Yours Truly, Anand

NAT

Daddy, who is Rajesh Khanna uncle? Why doesn't he come home?" I remember asking my father as a kid. Naturally, he and others in the room laughed. It took me a few years to forgive the family when realisation dawned that Rajesh Khanna uncle was not a family friend. Other than a brief-handshake a fan boy moment in Kashmir where Khanna was shooting for Aap Ki Kasam my father had never met him. I felt betrayed.

I didn't grow up on his movies but on the legacy of his stardom, the stories about his movies, his songs, his fame: "Women used to write letters to him in blood", "Women married his picture," "When he got married to Dimple, so many women named their dogs by her name and used to hit them." In an interview to me Sharmila Tagore acknowledged that the legend was not unwarranted. "Women came out in droves to see Kaka (Khanna). They would stand in queues outside studios to catch a glimpse of him, pull at his clothes. Delhi girls were crazier for him than Mumbai girls. He needed police protection. I have never seen anything like that before and since," she said.

The Rajesh Khanna legend is unique. His record of 15 consecutive solo hits is a filmy factoid. The tag of a superstar was coined for him by the film journalist Devyani Chaubal. Dilip Kumar was Tragedy King, Raj Kapoor the Showman, Rajendra Jubilee Kumar, Dev Anand the Evergreen Star but only Rajesh Khanna was the Superstar. A phenomenon.

Every star has an image that becomes his lasting cinema memory. In Khanna's case, it was his romantic template tilted head, a twinkle in his eye, rolled wrist, pageboy hairdo, pimply Punjabi face and that 'baby I'm looking at ya' smile.

... contd.

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