He was the man for whom the word ‘superstar’ was coined and reams upon reams have been written about him. But we bet you didn’t know these 5½ things about Rajesh Khanna.
1. It is common knowledge that Rajesh Khanna was born Jatin Khanna, but not as well known that he was adopted by his childless uncle and aunt when he was quite young. In fact, Khanna’s biological mother had promised her child to her sister-in-law even before he was born. Rajesh Khanna was reluctant to talk about this fact. In an interview, Khanna glossed over the whole adoption-within-the-family angle of his childhood and said that his parents had him very late in the marriage. Khanna also frequently chose different versions while talking about his early childhood to the press.
2. Salim-Javed, the smashing script/dialogue writer duo that would later write the script for Sholay, was given its first independent project by Rajesh Khanna who signed them on for Haathi Mere Saathi. But things soured between the superstar and the writers to such an extent that they refused to work with Kaka for subsequent projects.
3. Rajesh Khanna and actress Anju Mahendru were dating for the longest time, and were known to be madly in love.
It came as a shock, therefore, when the 31-year-old superstar announced his wedding with the 15-year-old newbie starlet Dimple Kapadia.
Apparently, Khanna’s overnight success had made their relationship hit a rough patch and it transpired that, in a fit of rage after breaking up for the nth time with Anju, he met Dimple Kapadia’s father, Chunnilal Kapadia and, upon her father’s suggestion, decided to marry Dimple.
A spiteful Kaka compelled his baraat to change course so that it passed from in front of Anju’s house.
4. Like many great things in life, the blockbuster of the 1960s, Aradhana, was an accident that almost didn’t happen!
The film was conceived as a two-hero project by Shakti Samanta. But he and Khanna couldn’t have anticipated till a day before shooting for the film commenced that they would end up filming a completely different script.
The day before shooting was supposed to start, Shakti Samanta was invited by producer Surinder Kapoor to watch the last two reels of his new production, a common practice amongst filmmakers of the day. Samanta walked over to the screening room during lunch, only to realize that Aradhana and Kapoor’s Ek Shreeman Ek Shreemati (1969) shared not just the same scriptwriter (Sachin Bhowmick) but eerily similar climaxes as well. Samanta almost made up his mind to abandon the project but happened to bump into writer Madhusudan Kalelkar and the popular novelist Gulshan Nanda. When told about the urgency of the project that had to begin, as Samanta put it, ‘tomorrow’, Nanda narrated a story that he felt might interest Samanta. By the time Nanda finished the hour-long narration, Samanta had decided to make this film instead of Aradhana.
But Nanda and Kalelkar pressed him to continue with Aradhana, which the writers felt was a worthy project despite the climax. The three brainstormed from four in the evening and by 10 p.m. they had reworked the entire second half, which now had the same actor playing the role of Arun and Suraj. The story that Nanda narrated that afternoon became Samanta’s next collaboration with Khanna, Kati Patang.
Now we’re glad the film was made the way it was made, because we got to see Khanna looking like this
5. Rajesh Khanna featured in two advertisements in his lifetime. The first one was for Bombay Dyeing in which the superstar got to preen and look dapper in well-cut suits.
The second one was an advertisement for Havell’s fans, which was both a tribute to his fans and a tongue-in-cheek look at the fleeting nature of stardom.
5½. Yash Chopra had a close relationship with Rajesh Khanna who acted in Chopra’s films Ittefaq and Daag. So much so that it is speculated that the ‘Yashraj’ of Yashraj Films (which debuted with Daag) is a combination of ‘Yash’ Chopra and ‘Raj’esh Khanna. In fact, Chopra’s Deewaar was supposed to star Rajesh Khanna, but the scriptwriters Salim-Javed fell out with the star and refused to have anything to do with him.
If he had featured in the film, we wonder how Rajesh Khanna would have looked in this scene:
Now that you know these facts about the dark star, maybe you’d like to read ‘Dark Star: The Loneliness of Being Rajesh Khanna‘ by Gautam Chintamani.