The fans of Indian cinema across the world were dealt a huge blow on 18th July 2012 … everybody’s favorite Rajesh Khanna had passed away after prolonged illness. The actor was not just the first superstar of Indian cinema but had a style of his own, which has neither been matched, nor would ever be equally.
Born Jatin Khanna on 29th December 1942, Rajesh shot to stardom in the late 1960s and remained at the top in the 70s. He was not only the original ‘superstar’ of the Indian cinema but, according to legendary singer Asha Bhonsle, he also the ‘fantasy’ of most of the girls in those days. Rajesh made his debut with ‘Aakhri Khat’ in 1966, but he had to win an All India talent hunt contest before that, to prove his mettle.
After a couple of hits including Raaz and Ittefaq, Rajesh Khanna did Araadhna which launched him to superstardom. His rise was aided by the vocals of Kishore Kumar as well as the compositions of Rahul Dev ‘RD’ Burman, both of whom were also struggling at that time. The trio not only managed to mesmerize the audience but it was their charisma that saw Rajesh Khanna deliver 15 consecutive solo hits, something no other actor has managed to achieve since.
Be it the portrayal of a dying patient in Anand, the guest appearance as the happy-go-lucky guy in Andaaz, the chef in Bawarchi or the romantic hero in over 100 films, Rajesh was at ease in whatever character he played. He was nicknamed ‘Kaka’ by his fans who had seen him excel in movies like Aradhana, Haathi Mere Saathi, Anand, Amar Prem, Mehbooba, Kudrat and many others. His last successful film was Rishi Kapoor’s directorial debut Aa Ab Laut Chalein (1999) in which he played Akshay Khanna’s father who deserts him for greener pastures.
Rajesh Khanna’s career was aided by his twinkling eyes and smile which made him the first superstar of the Indian cinema. The decline of the troika of Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand and Raj Kapoor also helped him carve a separate identity in Bollywood, whereas his ascent made stalwarts like Shammi Kapoor and Rajendra Kumar opt for character roles when they were in their prime.
Rajesh Khanna did charm his way into the hearts of millions but married ‘Bobby’ star Dimple Kapadia in 1973. Although they lived separately since 1984, they never divorced each other, and that’s why Dimple Kapadia was at his bedside when Rajesh Khanna breathed his last. He is survived by two daughters Twinkle and Rinkie, both of whom tried their hand at acing, but weren’t successful. Kaka won three Filmfare Best Actor Awards during his career and was nominated for the same on more than a dozen occasions. The vacuum left by his death will never be filled.