‘Bollywood’s First Superstar’ Rajesh Khanna Dies At 69
Often titled as the ‘first superstar of Bollywood’ and the ‘first king of Hindi romance’, the icon’s death has shocked the film industry and the country.
Actor, producer and politician, Rajesh Khanna had starred in 170 feature films, 130 of which were box office hits with him as the lead. Over a span of 25 years starting in the late '60s, his signature dramatic style often won him 15 hits in a row, making him the go-to person for producers wanting eminent box office winners. He was in several romance and action films, such as 'Aradhana', at an age where Bollywood was helping India transition to the modern age after independence. He has been honored by numerous awards for his contribution to Indian cinema and culture, including the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.
As the first Bollywood celebrity, Khanna was an entirely new phenomenon in himself. When he went out, throngs of people would crowd around him – if not shake his hand, they would kiss his car. There were reports of women marrying his photograph, and sending him letters in blood proposing marriage.
After his silver-screen presence started to fade in the face of action films and younger actors, Khanna starred in a handful of television shows and had a political career in the '90s as a member of parliament for the Indian National Congress. He worked on as an activist throughout the 2000s.
In June, Khanna was discharged from hospital reportedly fine, but re-admitted to the Lilavati Hospital on July 14 due to kidney problems. His funeral took take place on 19 July in Mumbai. He died in the presence of his wife Dimple Kapadia, daughters Rinkie Khanna and Twinkle Khanna, son-in-law Akshay Kumar, and grandchildren.
From spawning a culture of superstardom, to the idea of a signature acting style, to the formula for connecting to the masses while ensuring box office success, Khanna’s impact on Indian cinema is immeasurable. After news of his death spread on Wednesday, large crowds of fans crowded outside his Mumbai bungalow to mourn – with the police in tow. Stars like Shah Rukh Khan and Sachin Tendulkar, and even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, offered their condolences to the late star’s family, and channels like Geo TV aired special hour-long tributes the day of his passing.
Here is his critically acclaimed film 'Anand' on YouTube.
Reach Staff Reporter Raunak Khosla here.