Rajesh Khanna was a very popular Actor, probably the first Super Star of Indian Cinema. He produced fifteen solo hit films in a span of three years. I don’t think this record is matched by anyone. Young women adored him; his songs were hummed by everyone. He became a member of the parliament and won the Padma Bhushan Award (Third highest civilian award in India).
Ms. Sharmila Tagore had this to say about Mr. RK (Rajesh Khanna):
“Women came out in droves to see Kaka. They would stand in queues outside the studios to catch a glimpse, they would marry his photographs, they would pull at his clothes. Delhi girls were crazier for him than Mumbai girls. He needed police protection when he was in public. I have never seen anything like this before or since.” (Source Wikipedia).
While watching one of his songs few weeks ago, I thought, ‘Thank God he became a movie star. He could not have become even a club level cricketer.’ I will come to the ‘Why?’ part in a minute.
Soon after migrating to Pune from Chennai in 1983, I joined a paper mill and started working in shifts. I lived in Dehu Road, a distant suburb of Pune. To go to the mill, I had to take a local train. These trains were not the local trains you saw in cities. They were retired express trains. The one which I used to take in the morning at 6.20 was mainly used by milk vendors who went to the city to distribute milk.
It was on the platform, I first met a look alike of Rajesh Khanna. I did not know much about Rajesh Khanna or his movies in those days. The regulars met in the platform, drank tea and gossiped in general while waiting for the train. Since there was only one train every hour, one had to make sure to get on the train to go to college or office or for that matter to distribute milk. Shankar (the Rajesh Khanna copy) would produce some impromptu performances of Rajesh Khanna. He would sing the songs and emote how Mr. RK did that in his films. He got his hairstyle done like RK, did not sport a moustache (rare for a South Indian).
The dance was not exactly a dance. Some jumping and shaking legs and in RK’s case shaking all parts of the body and the head in particular. I believe Shammi Kapoor was the first jumping jack of Hindi Cinema. You can watch his masterpiece in Junglee here. RK has brought his own nuances. The local never arrived in time so we could always watch extended RK performance from Shankar. I was always torn between to report to work on time and praying the train to be late for a few minutes to have a dheko of a RK dance.
Thankfully Television helped me to catch up with Rajesh Khanna’s songs. Also in that fateful year, his movie Souten (The Other Wife) got released and one of the hit songs from the movie was being played everywhere. I remember the song because it was one of the first songs, I could understand a bit. It was more of conversational Hindi, not the good old ones, where you needed a master degree to understand even a couplet. The song went like this:
Shayad Meri Shadi Ka Kayal Dil Mein Aya Hai
Isiliye Mummi Tume Chai Pe Bulaya Hai
Even with my Shakespearean vocabulary acquired by speaking in broken Hindi for six months, I could understand what the song meant, at least the first two lines:
Perhaps the thought of my marriage has come into her heart
So my mummy has called you for a cup of Tea.
Let me get back to the Cricket analogy. Every time, Sehwag or Smith, Sachin or Kohli drove the cricket ball for a four, you hear Gavaskar or Nazir Hussein commenting, “He reached to the pitch of the ball, made room and drove perfectly, his head was absolutely still.” Even when these players swiveled to play a hook or pull shot, the head would remain still. For Mr. RK, this could not have happened because, I have seen his head ‘still’ anytime. It always bobbed, shook, turned, jerked and moved everywhere. Don’t believe? Watch this:
Yes. Facial expressions and moving head is part of any dance form. Indian classical dance form places high importance to this. But Mr. RK’s facial expressions and head bobs are at another level. These head shakes are taken from the GIF song just to drive the point home. Imagine hundred of songs and a million head bobs.
My father got me a bike and saved me from the otherwise horrible train commute (unreliable, unpredictable and time consuming). But I missed the dance show during the first shift commutes.
I did see one of his movies in the eighties. It was a family melodrama (Avtaar?) with 27 reels of tears. The hero gets thrown out from his own house by his sons. He sets up a garage. He sees a skeleton of a Fiat Car, tows it to his garage and restores it to pristine condition. I think Mike Hall of Rust Valley Restorers (Netflix Show) must have got inspired by this scene. I also thought the only way I would ever own a car is finding a skeleton like this and restore it myself.
Over the years, some of the songs from RK’s films have become my favourites particularly songs form Aradana, Kati Patang, and Anand.
Even today, when I watch one of his songs, I take a nostalgic journey back to the days, when I first got introduced to Mr. Khanna’s song and dance. Just like the GIF image, his mannerisms and head bobs keep playing in my mind.
PS: Naga made a comment “Yes he was a head shaker and forwarded this song from Aradhana. Watch it – Non Stop Action.