripple him to exist like a vegetable for life without any movement of limbs and maybe even speech and hearing impaired. Khanna blames it on her saying that it is God’s way of punishing her for being a non-believer. In turn she questions his devout faith asking why the same God did not reward him for his belief as the son belongs to both of them.

After a lot of melodrama and the appearance of Lord Krishna in the form of a small cowherd, the film reaches its happy ending by which time she also turns into a firm believer. If the purpose behind making such a film was to have complete faith in the Almighty and never to question His decisions, the results were quite pathetic as the plot was too contrived for the audience to appreciate. Rajesh Khanna is seen in a somewhat subdued and different avatar and definitely he will not be blamed   for not trying different roles in his career. The song chosen here is a pleasant ‘bhajan’ in the voice of Mahendra Kapoor.

Amar Deep (1979)

Rajesh Khanna plays an arrogant and wealthy womaniser but when he sets his eyes on his servant’s daughter (Shabana Azmi) he decides to settle down and expresses his desire to marry her. But she turns him down stating her hatred for his philandering ways and the fact that she loves another man (Vinod Mehra). This does not go down well with Khanna who now takes a villainous route to get even with her. He even plots to have Vinod Mehra killed but in the nick of the time the real identity of the latter is revealed which leaves a shocked Rajesh Khanna repentant of his behaviour and the crime he was about to commit.

The film was a remake of Tamil film Deepam which in turn was a remake of the Malayalam film Theekannal. Shabana matched Khanna’s histrionic intensity and their confrontation scenes were a delight to watch. The duet chosen ‘Tum nahin maanoge tum nahin jaanoge..’ here is one which is a figment of Rajesh Khanna’s imagination…

Karm (1977)

Director B R Chopra directs a triangular love-story with Rajesh Khanna-Vidya Sinha and Shabana Azmi.  Due to some starnge astrological prediction which spells doom for the couple if they get married, Rajesh Khanna and Vidya Sinha decide to start a live-in relationship and she even gets pregnant. The idea being very modern for its time, the conservative society decides to blacklist them. Then by a quirk of fate she disappears from his life and he ends up marrying Shabana and the latter on finding about his past love gets angry and while driving at high speed meets with an accident.

Though the performances were good, it is a  highly forgettable movie by Rajesh Khanna’s standards and released during the year when Amitabh Bachchan’s breezy entertainers Amar Akbar Anthony , Khoon Pasina, and Parvarish were making waves, Karm with its convoluted plot barely managed to scrape through. However the song I have chosen is definitely worth listening…

Chhaila Babu (1977)

Directed by Joy Mukherjee, the film is an out and out racy thriller which showcased Rajesh Khanna in a dashing action role and paired opposite sexy Zeenat Aman, the film had a lot of entertaining moments typical of a masala movie of the seventies. A horde of villains –Macmohan, Manmohan, Roopesh Kumar, Ranjeet, Om Shivpuri, etc., are there to add to the suspense in the story which revolves around a gang of robbers who operate for a secret head called Scorpion whose identity is revealed only in the end. All suspicion points to Khanna himself who surprises by coming in various get-ups.

The song here is an almost unheard of number as only the title song of the film became a huge hit. Watch out for the man with a gun hiding in the song…  

 

 

 

 

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6 thoughts on “A TRIBUTE TO RAJESH KHANNA: Remembering the Phenomenon on his 4th Death Anniversary

  1. What an unusual treat! Wonder how you even thought of presenting the greatest superstar of indian screen like this! Have seen most of these movies but cant remember many of these songs…..even so his charisma and charm are undeniable. Please write something on 3 of my all time favorite movies.. Anand, Amar Prem and Bawarchi. Im sure you’ll have something unique to say!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Mala! Always look forward to your feedback… 🙂 Really appreciate 🙂
      And yes, your request has been noted… Will definitely start my research… 👍 Thanks for the suggestion… 🙂

      Like

  2. enjoyed this tremendously . one of my all time favorites and yeas – he gave us mass hysteria in India – like The Beatles- gave for all of us globally; What a rare guy. thx Shars for reminding us all of this genius, cheerios

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great compilation of some unusual movies and unheard of songs of the super star. This is indeed a unique tribute because you have come up with some off-the-track work featuring him. A pleasant change from the run of the mill stuff which would have quoted only well known movies and popular songs of his.

    Liked by 1 person

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