His Last Journey – An Ego Trip

So much has been said and written about Rajesh Khanna ever since he passed away on 18 July. Agreed that he was the first superstar of India cinema; that he gave fifteen super hits in a span of two years; and that his movies have given us some of the best Hindi songs; but so much of over kill! As I watched and read whatever people had to say, I had decided not to write anything about him; though so many thoughts had been crossing my mind. But then I happened to listen to his last recorded message which he addressed to his fans; and which was played at his last prayer meeting, that I changed my mind, and hence this piece.

Now come on, try to think about it – all these forty years we have known only Rajesh Khanna – the actor, the star and the superstar. But behind this persona there was a man, a human being who was totally different from the image that we, his fans, had created for him. His fans put him on such great heights that it became difficult to him to come down from there. He had never imagined that he would lose his superstar position so soon. He overlooked the fact that times do change and only those, who change their track with the flow, survive in this struggle of life. But blinded by his success, he tried to defy the destiny, clutching his stardom so tightly that suddenly he found that he had got stuck, and the world had moved on, leaving him forlorn and friendless at his illusionary heights. He had seen the times when he was considered a God by his fans, and in that pride he committed a few blunders that proved to be his undoing.

When he was riding the wave of super-stardom, came the film Bobby in which Raj Kapoor was launching his son Rishi Kapoor, along with his own discovery Dimple Kapadia, who had become a rage within days. And at that time Rajesh Khanna – God personified – decided to embarrass the showman of the industry by proposing to his prodigy, knowing well that no young girl will ever refuse him. The sudden and quick marriage, before the release of Bobby, shocked and stunned not only the Kapoors and the industry, but also his female fans. And overnight Rajesh Khanna’s fan following got a rude thrashing, leading to his downfall as a romantic hero.

Anand which has been rated as his best movie became a turning point in his career as well his life. Rajesh Khanna might have thought that Amitabh Bachchan was just a struggling ‘sidey’ working with a super star; but it proved otherwise. Amitabh Bachchan got such  laudable reviews that instead of being a ‘sidey’ he was eulogized as a co-star. Another film Rajesh Khanna did with Amitabh Bachchan – Namak Haram- proved to be his Waterloo. Rajesh Khanna, pitched against a more confident Amitabh Bachchan looked like a dwarf, both physically and metaphorically, (as an actor). Amitabh Bachchan, who was  destined to become the star of the millennium later, had arrived, and the days of Rajesh Khanna- the superstar – were over.

Times were changing and a new era of multi-starrers emerged. But Rajesh Khanna refused to share the screen with anyone else. And that was the time which gave us a number of block-buster multi-starrers like Naseeb, Amar-Akbar-Anthony, Dharam Veer, Hera Pheri, Parvarish, Shaan, Namak Halal, and above all Sholey. And by this time Rajesh Khanna had shut himself in his ivory-tower, disconnected from reality.

And for the next forty years Rajesh Khanna lived in a world of illusions, holding his stardom and super-star image close to his heart; and coming down from that high pedestal became impossible for him. But one thing is sure; he could never forget and forgive Amitabh Bachchan for ruining his career. (This is what he thought, though it was not so) And he wasted no chance lambasting Bachchan in his interviews.

But then, suddenly, after so many years, when he found that his health was declining, Rajesh Khanna decided to come out of his self-inflicted exile, like the last flicker of the light. He decided to talk to people. And imagine – a person who never came anywhere near television, decided to do an ad. Was it that the offer just came his way? No. It was a deliberately decided strategic move; and what product he chose – ‘Fans’! Yes, he wanted to talk about fans – his fans! In this ad, appeared a Rajesh Khanna – who defied any semblance to the romantic hero of yesteryear, with protruding dentures; and strange, blank eyes that didn’t connect. And look at the script, and who is he addressing in it – ‘Mujh se mere fans koyi nahin chheen sakta…Babu Moshai’! Oh my God! Imagine…he wanted to speak loudly what had become a mental refrain for him for about forty years! ‘Mujh se mere fans koyi nahin chheen sakta…Babu Moshai!

 Yet there was still one more chance for Rajesh Khanna, to make people listen to him – his last prayer meeting. Wow! What a planning! A nine-minutes recorded message was played during his ‘chautha’ ceremony. Rajesh Khanna starts with a sentence that is absurdly incorrect – ‘Nostalgia में रहने की आदत नहीं है मुझे, हमेशा भविष्य के बारे में ही सोचना पड़ता है’ Well…well, we all know that he could never break free from his past, and whole his life he brooded over the times gone by. But what struck me in this message was that for whole nine minutes Rajesh Khanna talks about –I, me, and myself. Not even once does he mention his family, his daughters or those who mattered in his life. He seems to be speaking from his cocoon. And he thanks people for ‘coming here in great numbers’! He knew that on this occasion people will ‘listen’ to him; and this way he would be able to leave this world feeling highly satisfied that after all, he could have his say!

May his soul rest in peace!

Image Courtesy: Google

 

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Posted in Article, Causes by Narinder Jit at July 26th, 2012.
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