Roti, Coffee and Daadi: Images from Rajesh Khanna's life

While trawling through Wikipedia, the online dictionary after a Google search on Rajesh Khanna, the Wiki threw up responses about his hysterical female fan following.

Rajesh Khanna
Million-dollar smile: Rajesh Khanna’s portrait being taken inside his home yesterday. Pic/Satyajit Desai

Excerpts from the dictionary talk about letters written in blood and queues of hundreds of girls when Rajesh Khanna would be on outdoor location for a shoot.

Rajesh Khanna with family
Three's company: Rajesh Khanna with family

Dinesh Raheja, former Movie magazine editor recalls with a laugh, “Why are you talking about girls? Even my daadi (grandmother) was crazy about Rajesh Khanna. In fact, since he touched my daadi's feet at a wedding years ago, she was never the same."

Rajesh Khanna in New Delhi, on the campaign trail
Dilli-ghtful: Rajesh Khanna in New Delhi, on the campaign trail

Raheja explains, “In a non-professional capacity, I remember seeing Rajesh Khanna shooting years ago, when I was a schoolboy. The unit was shooting at Worli Sea Face. The Sea Face was very different than what it is now. It was very quiet and there were not too many people, we would cycle on the promenade. That day the Sea Face was teeming with people but Rajesh Khanna remained unfazed. He was very, very protective of his co-star Sharmila, the perfect gentleman really.”

 Rajesh Khanna does what he did best      � act
Screen ready: Rajesh Khanna does what he did best — act

Schoolboy fascination turned to professional respect. Raheja recalls days in Rajesh Khanna’s office “we would talk about a common passion - films, over coffee. He was such an engaging conversationalist. It was said that he could be very difficult but I found him very easy going.”

Rajesh Khanna says his piece like the rockstar he always was
Man for the moment: Rajesh Khanna says his piece like the rockstar he always was

When two superstars walk into a hotel together, one can expect a hi-decibel ego clash. There was none of that when Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna walked into Centaur hotel together for a cover shoot for Movie magazine years ago. Raheja says, “It took just some time for the ice to thaw. But it did, and they both gave me fantastic interviews and were very complimentary towards each other, which was amazing,” ends the current editor of Bollywood News Service.

Rajesh Khanna with former PM Narasimha Rao
Political role: Rajesh Khanna with former PM Narasimha Rao

Senior showbiz journalist Chaitanya Padukone says Rajesh Khanna was “a staunch Ganesh follower and often went to Titwala for Ganesh worship. In the latter years, past his heyday, I did notice he had become a trifle irritable and was more impulsive that he was before. He was a man of strong likes and dislikes. I recall particularly, once I was waiting outside J W Marriott at Juhu, post a film event where Rajesh Khanna was the chief guest. This was more than 10 years ago, I think. There was some kind of public transport flash strike then. I was standing outside, wondering how to get home, when ‘Kaka’ came by in his car. He was sitting next to the chauffeur while his secretary sat behind. He asked me with some mirth: ‘what are you doing, do you have a date?’ I said, ‘No there is a strike; I am wondering how to get home’. He said, no worries and gave me a lift in his car, all the way to Tardeo, while he lived in Bandra! That's the kind of man he was.”

Padukone also remembered how once at a party, Rajesh Khanna, “turned up in beard and dark glasses. Youngsters did not recognize him, and I wrote a piece for this paper itself, on how youngsters were ignoring and pushing past a man who their parents must have worshipped. He was very touched by that piece,” said Padukone, saying it proved how sensitive he was, beneath that thick-skinned veneer that stars must cultivate if they have to take what is written about them. 

Senior film journalist and current editor of Film Street Journal, Bharati Pradhan has warm memories of Kaka. As warm as a hot roti, in fact. “I knew him so well, so I have so many anecdotes but the one that stands out the most is what a great host Rajesh Khanna was. Once, he invited me to shooting in Chennai. Somebody came home to fetch me and take me to the airport. He accompanied me on the flight to Chennai, escorted me to the hotel and helped me check in, there: I had a message from Rajesh Khanna saying: welcome to Chennai, I have gone to see a film, when I am back, we will have dinner together. The man only left once Rajesh Khanna came in.

“We had dinner in his suite along with others, and he made sure I had hot rotis while he had cold ones. I even saw he took the cold roti from my plate, put it in his and gave me the hot one. That was his style and his attention to detail. I do not think anyone can match this,” signed off Pradhan. When the arclights are off and autograph books go into oblivion, it is not hits but the little things that one does that are remembered. Today, above gun guna rahe hain bhawrein khil rahi hai kali kali.

'I am alive'
MiD DAY photographer Satyajit Desai recalls going to Kaka’s house in February this year, as rumours gained traction that he was no more. Desai, the quintessential, hard-nosed journalist, first called a telephone number belonging to Kaka, while he was outside Rajesh Khanna’s home.

At home. Rajesh Khanna obliges the lensman
That’s enough now: At home. Rajesh Khanna obliges the lensman 

To his surprise, Rajesh Khanna himself answered the call and told him, “I am alive, I am having a drink.” Desai asked him to step outside for a picture. Kaka, obliged after some persuasion and said, “only two frames,” and shooed away the photographer after two pictures. Always the consummate professional.  

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