The concept of ‘Double Roles’ remains an enigmatic genre and unique to Indian cinema. Hollywood and World Cinema have generally stayed away from exploring the possibilities of such stories. A possible reason could be that our industry is dominated by the star-system whereby it is the charisma and persona of the star that is embedded in the psyche of the audience and hence the fascinating idea of seeing their favourite actor/actress in more than one role in the same film has always caught the fancy of the fans. At the same time it offers the actors to test their own acting prowess as well.
Superstar Rajesh Khanna is one of the handful of actors who got the opportunity to play ‘double role’ in more than ten films in his career. He also belongs to the select band of actors who started their career with a double role. His repertoire of ‘double roles’ has an interesting mix of characters where he got to play father and son or identical twins but for the most part he played look-alike characters who just crossed path by destiny.
Today is Rajesh Khanna’s fifth death anniversary and this blog-post is a tribute to this charming, endearing and amazingly gifted actor who defined ‘superstardom’ in the most unique and unprecedented way. From 1967 to 1985, there are eleven films where Rajesh Khanna donned the ‘dual avatar’. Here is a brief description of the story and his character in these films.
Director: Ravindra Dave
Though Chetan Anand directed ‘Aakhri Khat’ reIeased first in 1966, the murder-mystery romantic thriller Raaz was technically the first film signed by Rajesh Khanna. His heroine Babita also made her debut with this film. The film starts in Africa where Rajesh Khanna staying with his friend I S Johar starts getting visions of a woman and a place in India in his dreams. To get to the bottom of this, the two leave for India but to his surprise everyone recognizes him but thinks he is a ghost. The plot takes an intriguing turn as he finds out that he is supposed to have been murdered some time back and is even shown the grave where he has been buried. And Babita is convinced that he is her lover who had only disappeared.
Revealing anything more about the plot would mean spoiling the fun for anyone wanting to watch. How and where does the second Rajesh Khanna fit in and what exactly did happen to the murdered Khanna forms the crux of the film. Being a film of the sixties and being the debut film for both the hero and heroine, there are lots of songs and some of them became very popular. It is difficult to imagine that this was Khanna’s debut film as his acting is very natural and expressions are spot on. The charisma which made him a Superstar is very much there to see and the film is very enjoyable.
Director: Shakti Samantha
Heroines: Sharmila Tagore, Farida Jalal
The film which changed the fate of Rajesh Khanna forever catapulting him to dizzying heights of superstardom also sealed the Rajesh Khanna-Kishore Kumar ‘jodi’ and for the next twenty years they continued to give one musical hit after the other till Kishoreda died in 1987. The story of the film was initially conceived as a two-hero film with the first hero dying before interval. It was writer Gulshan Nanda who suggested the double role angle and the rest as they say is history.
No doubt Rajesh Khanna is brilliant in both the roles of the father and the son, but there is no scene where they come together on screen as the father dies young and the son appears much later. So in both the roles, he gets to portray characters who are not only of the same age but also belonging to the same profession- Air Force pilot. The only small physical difference is that of a moustache sported by the son.
Though S D Burman is credited for the landmark music of the film, his son R D Burman’s contribution was no less. As the senior Burman was taken ill, R D being his assistant took over and added his genius touch to many aspects of the songs. Here is an iconic song from the film which is said to have been filmed in a single take…
SACHAA JHOOTA (1970)
Director: Manmohan Desai
Heroines: Mumtaz, Faryal
This super-hit which fetched Rajesh Khanna his first Filmfare Best Actor Award is easily one of the best films of his career. Packed with unexpected twists and turns that keeps the viewer engaged from start to finish with the thrills, action, comedy and emotion, the film also gave to the industry one of its most loved romantic on-screen pairs- Rajesh Khanna and Mumtaz. Though Shashi Kapoor had been approached for the role, he refused to work opposite ‘B-grade’ heroine Mumtaz and as luck would have it the film fell into Rajesh Khanna’s lap and there was no looking back…
Rajesh Khanna is rocking in both the roles-that of the two look-alikes: Bhola-an honest village simpleton who is a band musician and Ranjit- the ruthless diamond smuggler. When Bhola comes to town in search of work he enters a masquerade party where the police mistake him for Ranjit. Initially Ranjit (in the black dress and mask) is shocked to see his look-alike but soon comes up with an ingenious plan whereby he convinces the innocent Bhola to masquerade as Ranjit for a while. He then continues with his robberies and this completely foxes the police who are all the time actually following Bhola masquerading as Ranjit.
The film’s climax in the court is a memorable scene when both of them are standing and everyone is confused as to who is the real Bhola ! All the songs of this film are outstanding and remain evergreen even today. Here is the number sung at the masquerade party…
Heroines: Tanuja, Maoushmi Chatterjee
This film has an interesting plot where Rajesh Khanna plays two look-alikes- Ram, the manager of a huge estate and Lakshman, a poor worker in the same estate. One day the worker saves the manager’s baby and that’s when they meet and are struck by their identical faces. Seeing her baby’s life in danger, the manager’s wife Tanuja faints and gets mentally affected. After this due to some unavoidable circumstances, Lakshman has to pose as Ram for a while without anyone finding out the truth. But one night Lakshman saves Moushmi from a lecherous man and ends up marrying her. Now it becomes more difficult for him to keep up with this dual lifestyle and this leads to misunderstandings and confusions. The mystery is solved in the end and all lose ends are neatly tied.
Rajesh Khanna is his charming romantic self and basically both roles are very similar. So there is no scope of displaying any difference kind of histrionics. R D Burman’s music is one of the highlights of the film and all the songs are superb. I have chosen a lovely romantic number which remained at the top of the popularity charts for several months…
Director: Shakti Samantha
Heroine: Hema Malini
This film tells an absorbing tale of re-incarnation and unrequited love of a previous birth which haunts the lovers in the current birth. In the previous birth, Rajesh Khanna plays a Royal court musician and falls in love with the court dancer Hema Malini but as their love story is doomed due to unavoidable circumstances, they die promising to get united in another birth. In the current birth, it is Rajesh Khanna who first remembers everything when he chances upon Hema Malini’s photo in an abandoned villa. One day he comes across Hema Malini, who is a village girl and starts pursuing her reminding her of their previous birth. Once again there are obstacles in the form of Prem Chopra, the tribal who has set his eyes on Hema and Yogeeta Bali who is Rajesh Khanna’s fiancé…
Rajesh Khanna is at his romantic best in both the roles and his confrontation scenes with Prem Chopra are always a delight to watch. He also gets to lip-sync to some outstanding songs composed by R D Burman especially the haunting song ‘Mere Naina Saawan Bhaadon…’ which connects the two births. The image of Rajesh Khanna in his denim jacket strumming the guitar and singing this song remains embedded in the minds of his fans…
Director: Narendra Bedi
Heroine: Neetu Singh, Aruna Irani
This movie starts off as an interesting tale of a street-smart conman taking the place of a royal prince who had disappeared several years ago. The Rani Ma (queen mother) is anxious to hand over the entire fortune to her son on his return. This switch is engineered by the crook Prem Chopra who somehow gets Rajesh Khanna to do the job for him as soon as he comes to know that the missing prince looks exactly like the conman. But once he enters the place, Rajesh Khanna has a change of heart and with the help of Neetu Singh, a princess whom he falls in love with, they manage to locate the real prince. Apparently years back he had been kidnapped and kept captive in the dungeons and treated badly because of which he grows up to be a mentally retarded man who has no clue to the happenings around him. Aruna Irani also loves Rajesh Khanna but he treats her always as a good friend.
The events are quite fast-paced and once again the Rajesh Khanna-Prem Chopra combination proves to be the USP of the film. Rajesh Khanna puts in a breezy performance as the conman who enjoys his tryst with the lawmakers and has no qualms going to jail for the odd jobs he does as long as he gets paid. He uses this money to help the needy in the slum colony where he resides. As the mentally retarded prince, he hardly has any scenes. He just has to suck his thumb and look dazed which he does.
Here is a song in which the conman is captured by Prem Chopra for going against him and we can get a glimpse of the retarded prince as well…
BHOLA BHALA (1978)
Heroines: Rekha, Moushmi Chatterjee
This movie had quite a senseless storyline in which Rajesh Khanna plays an honest insurance agent and a dreaded dacoit. A chance encounter in a train ends up in the insurance agent saving the dacoit’s life and to reward him, the dacoit joins an insurance policy of some princely amount! Though initially his company folks are thrilled with him, later they want him to go back and cancel the policy for which they need the dacoit’s signature. Now Khanna ventures out again but this time though the dacoit is kind to him, his associates hold him as a captive in their camp as he is now aware of too many details of their whereabouts. The story then meanders aimlessly and somewhere both the Khannas get time to romance their heroines- Moushmi for the agent and Rekha for the dacoit.
While Rajesh Khanna exudes his usual charm in the role of the insurance agent, he was a complete misfit as a dacoit. To make things worse, Kader Khan has dubbed all the dialogues for the dacoit Rajesh Khanna which is probably why his acting didn’t seem to gel with the character. One wonders what made the director and Khanna himself think of such a ridiculous idea! That single-handedly killed the very essence of this already listless film.
A couple of songs became very popular. Here is a solo number by Kishore Kumar which is not heard too often nowadays but was a hit at that time…
Director: Chetan Anand
Heroines: Hema Malini, Priya Rajvansh
Once again Rajesh Khanna gets to be a part of a reincarnation saga and once again Hema Malini plays his lover. This time however the plot is intriguing as there is murder in the plot and the last 45 minutes of the film are devoted to some brilliant courtroom drama where Rajesh Khanna plays the prosecutor and Priya Rajvansh the defence lawyer. Hema Malini in the present birth is engaged to Vinod Khanna but has recurring dreams of images of some faces and events which make her very distressed. When she meets Rajesh Khanna, unknowingly she feels a connection with him and realizes he is one of the faces she sees in her dream. Rajesh Khanna is a lawyer and out of gratitude to his mentor Raj Kumar, agrees to marry his daughter Priya Rajvansh. On their engagement day Hema Malini comes face to face with Raj Kumar and suddenly remembers all the details of her previous birth and accuses Raj Kumar of having murdered her. The unique story-line of the film won the Filmfare award for the best story that year!
Rajesh Khanna is brilliant in the film. As the man caught between knowing the reality of his previous birth and having difficulty in accepting the truth that the very mentor whom he had adored and looked up to all his life could have been such a cold blooded murderer, he gets to display a gamut of emotions. As the romantic villager of the previous birth he is his usual romantic self though looking a lot older than his earlier films probably owing to a deviation from the trademark Rajesh Khanna hairstyle…
Music of the film is superb with the song ‘Hame tumse pyar kitna …’ by Kishore Kumar attaining extraordinary popularity.
Director: Ambrish Sangal
Heroines: Hema Malini, Poonam Dhillon
The film is a remake of the 1960 classic Mamta with a few alterations in the script. Instead of the mother-daughter angle in Mamta here the story revolves around the father-son duo with Rajesh Khanna essaying both the roles. Hema Malini, a rich and upcoming lawyer is in love with a poor Rajesh Khanna and as usual, her father manipulates things in such a way that she is sent away to study abroad and he forced to marry someone who dies at childbirth leaving behind a son. He also takes the murder rap on himself for an act committed by his evil brother-in-law. Hema Malini agrees to bring up his son who also grows up to be a lawyer.
Once out of jail, the old Rajesh Khanna works as a gardener in Poonam Dhillon’s house. But the young Rajesh Khanna has an instinctive dislike for the gardener knowing that he had been in jail. Now the evil brother-in-law returns to blackmail Hema Malini and this time the old Rajesh Khanna actually kills him. The young Rajesh Khanna is now the prosecutor and Hema becomes the defence lawyer.
The movie was good and essentially belongs to the older Rajesh Khanna and Hema Malini. Needless to say he is superb in the older role. As the son, however he goes a little overboard with his mannerisms trying to pass off as a young 25- year old romancing Poonam Dhillon. Around this time, Rajesh Khanna had put on weight making him look old and it also looked weird when he addresses Hema Malini as ‘Ma’! The court scenes towards the end are wonderful. Music by Khayyam was one of the highlights of the film. Here is a song where both father and son can be seen:
DHARAM AUR KANOON (1984)
Heroines: Asha Parekh, Jaya Prada
This film is a multi-starrer with Dharmendra, Danny and Vinod Mehra also having important roles. Rajesh Khanna plays father and son. The father is a Judge and does not get along with his son Rajen who decides to move out of the house and live in the nearby slum. There are many murders committed and all cases come to the court of Justice Diwan who gives his verdict of death sentence based only on the facts presented irrespective of whether the accused is his best friend or his son…
The scenes between Dharmendra and senior Rajesh Khanna are enjoyable and once again Khanna shines in both roles. Songs were very average and made no impact. Here is a rain song picturized on the son Rajesh Khanna…
HUM DONO (1985)
Director- B S GLaad
Heroines: Hema Malini, Reena Roy
Hum Dono which released in 1985 was the last film where Rajesh Khanna got to play a double role. This fun-filled comedy film was a remake of the Telugu film Sommokadidi Sokkokadidi and was later made in Tamil as well with Kamal Hassan starring in both versions. In this film a poor villager gets to know that he has a look-alike in Dr Shekhar who has a flourishing practice as a doctor and earns a lot of money working at an impressive hospital. He decides to impersonate him once he leaves the clinic and pockets whatever money he makes treating patients who come to him. He even falls for the girl who had set her sights on the doctor. Nobody finds anything wrong as the doctor is known to be very forgetful and lost many times.
After a while the Doctor finds out about his impersonator and decides to get him kidnapped by a gang. He then goes to the poor man’s house and starts liking the life there with the poor man’s mother and girlfriend. Basically lot of confusions occur and becomes a laugh riot with things getting muddled. It is a well-directed film and it is great to see Rajesh Khanna tapping his comic talent to the full.
Here is a song where the doctor Rajesh Khanna is amused to see his impersonator romancing his friend