Joined: 11 March 2006
The romantic 1960s took off with 'Yahoo' Shammi Kapoor's Junglee and went through the gilded love stories of Rajendra Kumar of Arzoo and Mere Mehboob. Young girls worshipped Kumar and took pleasure in the comic antics of Kapoor. It looked like romanticism on-screen and of-screen had peaked.
Then, Rajesh Khanna happened.
Shakti Samanta-directed Aradhana in 1967 unleashed a romantic typhoon. After this film's release, teenage girls pestered their parents to take them to see Khanna. When they read that he was down with fever, they fanned his photographs, sighed endlessly and shed copious tears.
Sure, there were stars like Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand before him. But the Hindi film industry had not seen star adulation of the sort that followed when Khanna arrived on the scene; they called him the 'superstar'. And, there were big stars after him. Amitabh Bachchan came to be known as the 'one-man industry'. The Khanna phenomenon, however, continued long after he faded away. Mass adulation never touched the Khanna peak again.
There was the phase of struggle before the supernova explosion. The first film he shot was Chetan Anand's Aakhri Khat (1966), an artistic movie that did not cause any box office ripple. His real 'break', though, came with Raaz the next year, in which he acted with debutante Babita. He was shot to stardom with Aradhana (1969).
His next movie after Raaz, Bahaaron Ke Sapne was remembered more for Asha Parekh, who was then the leading heroine. Khanna's fortunes changed when he acted with her in Kati Patang in the early '1970s.
During the shoot of Hrishikesh Mukherjee's Namak Haraam (1973), rumours of a star clash between Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan started making the rounds. The grapevine had it Khanna made Bachchan do the shots again and again to tire him out and to outshine him. Most viewers were bowled over by Bachchan's hallmark dramatic performance, but a re-viewing of the film would show that Khanna acted superbly and that Bachchan had to work that much harder to measure up to him.
The Rajesh Khanna-Sharmila Tagore starrer Amar Prem will be remembered as much for its haunting music and songs of Kishore Kumar as for the stylised acting of the lead pair. Khanna's flair for the comic was evident in Hrishikesh Mukherjee-directed Bawarchi.
Since Khanna was conscious of his superstar status, he did not slip into secondary roles of father and uncle in films. It never even crossed his mind to do grey and dark characters. The superstar did not ever want to leave his hero's perch.
There were two films where he played an older man and where the heroic glint remained undimmed. The first was Avtar, where he played the patriarch of a small and modest-income family, and refuses to bend before misfortune. Shabana Azmi played his wife in this film.
The other is Rishi Kapoor-directed Aa Ab Laut Chale in the late 1990s, where he again continued to be the unbending and dignified patriarch.
Khanna retained his superstar glow till the end, a reminder of the unparalleled explosion of fan adulation ever to happen in Hindi filmsLink http://www.dnaindia.com/analysis/column_rajesh-khanna-the-man-who-lent-the-word-super-to-star_1716815
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