Friday, July 20, 2012

Rajesh Khanna: Sensitivity, Shayari, Drama, Playfulness and Idealism

Rajesh Khanna in his most successful film Anand
So the man who said:

Yeh shohratein
Yeh chahatein
Yeh ulfatein
Ek daur tha
Ek daur hi rahega

Translated it means (roughly):

The fame
The desire
The love (affection)
Was an era 
And will remain an era. 

Yesterday, we sat watching Rajesh Khanna films back to back, as we say it in our lingo. First we saw "Kati Patang" and then "Anand." It's difficult to believe the handsome young man in the films is no more. He meant a lot to us. His playfulness was what we tried hard to imitate. The above lines from on of his movies aptly summarises his rise to stardom and its eventual downfall. He quoted these words before he accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award given to him.

Now the media is full of "death of a legend," "passing of an era," "superstar no more," and other vacuous stuff. What he meant for us was really different. He represented the inner longing of every boy to be attractive to women, to flirt with them, and hold them in awe (of ourselves). That was something great for us men, or, budding men of those days. For women it was the devastating charm of the squinting eyes and the easy smile. He was an easy and dignified presence on screen. It was written that during his wedding even the gawkers outside the gates were invited in to share in the repast, and everyone went content about his magnanimity.  

We learn more about him from the papers. One was that he never shot in foreign locations, preferring Indian hill stations. He was proud to be Indian and his guru shirt (kurta) symbolised the village and middle class. He always played the engineer, service man, and professional, which was what the country was churning out at that time. He played the professional with a touch of romance, poetry and humour. He was to us the loving elder brother, the playful lover, the hurt and devastated artist at the same time. All this appealed to us big time and majorly in those growing up years of pimples (yes, he had pimples too), line-maro-ing and heartbreaks. That he loved poetry and quoted shayaris endeared him to us and we did buy books of shayaris to quote as he did.

His hair style was his best asset. Millions had their hair cut to and combed to resemble his style. (Confession: including us.) The bob of hair sitting atop a perfectly shaped face and rosebud lips were what captured every female heart with desire and longing to be close to him. And, he didn't disappoint them. He gave one stellar performance after another to win their hearts. 

Such a man is rare to find in today's Indian films, even in Indian life. We have moved on to greed, forgotten our poetry, forgotten what being sensitive is, and abandoned our old-world values for the use-and-throw values of the modern world. It is indeed sad that what he stood for has disappeared from the face of India to be replaced by the aforementioned transgressions. 

Is Rajesh Khanna, the superstar, still relevant today? Did he die believing in what he stood for? Did he still spew shayaris? We don't know. As for his relevance, yes, our modern heroes have a lot to learn from him, especially in the dialogue delivery department. He could quote a shayar and make it look as if he had composed it on the spot. So natural was his diction and modulation. 

I would say he is the greatest star of all because he stood for what India was and should have been.

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