Stars of the Silver Screen

Learn About Rajesh Khanna, the First Superstar of Indian Cinema

Rajesh Khanna in Ghatkopar Dahi Handi

Rajesh Khanna (also Jatin Khanna) was an Indian actor born on December 29, 1942, in Amritsar, Punjab, India. Aside from being the first superstar of Indian cinema, Khanna was also a politician and film producer during his time. Interestingly, he had an unbroken record of fifteen consecutive hit solo films from the year 1969 to 1971. Moreover, he also starred in about a hundred and six hero films, of which ninety-seven were released in the span of 1967 to 2013. During that time, most of his films received ratings of about 4 out of 5 stars. Aside from films, Khanna had also appeared in twelve short films and 168 feature films.

Khanna made his debut in the 1966 Bollywood film and India’s first Oscar entry, Aakhri Khat. During his lifetime, he had received awards, including Filmfare Special Award, Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award, Filmfare Best Actor Award, and the BFJA Awards for Best Actor.

Rajesh Khanna in Bollywood

Rajesh Khanna’s signature

Rajesh Khanna was the son of Lala Hiranand and Chandrani Khanna. However, he was adopted and raised by Leelawati Khanna and Chunnilal Khanna, who were relatives of his parents. During his high school years, he attended St. Sebastian’s Goan High School with his friend, Ravi Kapoor, now known as the Indian actor and producer, Jeetendra. At a young age, Khanna graduallystarted taking an interest in theatre. Consequently, he had participated in theatre plays during his year as a student. Due to his passion, he had received and won several prizes in inter-college drama competitions. In the 1962 play called Andha Yug, Khanna had portrayed the character of a wounded mute soldier and impressed the chief guest with his performance.

In 1965, Khanna had joined the 1965 All India Talent Contest, where he had been one of the eight finalists from more than 10,000 contestants.After winning the contest, which was organized by United Producers and Filmfare, Khanna then had his film debut in Aakhri Khat, a film directed by Chetan Anand. Subsequently, after his first film debut, he was starred in a romantic thriller movie, Raaz. Moreover, after winning the contest arranged by United Producers and Filmfare, Khanna had continued to appear in films under the United Producers contract. Some of the movies where he starred were in Baharon Ke Sapne, Aurat, Ittefaq, Doli, and Aradhana.

During his film career from 1969 to 1971, Khanna had fifteen solo hit films including, Do Raaste, Khamoshi, Safar, The Train, Kati Patang, Sachaa Jhutha, Aan Milo Sajna, Mehboob Ki Mehendi, Choti Bahu, and Haathi Mere Saathi. As his career continues to skyrocket, Khanna was then mobbed during his public appearances. Fans even lined up on the road, chanting his name while others kissed his car. Some had sent him a letter written on their own blood.

In 1974, Filmfare Awards were held to honor films that were released in 1973. One of the nominees for the Best Actor Award was Rajesh Khanna for his role in themovie Daag. However, his competitor, Rishi Kapoor, had paid to receive the award. With this, Kapoor had won the award for his role in Bobby, instead of Khanna for his role and performance in Daag.

Despite that, Khanna had remained notable and was even dubbed as Bombay Superstar. Aside from his films, his film’s soundtracks were also chartbuster. Several of the musical scores for his films were composed by composers Sachin Dev Burman, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, and R.D. Burman.

Subsequently, in the year 1976 to 1978, Khanna has appeared in several films that were not commercially successful. Some of these were Mehbooba, Naukri, Tyaag, Bundal Baaz, and Janta Hawaldar. However, his 1978 film Sigappu Rojakkal, wherein he played as a psychopath, had been a box office hit that won him another Filmfare Best Actor Award. In the following years, Khanna had continued to appear in several films alongside Tina Munim. Some of their films together were Souten, Fiffty Fiffty, Bewafai, Alag Alag, Adhikar, Suraag, and Aakhir Kyon?

Later Years and Death

Rajesh Khanna’s funeral procession in Mumbai on July 2012

While serving as a member of Congress, Khanna was also starring in some films, including Khudai (1994), Aa Ab Laut Chalen (1999), Kyaa Dil Ne Kahaa (2002), Kaash Mere Hote (2009), and Riyasaat (2010). While he was still offered to appear in other films, Khanna declined most of the offers. As well as that, Khanna had also appeared in four TV series in the span of 2000 to 2009.

In June 2012, Khanna’s health was reported to be deteriorating. In fact, he was admitted to Lilavati Hospital in Mumbai because of health complications. Subsequently, on July 8 of the same year, he was discharged and was reportedly fine. However, on July 14, he was re-admitted and was again discharged on the 16th. Two days after that, Khanna died at his bungalow because of his deteriorating health caused by cancer.

During his funeral on July 19, several fans had gathered on the procession from his house to the crematorium. Following that, on July 25, his ashes were scattered in the Ganges at Rishikesh, Uttarakhand.

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