Superstar who turned romance, and even death, into high art
He got his break in cinema in Chetan Anand’s Aakhri Khat in 1966 as a result of winning a talent competition.
This was followed by Ravindra Dave’s Raaz, opposite Babita, which he regarded as his first major break. But it was only a couple of years later, when he made bold to play almost a second fiddle to Sharmila Tagore in Shakti Samanta’s Aradhana, that a star was born. Despite being a heroine-oriented film, the mix of S.D. Burman’s mesmerising music and Kishore Kumar’s voice, brought Rajesh Khanna into his own. The song“Mere sapno ki rani” became a youth anthem of the ‘60s and is still remembered for its memorable train sequence. Ironically it was entirely canned with Rajesh Khanna shot in a jeep in Darjeeling and Sharmila Tagore, pictured in a train, filmed in Bombay’s Nataraj studio.
The two would go on to forge a successful partnership in other films such as Safar and Amar Prem. He also had a fine run with Mumtaz, doing eight films with her, and in the bargain helping her to graduate from a B-grade movie actress to the top league.
Affectionately called Kaka, he charmed and yodelled his way through a series of films such as Do Raaste, Roti, Kati Patang, Bawarchi andAnand. His success was all the more remarkable as it came at a time when the industry was still singing hosannas to the peerless Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand. But with a record 15 consecutive superhits, there was no questioning his quick and undisputed ascent to superstardom.
Rajesh Khanna, actor, died in Mumbai on 18 July 2012, aged 69. He was born in Amritsar on 29 December 1942. He is survived by two daughters, Twinkle and Rinke.