Nandu’s Natter – Rajesh Khanna, Manivanna


By Nandu Doré






Zindagi ka Surfer

Yeh Jaam Mastani

Prem nagar ka shehzada


Hard to believe its been six years since he’s passed on and yet The Phenomenon still lives on in your system. Reading this book is just the excuse you need to go time travelling to the 70s.

.... It was Geeta Bali who prodded him to make that quantum leap from theatre to celluloid She put her money on Dharmendra though ....

The book itself though is a damp squib just as many of his movies.What part of his story is really untold? His childhood and teen years perhaps and whatever little is known here too is disputable according to the author himself.

Gossip columnists turned part-time psycho-analysts traced Kakaji's complexities not to the roller coaster ride curves of his career graph but to the fact that he was brought by two mothers as a kid

One would think that the author would at least provide some rational pointers over his phenomenal rise if not his phenomenal downfall. All we got was a collage of archived glossy mag articles that seem to have been extracted from a simple google search.

.... When Salim Khan praised Sanjeev Kumar to the skies Kakaji could not stomach it and "unfriended" him of course he did cross-verify with him first ....

The legend and fame of Rajesh Khanna was got to be seen by present and previous generations on live TV in July 2012 in its magnanimous glory when “Kakaji” was playing out his death scene in reality. It all began with a rumor that was spread that he was dead and then he emerged Phoenix like out of his Aashirwad bungalow waving a victory sign at enthralled onlookers. But sadly his health deteriorated thereafter and after his death was announced in a rather terse statement by son-in-law Akshay Kumar the crowds went berserk. It seemed like this is just what Rajesh Khanna desired. To top it all even the heavens started pouring torrential rains as though the entire nebulus was fighting copious outbursting tears in a dramatic elan. He wanted to see the frenzy over him one last time before breathing his last. It was just like those frenzied times when nubile girls wrote him letters pen-dipped in blood. I was shocked to see a local news channel here giving fair deal of coverage over the mass hysteria over this death.

.... As per Zeenat Aman, Rajesh behaved like an Ajanabee to her right from their first movie together to their last ....

Those of us who grew up in the 70s will vouch that Rajesh Khanna did not really abdicate superstardom. Some of my cousins were known to be his diehard fans even after his supposed fall of status. While I’m not sure if they wrote him letters dripping in blood, one of them did confess throwing a tumbler full of Bournvita onto the floor in anger when she heard that his days were numbered.

Much was written about those days of the Rajesh-Tina onscreen chemistry Lekin naam bade darshan chote Here's a sampling and this is as good as it gets, nowhere near the Rajesh-Mumtaz jugalbandi

My earliest memories of Rajesh Khanna was in Maryada where he is on the train with Mala Sinha & they’re talking forever without either’s mug being shown on screen for some reason. Always the knight in shining armor he saves her from a snake-bite I think. Ditto in Kati Patang where he catches Asha Parekh’s purse snatcher. Asha Parekh incidentally was the first to cite those gorkha eyes. Supposedly some male fans they met in Nanital did not really take a shine for Rajesh Khanna and made that remark in passing much to Kakaji’s embarassment. There is more to what meets the eye over Asha Parekh’s remarks. Rajesh Khanna once said a senior actress had designs on him and expressed her wishes to settle down with him as her career is just about over. According to Khanna, she did not take it kindly when he turned down her offer. It does not take an Einstein to put 2 and 2 together. Asha Parekh was one of the few actresses who spoke to TV channels after his death. Conspicuous by their absence were Mumtaz & Sharmila Tagore. Speaking of Sharmila, of course I saw Aradhana as a 5 yeard-old though for some reason it was shown in our neck of the woods in B&W.

Looks like he is mocking Thiru MGR illay? Khair, got away with it anyways

This was the phase when the phenom had just begun to work its venom. His Joru Ka Ghulam & Mere Jeevan Saathi were not too doing well then yet he was popular no doubt. Then there was Bawarchi which was more or less the return of Anand. While the movie was talked about – no doubt – I don’t believe it fared as well as Anand. Everyone was talking about how in Bawarchi he sprayed some soporific while the family was fast asleep and then just vanished into the blue. Not sure what Hrishida was thinking but who would empathise with a thief? His movies ran to packed houses regardless as we could get tickets for Rajesh Khanna starrers mostly for the night shows. So I would fall asleep just after the movie would begin. The only movie I remember watching in full then was I think Johny Mera Naam. Anyways enuf about me, so my cousins – male & female were all drooling over him. See, a movie called Honeymoon was just released and they were all talking about it. What they were talking sounded like Klingonese to me then. So I asked them what the buzz was about. One of them patiently explained that in the movie Rajesh Khanna goes moon exploration for some honey!

.... Prem Chopra's entry into Bobby was not by mere coincidence
Dimple could no more hide her baby bump during the climax shoot.
Randhir Kapoor to Khanna - "Ever heard of Nirodh?" ...

It must be after Prem Nagar that his supposed decline was on fast forward mode. Still we were able to get a load of most of his blockbusters on Doordarshan, be it Anand, Amar Prem, Kati Patang or Dushman. Heck, we got to watch his flop movies too like Maalik & Shehzaada. Sowee it would seem he did have friends in high places just as Bachchan. Many of his flops did have good stories – you know – like the kind Rajshri movies reveled in & hit gold most of the time. And Rajshri did not even bother studding their movies with stars. He was still in demand in the late 70s and was churning out at least one hit per year be it Chaila Babu, Thodisi Bewafai & Amardeep, Dhanwan or Fifty-Fifty. While it was sad to see how Khanna bravely announced just about every release of his as his comeback vehicle, he was actually chipping away merrily at the Bachchan juggernaut till at one point he was giving the big B a run for his money. I have already covered this earlier.

.... After Dimple saw the Rajesh-Tina dalliance with her own eyes (during this movie's shoot), she wrote a note on the dresser mirror saying "Its over Hon" and promptly left the shores of Mauritius ....

Dimple talks about Rajesh in his presence, words pregnant with meaning

Coming back to the book, it did promise to be a laugh riot of sorts with none other than Salim Khan writing the foreword. Yes folks, the same Salim Khan of Salim-Javed fame who were working overtime in dethroning the Khanna from his peacock throne perch and actively writing author-backed roles for Bachchan very much in keeping with the vendetta theme in most of their scripts. Salim Khan now out-rightly denies such claims, yes we believe you Salim, no worries.

.... Rajesh deliberately directed his wedding baraat procession route to passthrough right outside his ex Anju Mahindroo's home ....

An interesting common thread running among most accounts is that Rajesh Khanna was an introvert. I find that hard to believe as it is also said he would be surrounded by hangers-on and self-seekers on any given occasion. The author argues that it is this introverted nature that made him foster those breed of chamchas who would drive a wedge between his friends and his foes.

Building up the suspense in his maiden hit Ittefaq

There are tall claims in this book on how it promises to re-create that era where Rajesh Khanna was the most powerful being in the sub-continent next only to PM Indira Gandhi. Sorry to throw a spanner on that work but there are youtube clippings of a BBC documentary that shows their crew shadowing Rajesh Khanna while he was still Numero Uno. Whether it is his friendship to Devyani Chaubal, marriage to Dimple, his fan following, his tardiness – you can see it all there as though you were actually there.

.... that infamous BBC docu-drama showing Khanna's superstardom in its full-flow and glory
dekho dekho biscope, ghar baite saara sansar dekho....

Not unpredictably the book waxes eloquence about those gorgeous Khanna women, leaving out the best parts of course. Rajesh Khanna had once confessed it was Tina that he was in love with the most among his beaus. Not sure why this part was omitted. Another part that was not verbose enough was his split with Anju. After she walked out of Aashirwaad she sent word thru his driver with the words “tell that cad not to darken my doors again”. It is believed that Khanna did not take this insult kindly and left no stone unturned in sabotaging Anju’s career. But she moved on and did make a mark in TV serials when they started getting popular. This was in the mid 80s. With time she forgave Khanna too. That plus she was engaged once to Sir Gary Sobers as she was going steady with the Khanna! Both were Kings in their own fiefdoms. So my vote goes for Anju Mahindroo.

When Khanna asked Salim-Javed to re-write  Bhola Bhala for him, they refused.
Note that SJ gladly re-wrote Haathi Mere Saathi and created that Andaz role when the going was good ....

Being a Bhola Bhala avtaar I am, I am not going to trash the book all over the place. There are some facts in the book that’re mentioned about his childhood that were hitherto unknown to me. Did you know about his first crush? There are mentions of his life in the theatre but I would like to quickly point out most of it are mere mundane stuff that you or I went thru. That being said there was no light thrown on what actually drove him to a career in the movies – who were his favorite actors, directors, why acting & why not writing or painting and things of that nature.

Rajesh Khanna enacted a scene similar to this one for clinching the United Producers talent contest. He supposedly asked the judges (who were famous film makers) for changes to the original situation as it made no sense to him

In summation, a thumbs down for sure as there were no real opinions expressed from his immediate family, or co-stars – other than Salim Khan. One more thing, please – no more Bollywood bios that are mere cut-pastes from google. Google will ugal that you want it to ugal. You read on google that the Moon landings were faked, will you believe? Also don’t trash the statements of the protagonist himself I say. Are you really selling the book or are you playing God?


.... When Mehmood could not take Khanna's tantrums no more he socked him real hard saying "You're getting paid well to do my film and will bloody well do as I say" ....


Nandu will also hazard an opinion over his phenomenal rise. You see in the mid and late 60s the Brits got their Beatles, the Yanks got their Elvis so can the Desis be far behind? So they made up Khanna mannivanna, yay! Q.E.D. Now why they chose to make a vanna out of him and take him to the cleaners after, that I do not know. What I do know is he was well in demand – a busy star right till the mid 80s. Mind you all his movies were not jubiless even in his golden goose phase. Remember Bandhan, Dil-Daulat-duniya or Choti Bahu? Did he deserve credit for Maryada, Safar or Khamoshi and was it fair for Raaj Kumar, Sanjeev Kumar, Feroz Khan or Dharmendra to become the fall guys? Conversely, he did not really fade away despite his phenomenal downfall did he?

Such was his power at one point that
Raj Kapoor had to seek his permission
to "release" Dimple for shooting the
remaining portions of Bobby

All in all, a good innings after of course a 400 for-no-loss like thundering start. What we can take away from the Rajesh Khanna story is to never give up hope. I mean just look at the number of of his movies he announced as his comeback vehicle: Red Rose, Dhanwan, Dard.. it wasn’t funny anymore and yet who had the last laugh in 1983?


Last but ain't the least:
RD Burman talks about his dosti with Rajesh

Suresh Dore –

👆🏻Who can forget the way he glorified the railway station? Everyone wanted to be a station master after this movie!!