Veteran actor Rajesh Khanna's leading ladies remember him fondly... Shabana Azmi:
I haven't seen stardom like Rajesh Khanna's . We did several films together, and frequently filmed in South India. Women
, whether young or old, would make a beeline for him. I remember this one girl who spotted him on a shoot, and screamed until she fainted out of exhaustion right before us. It was bizarre! From Thodisi Bewafaai
, we were considered a successful pair. I believe he thought of me as his lucky mascot in the fag end of his film career. We got along really well. Although I had heard of his tantrums, I wasn't witness to any of them. To me, he was a gentleman with an endearing childlike quality. There were stars, and then there were the boys-nextdoor. Rajesh Khanna
was a mix of both. Unattainable, yet approachable.
Once he arrived on set with a bandage around his ankle. He said he had fallen off a horse. I said, 'But Kakajee, you were shooting with me yesterday, and I didn't see any horse.' He muttered under his breath, asking me to shut up. When the others left, he said, 'Arre
, my leg got entangled in my lungi
, and I tripped. How could I have announced that?' I found that endearing.
Generosity came easily to him. He threw lavish parties on location, all at his own expense at a time when producers were expected to foot the bills. And underneath all that, he was a simple man. We were at Vaishno Devi to shoot a song for Avtaar
, and he decided to sleep on the floor with little else but a blanket.
The last time I met him was at a recent awards function, where he failed to recognise me. I walked up to him and said, 'Kakajee, it's me. Don't you recognise me?' He looked me up and down, and within a second said, 'If you age in reverse, how will I recognise you?' That was Rajesh Khanna. Charming. When I returned to Mumbai from Chandigarh on Wednesday, I rushed to see him. Hundreds of people were waiting outside his home. A sight that proved he was a superstar to the end. Hema Malini:
It's sad news. I didn't imagine he'd go away this soon. I first worked with him in Andaz, and the iconic song from that film that audiences will never forget, is also one of my favourites - Zindagi ek safar hai suhana, yahan kal kya ho kisne jana
? As an actor, I'd say he was gifted. He'd learn his lines in a flash, and emote effortlessly. He was a temperamental man, and someone who kept to himself. There was this distance he'd maintain. He'd often report late on set. We were supposed to do quite a few films together, but they didn't materialise. And then came Prem Nagar. It was then that we gradually warmed up to each other. He never arrived alone. He was always surrounded by a coterie of eight to 10. That's what they call popularity. Often, it's these very guys who desert you once the limelight dims. That's what happened to him, too. He lived a lonely life, although it was good to see his family rally around him while he was unwell. I wasn't in touch
with him in the last few years, but I've always carried warm memories of him." We constantly argued - only about one thing Sharmila Tagore:
The last time I met him was at a function in Kolkata. He had lost so much weight, I could barely recognise him. Because of his illness, he had become a tragic shadow of himself. We spoke warmly, and he asked about my family. Then, when I was leaving, I heard him giving a press interview. His wonderful voice hadn't changed a bit. It was that same voice, and the familiar twinkle
in his eyes that made him a national rage. I was first-hand witness to the hysteria he had caused. When we did our first film, Aradhana
together, I had no idea what was to unfold. Suddenly, it got impossible to walk from my makeup room to the set without getting mobbed. The entire area used to be crammed with girls
who'd fall all over him. I hadn't, and haven't witnessed anything like it.
Did he change after the success? Of course he did. He'd arrive late on set. And still he didn't manage to beat Shatrughan Sinha
and Sanjeev Kumar
when it came to trouping in late. Although we worked together a lot, we didn't socialise. I was never the party-going actress. I preferred to finish my work and head home to my husband and children.
Although we had a great working relationship, and the films we did together were a success, we'd constantly argue about one thing. Both, Kaka and I liked to put forward the same profile - the left side of the face - before the camera. The cinematographers were driven up the wall trying to accommodate us both.
We vibed well because we were almost the same age; our birthdays were separated by just a few weeks in December. Sixty eight is not the best time to go. He saw his daughters settle down, and I believe Dimple was with him in the last few months. So, he lived the way he wanted to, and left in peace. Kakaji and I did a train song, long before Chhaiya Chhaiya Zeenat Aman:
Kakajee was already a big star
when we did our first film, Ajnabee
together. It was directed by Shakti Samanta, with whom he had worked on huge hits like Aradhana
. So, I was this outsider, the newcomer. But not for a minute did he make me feel that.
He was reserved, yes. But so was I. We had some fun times together. We shot a song atop a train (Hum dono do premi
) long before Shah Rukh's Chaiyya Chaiyya.
Kakajee was so good with songs and romance. After Ajnabee
, we did four films together, and got to know each other during Aashiq Hoon Baharon Ka, Chaila Babu, Jaanwar and Jaana
: Let's Fall In Love.
In Jaana..., there was this bit that I considered a high point. He sang a medley of all his evergreen romantic hits for me. Such wonderful music.
By the time we did our last film together, he had turned far more introspective. He confided in me about how he wanted to create a museum of his memorabilia. We didn't end up keeping in touch. So, I wasn't aware that he had fallen ill. It's been quite a while since we last met. And now, we won't ever. After Dev saab
, another of my favourite heroes
is gone. Asha Parekh:
When we did our first film, Baharon Ke Sapne,
he wasn't THE Rajesh Khanna. It was just his second film, and we were both playing deglamorised characters. I remember him as a shy, reserved man. By the time, we did our second film, Kati Patang
, everything had changed. He was a superstar, the kind Indian cinema hasn't witnessed. Girls would run after him, tear his clothes, kiss his car, stand outside his bungalow for a darshan
for hours. I thought it was fairly entertaining.
I remember this time we were shooting the song, Jis gali mein tera ghar na ho balma
for Kati Patang
in Nainital by a lake, and we had to stop because of the hordes that had gathered to see him. By the time we did Aan Milo Sajna
, success had brought him confidence. He talked more, was far more expressive and fun.
The song, Achcha to hum chalte hain in Aan Milo Sajna,
was again hell to shoot because we wanted to capture the sunset
, and light was playing hide and-seek. But Kaka was patient. He loved shooting songs. When we did our last film, Dharm Aur Kanoon
in 1984, he had turned aloof and introverted. We hardly spoke after that. He carried me on his shoulders for eight days
with Rajesh Khanna was lucky. We never suffered a flop. Our last film together, Aaina
, didn't click but it was just a guest appearance for him. Do Raaste,
our first film together was a big hit. The songs did it. Bindiya chamkegi
and Chhup gaye saare nazaare
became very popular. We did a whole lot of films after that right until I got married and quit the industry. That allowed me the chance to interact with him fairly closely. Shaadi mein jaise sitaare milaaye jaate hain, hum donon ki jodi ke sitaare milte the.
Our onscreen pair seemed blessed by divinity.
He wasn't the over-friendly sort. He had a select group of friends
that he hung around with. But to me, was always kind. Hamara
rapport achcha tha.
Often, we'd share acting tips, like when we'd picturise songs. We were shooting Chal dariya mein doob jayen
for Prem Kahani,
and he had a problem with the rhythm of the song. I'd nudge him to give him cues. We'd rehearse in advance for hours because tapes carrying the film's track would be sent over to our homes. It was a professional give-and-take. There was no room for the ego.
When we were shooting the climax of Manmohan Desai's Roti
, he was meant to carry me on his shoulders and run through snow. Each morning when we'd start shooting, he'd say, 'Aye moti, chal aaja
.' And I'd jump on to his shoulders. We did this for eight days. I stood tall at 5'7", and wasn't skinny, so by the end of it, he had a red patch on his left shoulder. We laughed through it all.
The way fans reacted to his stardom, they did with no one else. But success is transient. The biggest of stars has come and gone.