A guest post by Arushi dated December 29, 2013. Remembering the immortal superstar on his 71st.
The world didn’t end in 2012, but was left with a void because of which it would forever seem incomplete. I write this with a person in mind whose absence only now I have come to fully mourn.
“Rajesh Khanna”, my father had replied when some seven years ago I had interrupted him watching a movie by my question,“ Who is this handsome man?” Little did I know then that this actor would break my hostility to Bollywood as I knew it by taking me to its golden era of the seventies. Having enjoyed watching Anand and Bawarchi with parents at 13, I had yet to discover what made romance synonymous with Rajesh Khanna.
Now years later I caught the Kaka fever on a breezy July evening. The weather called for some music but I craved for something new as I was tired of the same songs in my overplayed playlist. Kishore Kumar’s name came to my mind and I found an album ‘Remembering Rajesh Khanna’ on searching his songs. The fantastic songs led me to watch all of Kaka’s hit movies and so I discovered Hindi cinema’s superstar and became one of his thousands of infatuated female fans. Just like stars leave their light in our skies for generations to see, this superstar’s twinkle reached me now, even though he had shone brightest long I was even born.
Kaka became this awe-inspiring magnet by virtue of his indescribable charisma. All poetry in the songs could only strike so strong a chord with the audience because of that spell he cast with his eyes, voice, and charm. I had been used to listening to songs, but with Rajesh Khanna, I ‘saw’ the songs as I listened to them, as if the mandragora of his eyes spilled into the sweet melody and created a sweeter ecstasy. Songs usually appeal to us mostly because we find in them something that relates to our lives, but Kaka’s songs also carry the effect that he infused in them by his serene seductiveness. The helplessness that I feel for lacking words to express all that I so ardently admire in him, I also feel for the lack of people in my age group with whom I can share my passion for him. Being very late to the Kaka fan club, I envy the fans who have lived in his reign, have seen him up-close and keep cherished autographs. I also realised that not only is my passion belated, it is also much belittled by the passion of his fans when I learned of the euphoria that spread in his stardom, of girls writing letters to him in blood and even marrying his photograph! Such craze remains unparallelled even today and is the only way to express his aura when words fail.
The wide variety of roles he has played also pays homage to his artistry as he played the imperfect man with his classic perfection. Be it the uncaring husband driven to madness by being trapped in false blames in Ittefaq or the alcoholic womanizer in Prem Nagar, Kaka made the audience love his character as he showed the frailties of man and the sad truths and circumstance that made a man cross the line dividing the good from the bad. Of course, at the heart of this rich variety always lay the essential element of romance, without which no movie could captivate the audience. And Rajesh Khanna defined exactly that captivation. Even the restrictions of propriety that the seventies era posed on cinema only stoked his fiery charm. In his actions, there is that essence of literature which implies love in a poetic, subtle sense and heightens the emotive potential in being symbolic, dramatic, artistic. It is his alchemy because of which, Roop Tera Mastana, a song shot in only four takes and involving just sight and delicate touch, became the most sensual song filmed in Hindi cinema. The importance of songs needs no explanation, but what Rajesh Khanna did with the romantic lyrics shows how the song was the hallmark of love and courtship in the movies. It is in the songs where he puts to work his wondrous ways of implying love through mannerisms and multiplies the effect of the already effusive romance in the songs. From rubbing his fingers across his lips to the iconic eye blink, there’s even more to him than pure charm. His art feeds also on the perfection with which he delivers the dialogues, as if his voice wrote it in the air that those lines were to go down in history.
While dialogues from Anand are Kaka fans’ anthem and are usually reiterated to evoke the immortal superstar that he’ll always be, this line from Prem Kahani said by Vinod Khanna’s minor character in his dying breath encapsulates the undying love that Kaka inspired : Rajesh hamare dil mein hai.