“Yeh jo public hai yeh sab jaanti hai, aji andar kyaa hai aji baahar kyaa hai...” These were the very words uttered by yesteryear superstar Rajesh Khanna, who passed away at the age of 69 yesterday afternoon, after he was bestowed with the prestigious lifetime achievement award at the Pune International Film Festival (PIFF) in 2010. At the award ceremony, Khanna had praised veteran actor Dr Shriram Lagoo. “Dr Lagoo is a great actor and I have seen some of his films at least three times,” he had said. The first superstar of Indian cinema, Khanna, breathed his last at his Juhu residence, Ashirwad, in Mumbai.
Dr Lagoo, who had acted with Kahnna in the movie ‘Sautan’,said he was not only a good actor but also a good individual. “I always felt comfortable interacting with, him on and off the sets. I liked him as a person, and his good looks. His fans would carry him on their shoulders during his heydays,” he said. PIFF director Dr Jabbar Patel described Khanna as a humble, nice and a lovable actor. “His dialogue delivery was unique as he had a good theatre background. ‘Anand’ was his best film as an actor. He was born only for acting and nothing else. His charm was like that of Dev Anand. He was also instrumental, indirectly, in boosting Kishore Kumar’s career through his first super hit film ‘Aradhana’,” Patel said.
PIFF associate director Santosh Unecha said they are planning to air Khanna’s films in the Tribute Section of PIFF 2013. “His fans will enjoy his rare films at the festival.” National Film Archives of India (NFAI) director Pradeep Pathrabe too expressed his grief over Khanna’s demise. “We have archived 22 of his films, including his first release ‘Aakhri Khat’ that was released in 1969. We also have a vast collection of Khanna’s photographs and booklets on him. So far nothing has been decided, but we will do something for the late actor,” he said.
Virendra Chitriav, director of Ashay Film Club, said the club has planned a ‘Rajesh Khanna Tribute’ complied using several clippings from his movies. “We are working out the dates and also talking with the NFAI officials,” he said Noted film photographer Ram Zond said Khanna was the last romantic superstar. “He used to visit Pune occasionally and had once participated in a prize distribution ceremony at Balgandharv Rang Mandir for children theatre group. He had interacted with the audience in Marathi,” Zond said.
Remembering Khanna, Congress’ city unit president Abhay Chhajed said the yesteryear’s superstar had came to campaign for Suresh Kalmadi, who was contesting on behalf of Congress in 2004. “Khanna’s charisma and humour had made a profound impact on the audience. His public meeting near Saras Baug pulled in maximum crowd.” MP Suresh Kalmadi, a friend of Khanna, paid his tribute to the late actor. “He was a real star who lived in the hearts of his fans for the last four decades,” Kalmadi said.