My earliest memories of Rajesh Khanna are some of his movies that I watched as a kid during Saturday night Doordarshan. I didn't much understand acting then, it was the 80s where Kaka's downfall had already started. The women in the family loved him. Amitabh Bachchan was the reigning superstar and Dharmendra and Vinod Khanna had started wearing fake mustaches for matured roles. I remember copying his dance steps from the film Aan milo Sajnaa - "Yahan wahan saare jahan mein tera raaj hai", much like a Junior Mehmood. My dad was ebullient with this phenomena. He later showed me his college day photographs. Young men in bell bottoms, with large side-locks and hair that covered their ears. I still remember the pride in his voice, - "We were all Rajesh Khanna fans." Bachchan? I asked. There was a fake arrogance in his voice when he said this.. "Oh.. he was a beggar those days...Those were the days when Navin Nischal rocked.. Anil Dhawan was considered the passionate hero and Rajesh Khanna ruled over Hindi Cinema."
I remember watching the "best" Rajesh Khanna movies with Dad, thereafter. "Daag", where granny sweared at him for not owing up to Sharmila Tagore, "Aradhana" which is still my Mom's fav mother-son movie that she loves crying up to :), "Amar Prem" where me as a kid could never fathom how a person could be as large hearted as Rajesh Khanna, "Kati Patang" which we completed after 3 screenings because of the power cuts, "Anand" which was the first time tears welled up in my eyes because of celluloid magic and i cried in the bathroom, "Namak Halaal" where i developed semi-permanent hatred for Bachchan and a lot more......
"Hamein jo tumhara sahara naa miltaa... bhanwar mein hi rehte, kinaara naa miltaa"
"Kuch reet jagat ki aisi hai... har ek subah ki shaam hui"
My second romance with Kaka happened because of my love for Pancham-Kishore. While collecting albums of Pancham's music i saw myself crossing paths with Rajesh Khanna's movies yet again. Quite simply put, the man had such a huge collection of good songs picturised on him. While the Pancham-Kishore-Kaka combo rocked, Rajesh Khanna also was fortunate to get awesome songs picturised on him by other musicians.Long before good songs became synonymous with Emraan Hashmi, Kaka existed and ruled. How glad was i to find Pancham. How glad was i to see Rajesh Khanna emote Kishore's voice on screen to the truest possible act?
"Jab Dard nahin tha seene mein.. tab khak mazaa tha jeene mein"
Sholon Pe Chalna Tha..Kaanto Pe Sona Tha
Aur Abhi Ji Bharke...Kismat Pe Rona Tha
Jaane Aise Kitne Baki Chhodke Kaam
Main Chala.... Main Chala
Main Shaayar Badnaam........
A man who lived and loved... who was human in his faults and yet appeared larger than life on the celluloid screens. From famously sharing a toothbrush with live-in partner Tina Munim, to an open affair with Anju Mahendru.. from marrying young Dimple to an unsuccessful stint in politics... from being widely known as the arrogant, first brat child of bollywood to playing second fiddle in the later parts....from romancing the heroines with that twinkle in the eye to staring at death with the blank yet highly expectant expression.... Rajesh Khanna will stay forever etched in some of my fondest and oldest memories of cinema.
"Zindagi se bahut pyaar humne kiya... Maut se bhi mohabbat nibhayenge hum......"