None other than Rajesh Khanna… known to the world as the first superstar of Indian cinema…an identity which is fair but not enough…for Rajesh Khanna was also a fabulous actor in the same breath.
No wonder, his early strides happened on stage, in school and college plays. For someone who knew how to draw the right inspirations from iconic legends - dedication and intensity from Dilip Kumar, spontaneity from Raj Kapoor, style from Dev Anand and rhythm from Shammi Kapoor - had to be a great actor. No wonder, he could portray diverse roles on celluloid with effortless ease, absorbing far more risks than many of his illustrious counterparts. Thrillers, fantasies, social drama, coming-of-age themes, multi-starrers, negative shades, light comedies, vendetta tales…he starred across genres in his short film voyage. And more important, without making any fuss of his versatility unlike the current crop of method actors and perfectionists.
Yet, for the better part of his film career, his craft was mercilessly overshadowed under the weight of his stardom and the ensuing staple mannerisms. The diktats of a largely formulaic Hindi film world complete with all muddled notions about “hits”, “flops” and “public demand” clearly got the better of his will. So while his exterior appeal and aura defined his identity, his inherent talent, more worthy of adulation and emulation, was largely ignored. So much so that even a Bombay University textbook essay tribute was titled 'The Charisma of Rajesh Khanna'.
Personally, he would have enjoyed the dizzying heights of stardom but the overindulgence would have pained him no doubt, especially towards the fag end when he was left forlorn and forsaken. At a time when his awesome talent yet remained untapped, he came to be better known as Akshay Kumar’s father-in-law.
It takes a real hero like Rajesh Khanna to feature in the recent Havell fans ad which highlights his status as a forgotten star more than hailing his bygone stardom. Most of our celebrated superstars would find even the thought dreadful.
Today, when he is no more with us, we need not mourn his absence. The ever green film ‘Anand’ taught us long back: Rajesh Khanna can’t die …for Rajesh Khannas never die. He is very much alive and kicking in our memories even as we continue to cherish and relish the timeless treasures of the awesome foursome of Indian cinema - Hrishida-Rajesh Khanna-R D Burman-Kishore Kumar.