Growing Up With Rajesh Khanna
|Courtesy - http://www.rajeshkhanna.net/|
There was some excitement in the air. I saw Amma and Savitha aunty talk in gasps and giggles. Some plan was made for Sunday evening.
“Ennango!” Amma called out to Appa, and said something about some aradhana on Sunday. I thought it would be some boring pooje and decided to plot with my friends to boycott. But I was in for a surprise.
Doordarshan was airing Aradhana on Sunday evening. All the houses in our vatara kept dosa batter ready. No one would waste time cooking when such an iconic movie was on T.V. By that time, the excitement had got to us kids too. Parents getting excited about a movie was a new sensation. We finished homework really early, and were on our best behaviour for the entire day. Yes, even the mandatory glass of milk was gulped without climbing windows and attics.
Evening saw us in my neighbour’s house. Vidya was my beshtesht friend. They had a colour T.V. – Dyanora – with shutters, mind you. Straw mats were spread on the floor as seating arrangements. A couple of foldable chairs were available for the Appas to sit.
The Ammas – all industrious as ever – would not waste the 4 hours (one hour would go in half-way news cast, adverts and so on). Bags of avrekayi was brought out to be shelled. Soppu was laid out to be chopped. Loose jasmine and kanakambri was heaped to be tied into strands. And thus, we were ready to welcome Rajesh Khanna into our homes.
The only exposure to Bollywood for us kids was Vivdhbharati’s ‘Aap ki farmaish’. We knew the popular songs – but had not grasped the lyrics yet. We could hum a mean tune though.
On that evening, the group of us kids sat cross legged on the straw mat as Rajesh Khanna exploded into ‘Mere sapno ki’. We did not know the words but we knew he says ‘geethu geethu geethu’. And we joined in excitedly. We also belted out the guitar chords, so as Kishore Kumar said ‘phool si khil ke’, we joined in with ‘tanntana tanntana’!
Sharmila Tagore (we did not know the correct pronunciation, so we called her Sharmila Tiger...in a way it was correct ;)) took our breath away. We laughed and clapped as she threw the bucket of water on Rajesh Khanna just as he enters her house. “Amma! Amma!” I pestered, “Why is her hair like that?”
“She keeps a coconut underneath her hair,” Amma answered without batting an eyelid – she knew better than to shush me. Her answer convinced me even though all the other aunties guffawed.
We kids were thrilled when Rajesh Khanna opened his arms, gave his Khanna wink and crooned, ‘Kora kagaz tha yeh mann mera’. We knew what to do next – we had heard the song a zillion times on vivdhbharati – so we joined in the echo – ‘mera...mera...meraa.aaaa’ and ‘tera....tera..teraaaa’. 'Roop tera mastana' was considered too risque so we kids were sent out to buy kothambri soppu.
And thus, thanks to Rajesh Khanna, the small world of Ammas had that one pleasant excitement. Rajesh Khanna was also responsible for the many, many dosa Sundays. It became a routine of sorts – if Rajesh Khanna, then dosa. When Khanna said, ‘Mat ro Pushpa, I ha...aa..ate tears’, many saree pallus touched glistening eyes. When Khanna died in Anand the tears would not stop. Appas cleared their throats loudly, but the Ammas cried uninhibitedly. But Khanna was resurrected again and again in many more movies.
Probably the only Rajesh Khanna movie I did not like was Ittefaq. Of course, now, I consider it as a classic of sorts. Those young days – che! No song in the movie, I did not like Nanda and they made poor Rajesh Khanna suffer so much.
It was on one fine Sunday morning that I had a clear revelation. Amma was in the kitchen, grinding dosa batter in the oraLu kallu. We were preparing for Kati Patang that evening. “Did you finish your homework?” Amma asked in between gasps as she rolled the grinding stone.
“Hmm. Amma when I grow up I will marry Rajesh Khanna,” I declared. I swear, I’ve never been so serious in my life.
“By the time you grow up, he will be very old. What about the sums on Simple Interest? Did you do them?”
“I will marry him. Yes I did the sums.”
“He already has three wives. Have you written all the steps correctly?”
And thus, I encountered my first obstacle in love, and in mathematics. I asked Amma who his wives were.
“I don’t know. Now he has married Bobby. Did you finish your geometry homework? You have bisected the line correctly?” Yes, those days people remembered actors based on their character names! And yes, Amma was very matter-of-fact in her conversations.
I thought long and hard. Bobby was the girl in the ‘hum tum ek kamre mein bandh ho’ fillum. Humph! I was still convinced that if Rajesh Khanna met me, he would marry me in a heartbeat. Little did I know that the movies telecast on DD were already 10-15 years old. And no, I had not bisected the line correctly - another cause for worry.
But while waiting in Nagaratna’s Clinic, I read my first movie magazine. I think it was Stardust. It had Rajesh Khanna on the cover, with a Warren Beatty hair. I read about how thousands of girls waited for a glimpse of this star outside his bungalow. I read about girls slitting their wrists and signing his name in blood. Indeed, Bollywood had never seen anything like this. No wonder he was called The Phenomenon. I sighed. I had toooo much competition. On top of that it would take another decade for me to get a degree. Oh yes. Amma had said I could marry Rajesh Khanna as soon as I get my degree.
But Khanna did stay close to me all those years – through Kishore’s voice. The lyrics of all his songs was written lovingly in my diary, and now, he resides in my IPOD. As I write this blog, I can see his charming face mouthing -
‘Haste gaate jahaan se guzar
Duniya ki tu parwaah na kar
Muskuraate hue din bitaana
Yahaan kal kya ho kisne jaana.’
But like the sun – everything has to set after reaching a peak. Rajesh Khanna too receded to the background, leaving a wonderful afterglow.
In a recent book that I read – Shantaram – which is set in the 80s - the protagonist notes that Indian movie stars shouted with their eyes. True. If Bachchan’s eyes shouted all the pain and anger - Rajesh Khanna made love with his eyes. There are many who say he was not a great actor. I don’t care. To me, he will be the man who set many hearts aflutter and lit many dreams. He will always be the man who brought a smile in our small, innocent world of school, homework and Doordarshan weekends. Oh yes, I've seen enough bitterness so I know how precious smiles are - and I never forget those who made me smile.
There never was, there never will be another phenomenon like him. RIP Khanna saab.
I leave you with my favourite Khanna song :)
© Sumana Khan - 2012