In fact, according to his brother Rahul, Ashok got nicknamed ‘Kaka’ because of his hero-worship of the Bollywood star, who passed away at the age of 69 in Mumbai yesterday.
‘Kaka’ Mankad expired in his sleep in August, 2008.
“I think Sunny (Sunil Gavaskar) gave Ashokbhai the nickname ‘Kaka’. He absolutely worshipped Rajesh Khanna. Ashokbhai used to fancy himself as the Rajesh Khanna of Indian cricket,” said Rahul, indicating that his departed brother’s different spectacles frames had something to do with Rajesh Khanna’s style.
“He got to meet his hero after one of his tours in the mid-1970s and Ashokbhai’s day was made,” recalled Rahul, who replayed Ranji Trophy for Mumbai.
Mankad’s wife Nirupama recalled how her husband was so delighted when he got a chance to have lunch with Rajesh Khanna in suburban Mumbai some years ago. “We went to watch Aradhana and that song… Mere Sapnon Ki Rani became his most favourite song,” said Nirupama.
The similarity between the actor and the cricketer was not lost on Nirupama, who brought up the ‘good looks’ factor.
Mankad’s coach SP Bhatia recalled how, apart from the absolute hero-worship, his ward used to even walk like Khanna.
“The song Jai Jai Shiv Shankar from the movie Aap Ki Kasam was one of Ashok’s favourite,” said Bhatia.
Karsan Ghavri, who played alongside Mankad for India and Mumbai, said that his senior used to wear a black kada on his wrist like Khanna.
Vinod Kambli enjoyed a special rapport with Mankad when ‘Kaka’ became coach of Mumbai (Mankad was also manager of the Indian team which Kambli represented in Sharjah, 1991). “Kaka used to always tell us, ‘there is only one superstar in this world… Rajesh Khanna.’ And when our Kaka was in a good mood, he used to sing Rajesh Khanna songs in the dressing room and after play. Gun Guna Rahe Hai Bhanware was often heard,” recalled Kambli.
In the ‘Men and Memories’ chapter of his autobiography Sunny Days (published by Rupa & Co) Sunil Gavaskar wrote: “Another character in the Indian cricket scene is Ashok Mankad. Called Kaka, because it also happens to be the nickname of the film star Rajesh Khanna of whom he is a great admirer, Ashok is a great story teller.
“Kaka is an avid cinema-goer and whenever there is a good scene in a film he is watching, he would invariably stand up and applaud,” Gavaskar continued.