“Kora kaagaz tha yeh mann mera, likh diya naam ismein tera”

The year was 1992, the channel was Doordarshan – the film, Haathi Mere Saathi, one of the best family dramas made in the Hindi film industry to date. And that’s where it all began – the earliest memory of the first film I ever saw, aided to a great extent by my parents – my first coaches in film knowledge. No, I don’t hail from a filmy background (although for many years, it remained a wish, like it is for many kids), but my love affair with films of all genres started quite early on in my life. This is a tribute to the man who made appreciating and adoring the filmy characters on television a possibility – Rajesh Khanna, lovingly known as Kaka.

There isn’t anything that hasn’t already been said or written about the superstar already, I wondered what I could write that spoke volumes about my feelings about the actor who left us recently. The frenzy of the ’70s was back on Wednesday, when the nation awoke to the loss of the hero, the first superstar of Indian Cinema. It was but unfortunate that the actor had to await death to overcome his being, to be showered with the love and affection from his fans who seemed to have forgotten him when the lights of superstardom dimmed above him. It’s true when they say “Jo dikhta hai, wohi bikta hai” – it all stands still at that point, probably one needs to utilize different methods of marketing to become a Top-of-Mind Recall factor amongst his fans and audiences; the same way it goes for brands. 

As for me, I am a film-addict, there weren’t any films I hadn’t watched during my formative years, the chal-chitra (motion picture) always interested a starry-eyed, rather star-struck me more than my school books did. The news of Kaka’s demise hit hard, and while the world around me was trying to gauge what transpired before and after the incident, I retired into my world, my alter-ego, very majorly helped by the power of the internet.
The films Kaka made would make us feel good and warm about love and all those things which in practical life may seem oh-so-farce. He was perhaps the only actor of the time, who made tragedies so believable (Avatar), as much as his real or alleged illicit affairs (Aradhana, Amar Prem, Daag) did. Eloping with your lover may never look so much fun as it did when Kaka danced atop a train declaring his love for the girl (Ajnabee). And while Kishore Kumar lent his voice to many actors of the time and long after that, some of the most romantic songs were picturized on the actor. My favourite still remains Roop Tera Mastana, from Aradhana, picturised on a demure Sharmila Tagore and a macho Air Force officer, Rajesh Khanna. There was no lip-sync in the song, only the expressions and the chemistry simply did the trick to create a magical experience that remains fresh even today when someone watches the song’s video. The director-actor jodi, Shakti Samanta-Rajesh Khanna hit it off with the audience when they delivered many great films together in the years that followed. 

As a fairytale notion goes, the superstar Rajesh Khanna will indeed become a star up there and when he looks down he shouldn’t feel a day older than the days he shone in the Hindi film industry; and like he does in many of our hearts. Jatin Arora (aka Jatin Khanna) has left us, Rajesh Khanna never will.


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