The King of Romance

Inder Jeet S ‘Prince’

Born as Jatin Khanna on Dec 29, 1942 in Amritsar, he was raised by surrogate parents. Jatin had a childhood friend, Ravi Kapoor; they both studied in the same school and in the same college. Ravi went on to become Jeetendra and Jatin became Rajesh Khanna in Bollywood.
The dreamy, intense Rajesh Khanna was a filmfare discovery. He won the filmfare United Producers’ Talent hunt contest. Initially Rajesh  was said to be shy facing the camera but he worked a lot on his body language and dialogue delivery.
Written and directed by Chetan Anand, “Aakhiri Khat’’ was Rajesh Khanna’s Ist release ‘’Raaz’’ directed by Ravindra Dave and ‘’Baharon Ke Sapne’’ directed by Nasir Hussain were his next 2 films where his potential was spotted. Then followed “Aurat’’ “”Doli’’ and “Itefaq’’, Rajesh Khanna’s boyish looks and fair complexion dotted by gentle pimples made him the new face of Romance. After  “Itefaq’’ the film industry  had a new power house actor to look forward to. And then came “Aradhana’’ (1969) opposite Sharmila Tagore which catapulated Rajesh to super stardom. Rajesh became a rage, the King of romantic gentre.
In “Aradhana’’, Rajesh was cast  in a double role opposite Sharmila Tagore and Farida Jalal. This film also saw the resurgence of Kishore Kumar who eventually went on to become the official playback voice of Rajesh Khanna.
Rajesh gave 15 consecutive hits between 1969 and 1973, an unbroken record in Indian film industry. These films were: “Itefaq’’, “Aradhana’’, “Do Raaste’’, “Bandhan’’, “Sachcha Jhutha’’, “Safar’’, “The Train’’, “Anand’’, “Kati Patang’’, “Aan Milo Sajna’’, “Haathi Mere Saathi’’, “Dushman’’, “Amar Prem’’ “Apna Desh’’ and “Daag’’.
At the height of his career, Rajesh would be mobbed and kissed at public functions. Girls would write to him in blood. The adoration and hysteria reached manic proportions-hitherto unwitnessed in the history of Indian cinema.
In 1973, Rajesh married Dimple Kapadia who had just made her debut in Raj Kapoor’s super hit film “Bobby’’ opposite Rishi Kapoor. She was just 16 to his 31. Rajesh broke up with his girl friend Anju Mahendru. (They were in relationship, for the last 13 years!) A few heart-broken girls reportedly committed suicide when Rajesh got married to Dimple. Just like his quick stardom and his marriage, his child too came in a flurry of excitement. A baby girl (Twinkle Khanna) was born on Rajesh’s birth date – Dec 29 (1973).
“I always  wanted a girl child. And the best part is that she shares the same birth date with me. She is my lucky muscot I’m sure this is going to be my dream year’’, said Rajesh Khanna to reporters after the birth of his Ist daughter in 1974.
Rajesh was blessed with 2nd daughter Rinkie in 1977. However, Rajesh’s stardom was cut short with the arrival of Amitabh Bachchan starrer super hit film “Janjeer’’ in 1973. Rajesh’s downfall has also been attributed to his post stardom complacency in addition to changing trend of movies (the shift from romantic films to action oriented multi starrers). In the late 70’s Rajesh could not retain his magical touch and gave a string of flops at the box office such as “Mehbooba, “Naukri’’ and “Janta Hawaldar’’. He also failed to woo audiences in films  like “Joru Ka Ghulam’’, “Mere Jeevan Saathi’’, thus destroying his popular image unwittingly.
Rajesh even announced his retirement but when he found that 8 of his films crashing at the box office in a row, he decided against retirement saying that he didn’t want to go away a  loser (Sept 1978).
In a bid to re-invent himself and also to counter Amitabh wave, Rajesh did some critically acclaimed movies like “Amardeep’’, “Bandish’’, “Dard’’, “Avtaar’’, “Agar Tum Na Hote’’, “Souten,’’ “Awaaz’’, “Nazrana’’, “Angraay’’ and “Amrit’’.
Some of these films did good business but the super success continued to evate him.
The year 1985 was a complete washout for Rajesh. His wife had walked out of “Aashirwad’’ along with her two daughters. Rajesh too moved, out of “Aashirwaaad’’ and stayed temporarily in a (then (“Centur) hotel and for some years in his farm house at Pune.
In a bid to salvage his sinking career, he turned  producer with “Alag Alag’’ but it too bombed at the box-office putting a final stamp of doom to his already sinking career.
Reports of alcoholism, unprofessionalism and domestic discord did a lot of harm to his public image. Tina Munim entered in the life of Rajesh when his marriage with Dimple was on the rocks. Rajesh  fell in love with Tina but could not marry her because of his love for his daughters from his Ist wife. Rajesh’s 7 year relationship with Tina also went. ‘Kaput’ with Tina finally tying the knot with Anil Ambani.
Rajesh entered politics and won 1991 general election from Delhi on a Cong (I) ticket defeating BJP stalwart L K Advani. He served as MP from 1991 to 1996 and stayed away from films during this period.
Rajesh made a comeback on silver screen with R K films “Aa Ab Laut Chalen’’ in 1999. The lost time Rajesh acted in a film was “Wafa-A deadly love story’’ in 2008 which was a poorly made B-grade film.
Rajesh did TV serials “Apne Paraye’’, “Itefaq’’ and “Bhabhi Maa’’ between 2001 to 2008.
In  the end it can be said that in one lifetime Rajesh witnessed it all adulation and indifference, love and loss, fame and fadeout. If his rise to fame was meteoric so was his fall from stardom.