Sensational Superstars of Bollywood – Rajesh Khanna

Sensational Superstars of Bollywood - Rajesh Khanna

Sensational Superstars of Bollywood - Rajesh Khanna

His popularity soared when there was little film journalism and no PR machinery

In times of Rajini Mania, when Amitabh Bachchan has charted new highs with KBC4 and SRK has even the Germans going gaga over him, the question of who is the biggest of them all remains as ever.

But long before fans erected temples and exchanged the now famous Rajini jokes, and the Bollywood media had split to pen paeans on Big B and SRK’s genius, there was a superstardom of a different kind.

It was when Rajesh Khanna rose to glory. And when he did, back in the late Sixties, the media’s penetration into the glam world was negligible. There was no PR machinery going full throttle with press coverage and advertisements. And the fan clubs were restricted to sporadic offline gatherings. Incredible as it was, Kaka’s spectacular ascent resulted by word of mouth.

The hysteria he created swept across ages, gender and genres. His movies ran to full houses and his following swelled each passing day. Be it his distinct sartorial sense, his dialogue delivery or his mannerisms, Rajesh Khanna was a pioneer in many sense. It wouldn’t be wrong to call him the complete superstar.

The pin up boy

Khanna’s gentle looks, disarming smile and that famous tilt of the head did wonders for his female following. And with Kishore Kumar’s dreamy voice for playback, this was just what the doctor ordered. With the sensuous Roop Tera Mastana, enthralling Pyaar Deewana Hota Hai and the timeless O Mere Dil Ke Chain Rajesh Khanna, became — and remains — the King of Romance.

Anecdotes about the Kaka hysteria abound. Movie magazine once reported in the 1990s how disappointed his female fans were when Rajesh Khanna married Dimple Kapadia. One girl even named her pup after Dimple and would kick her.

Style Guru

If Kaka made women go weak in their knees, he made men imitate his distinct style. Be it the Gorkha topi from Aradhana (1969) or the round collared short guru kurtas or the mufflers, Khanna was a fashion icon in his own sense. The experiments with his looks — the smart defence officer avatar in Aradhana, the brooding persona in Do Raaste (1969) or the dhoti-clad Bengali babu in Amar Prem (1972) — they were all loved by the audience.

Stardom supernova

Rajesh Khanna debuted in the year 1964 with Chetan Anand’s critically acclaimed Aakhri Khat and it was three years later, in 1969, that he hit the jackpot. The dream run that began with Aradhana continued with Do Raaste, Kati Patang (1971), Anand (1971), Amar Prem (1972), Daag (1973), Aap Ki Kasam (1974) and Roti (1974).

Rajesh Khanna & Mumtaz

Rajesh Khanna & Mumtaz

He not only tasted box office success during this time but also rendered some of his finest performances. Be it the chilling portrayal of a convict on the run (Ittefaq, 1969) or the depressed mental patient in Khamoshi (1970), Khanna managed intense roles very effectively. He was equally comfortable playing emotionally challenging characters and his work in Safar (1970), Avishkaar (1973) and Anand (1971) exemplify this. Even though he worked in close association with directors like Shakti Samanta and Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Khanna’s sweeping success at the box office was marked with collaborations with all the top filmmakers of the era like Manmohan Desai (Saccha Jhutha 1970; Roti), J Om Prakash (Aap Ki Kasam, 1974; Aakhir Kyon, 1985) and Yash Chopra (Daag, 1973). He romanced almost all the leading ladies of his time though his jodi with Sharmila Tagore and Mumtaz remains enviable till date. Called his golden period, there was just no stopping for Khanna till 1974.

Like every transient phenomenon, the stardom supernova had run its course. Failing movies, a flagging career, emergence of fresh faces slowly took the sheen off Kaka’s face. Since then, reams have been dedicated to Khanna’s dramatic downfall and his disappointing career moves.

But what stands out is his meteoric rise. The adulation he earned was pure, just like the joy he gave movie goers. The joy that will outlive his time. And to quote the parting lines from his most famous film Anand, “Anand maraa nahi, Anand marte nahin.”

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About the Author:

A media entrepreneur, Pragyan runs the popular media job board, Earlier, she was features editor at Mid Day, Delhi. She also happens to be a full-time cleanliness and film freak. You may connect to her on Twitter: @PragyanM

  • radzi

    One of the best Review of Rajesh Khanna I have ever read. Thanks!

    • Pragyan Mohanty

      Aaah! Glad you liked it. Thanks. :)

  • Aslijati

    Thanks for this marvelous write-up on the 1st real superstar of Hindi Cinema, it a real pity that he is no longer in the limelight so much. He seems to have been forgotten by & large by the very audience he once held in the palm of his hand.

    If you are interested, please check out the ‘Bombay Superstar’ documentary I have posted on YouTube. This shows Rajesh at his peak & is a real eye-opener to the Hindi film industry of the early ’70’s.

    Here is the link to the 1st part :


    • Pragyan Mohanty

      Hey Pavitra,

      This is the BBC documentary? Gosh! Been looking for it for like the longest time now. Thanks so so much for this. This is super. :)

  • Manoharv2001

    Rajesh Khanna – The Greatest Living Legend and the real & only Super Star of Indian Cinema till date.

    There are romantic leading men and there are romantic leading men, but very few have taken cinematic love to legendary heights. While there might be other icons but Super-Star- Actor Rajesh Khanna after four decades, he is the ultimate true romantic legend.

  • Manoharv2001

    Super Star Rajesh Khanna – The Cary Grant of India.

    Rajesh Khanna irrevocably impacted Indian cinema and culture like no actor before him. His acting perfection and application of talent were drawn solely from his inward vision. Khanna did not cultivate the phenomenal attributes that created his “superstardom” by reason or will, but through the connectedness to his own persona that the masses then idealized. For he is one who is impervious as to who is ahead and who is behind. Khanna’s inward vision, a special gift from the divine leads him always. Today he is the indomitable and highly respected veteran of one hindred and fifty films. For me, he is like the Cary Grant of India. Both actors are Capricorns that have played the widest variety of roles without ever bankrupting the fascination of the audience. Khanna is the platinum standard for landmark performances and sheer screen presence. Ever since the camera discovered his photogenia it has been having a love affair with it. His Byronic inspirations of romance as autographed elegantly on screen endure. Rajesh Khanna is a lovemark because he kindles our affections at the highest denominators and that is a life nobly lived means

    • Pragyan Mohanty

      That’s such an interesting observation. Indeed. :)

    • kannan

      Mr.Manohar you say no other actor before Rajesh Khanna irrevocably impacted Indian Cinema infact no other actor before or after Rajesh Khanna irrevocably impacted Indian cinema

  • Shankarlal

    indian cinema produce only one superstar till date and that is a RAJESH KHANNA no other actors never near him



  • Sameera Taufiq

    Rajesj Khanna always live in my heart ,kuank ‘Anand mra nahi karty’

  • kannan

    The description of the greatness of Rajesh Khanna’s impact is beyond the realms of thinking & words . It is truly Godly

  • Srini

    Rajesh Khanna has been the most Handsome, Stylish and Graceful Hindi film Hero till date. Whereas his main competitor Amitabh Bachchan paled into into insignificance in comparison with RK’s personality , Current generation of our ugly looking middle aged heros can not hold water to him. Only Imran Khan has certain charm about him while Ranbir Kapoor is just avarage looking. Thus RK remains unsurpassed even after 4 decades.

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