|Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore in Amar Prem |
- one of the best romantic films ever made
Thursday, July 19, 2012
Two songs and two movies that seldom make it to the top list of Rajesh Khanna are Humen Tumse Pyaar Kitna from Chetan Ananad’s Kudrat (1981) and Phool Aahista Phenko from Raj Khosla’s PremKahani (1975).
These songs are my perennial favourites. Both the movies were released long after Amitabh Bachchan had replaced Rajesh Khanna – quite decisively – as the reigning superstar of Hindi cinema.
Both the movies didn’t do too badly but were released at the height of Amitabh rule (1981: Naseeb, Kaalia, Silsila, Yaarana, Lawaaris; 1975: Deewar, Sholay) and therefore didn’t get the attention they probably deserved.
Incidentally, both Chetan Anand and Raj Khosla, too, have never really got the attention they deserve. A retrospective is the least their aficionados expect, and perhaps someone at TIFF should think about it.
In the last few hours, almost everyone I know on Facebook who is in India (or is of a South Asian origin in Toronto) is talking about the end of an epoch – Rajesh Khanna is no more.
All evening, I have woefully missed being in India – missed being in the midst of the saturation coverage in the media of the superstar’s demise.
I’ve spent a major part of the evening reading reports and obituaries on the internet, and watching hurriedly put together documentaries on news channels on the man who often made me jealous of my cousins older than me as they would talk about him as if he was a member of the extended family, living with us during the hot summer vacation in a small house in Bombay’s Prathna Samaj.
I didn’t belong to the generation that worshiped Rajesh Khanna – and the only Rajesh Khanna movies that we (my sister and I) were taken to see by our parents were Dushman (1971, Dulal Guha) at Gaiety (Tardeo), and I remember walking back home in the rains; HaathiMere Saathi (1971, don’t remember where I saw it, but must’ve been at one of the theaters along Lamington Road) and Bawaarchi (1972, Hrishikesh Mukherjee) at Metro, (Dhobi Talao).
In 1972, my family moved to Teli Gali, next doors to three giant movie studios. In a couple of years, Hindi movies became an integral part of my life, thanks largely to the Sunday evening movies telecast on Doordarshan, and all of us – about a few dozen kids – would flock to Dr. Mankodi’s living room to watch anything that was telecast. And the multiple times I saw Yadoon Ki Baraat.
By the time I began to go to movies on my own, Rajesh Khanna had already begun to fade away. Although I remember collecting hundreds of Honeydew cigarette wrappers (or was it Wills?) and exchanging these for a wedding photograph of Rajesh Khanna and Dimple, and then a little later for wedding photograph of Amitabh Bachchan. And still a few years later, for the photographs of the West Indian cricket team that had Lawrence Rowe in it.
I saw Prem Kahani in Baroda with about a dozen or more cousins – all on a vacation. I just loved the movie. Since then I made it a point to see all the Rajesh Khanna movies that would be shown in what we then called the “second round” – movies that were re-released after a gap.
I seldom missed any of his releases thereafter, although I saw all of these movies on my own because it’d have been embarrassing admitting to anyone that I liked him. That’d be so like a woman. Also, in those days there was a particular popular and nasty ditty, which went something like this:
Haath mein ganna
Picture dekh ke
Nanga chal na
In those years, I always wondered why hadn’t he been paired with Hema Malani more frequently in the 1970s. Yes there was Ramesh Sippy’s Andaz, but Khanna’s role was a cameo in that movie, and there were Prem Nagar (1974) and Mehbooba (1976) but they had bombed badly (although both had awesome songs – Prem Nagar: Yeh Lal Raang KabMujhe Chhodega; Mehbooba: Parbat Ke Peeche Chamb da Gaon).
Then after a few years came Kudrat, a movie that lived up to the Rajesh Khanna-Hema Malani billing, it also had the hysterical Priya Rajvansh, the pompous and theatrical Raaj Kumar, and the seasoned Vinod Khanna, with the versatile Aruna Irani. Incidentally, Praveen Sultana's version of Humen Tumse Pyaar Kitna being the best one.
In recent years, thanks largely to social media, there has been a revival and rediscovery of the Rajesh Khanna phenomenon, which I find a bit astonishing. The easy access to his popular songs on youtube is really a great boon for Indians who aren’t in India anymore.
There are many ways to remember Rajesh Khanna. I remember him for putting the fear of Bhagwan Ram in Lal Krishna Advani’s heart in the 1991 election when Advani won by the thinnest of margins from the New Delhi constituency.
And, of course, as the other half of the most romantic pair ever (with Sharmila Tagore), in the most romantic movie ever made in Hindi cinema - Amar Prem. Here is another of my favourite songs from Safar. I see it on youtube when I have a lot of work and don't want to do it. Nadiya Chale re