Rajesh Khanna, Bollywood’s first superstar, died today in Mumbai. The news relegated hectic political developments, including Hamid Ansari’s filing as United Progressive Alliance’s vice presidential candidate, to the back burner.
Khanna made his debut in 1966 with “Aakhri Khat” (The Last Letter). The film drew acclaim and was India’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 40th Academy Awards in 1967. His subsequent films failed at the box office and he remained unnoticed.
Success would not escape the actor for long. “Aaradhana” (The Prayer) in 1969, flooded India like a tsunami, and Khanna became a superstar overnight.
No other star enjoyed the kind of popularity that Khanna did. I recall one amazing Friday when all cinema halls in Mumbai were showing at least one Khanna film on one of its five shows.
Khanna delivered 15 solo hits consecutively from 1969 to 1972. He married Dimple Kapadia of “Bobby” fame in 1973. In 1972, Khanna purchased a bungalow from “Jubilee Star” Rajendra Kumar, which was known as “Dimple.”
One little known fact about Rajesh Khanna is that his immortal song “Roop Tera Mastana” from “Aaradhana” with Sharmila Tagore was shot in one take without any audio tape running in the backdrop. The reason: producer Shakti Samant wanted to capture the raw emotions of his lead pair without the traditional audio back-up. The rest, as they say, is history, as the song is considered the ultimate song of raw passion in Bollywood.
Rajesh Khanna was 69.