Mumbai, Jul 18 (PTI): Bollywood superstar Rajesh Khanna, who was ailing for sometime, breathed his last at his Mumbai residence on Wednesday.
The 69-year-old actor, who had been in and out of hospital since April, was discharged from the Lilavati hospital two days back.
He is survived by wife Dimple Kapadia and daughters Twinkle and Rinke.
Scores of fans gathered outside his 'Aashirwad' home on Carter Road in Bandra on Wednesday following the news. Bollywood artists today mourned the death India's first superstar, saying his magic and charm will live forever.
Khanna was hailed as India's first superstar after 15 consecutive solo superhits between 1969 and 1972 including ”Aradhana”, “Haathi Mere Saathi”, “Anand” and “Amar Prem”.
Veteran actress Saira Banu, who missed a chance of working with Khanna during his stardom days, remembers the actor as a very “shy” person.
“I was supposed to work with him in 'Choti Bahu' but I could not because I was ill. I shot with him for two days and found that he was very charming, humble and a shy person. May his soul rest in peace,” Banu said.
His contemporary Manoj Kumar said he was planning to meet Khanna. “I had called Dimple but she told me not to come as Rajesh Khanna was not in a position to talk...I miss him a lot and I have shared some of the best memories with him,” Kumar said.
Filmmaker Subhash Ghai said, “He was the powerhouse of Hindi film industry. I met him on the sets of Aaradhna, he had some kind of energy and you will be charged when he is around you. His name will be written in golden words.”
Rajesh Khanna, whose romantic persona in songs like 'Mere sapno ki raani', ' mere dil ke chain' and 'Roop tera mastana' made many a young woman's heart skip a beat, was Hindi film world's first actor to attain superstar status.
His mannerism, his unique style of dancing, dialogue delivery and gestures added to his onscreen persona and have been imitated countless number of times.
At the peak of his career, Khanna, popularly called Kaka, would be mobbed during public appearances as fans kissed his car, which would be covered with lipstick marks. They lined the road, cheering and chanting his name. Female fans sent him letters written in blood.
His predecessors Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar broke hearts in their time no doubt, but the hysteria connected with Khanna was unprecedented.
Born as Jatin Khanna on December 29, 1942, he was adopted and raised by foster parents. He began taking interest in acting while in school and performed in a number of plays. It was his uncle who changed Khanna's first name to Rajesh when he decided to join films.
In 1965, he won an all India talent contest organised by United Producers and Filmfare and as a result made his debut the next year in “Aakhri Khat”, directed by Chetan Anand. His second film “Raaz” was also a part of his predetermined prize for winning the competition.
He found success with films like “Baharon Ke Sapne”, ”Aurat”, “Doli” and “Ittefaq”, but it was the 1969 film ”Aradhana” opposite Sharmila Tagore that catapulted Khanna to superstardom. The film also saw the resurgence of Kishore Kumar, who eventually became the official playback voice of Khanna and the actor-singer duo delivered a number of hit songs subsequently, memorable among them being 'Mere sapno ki raani', 'Roop tera mastana', 'Kuch to log kahenge' and 'Jai jai shiv shankar'.
After “Aradhana”, “Haathi Mere Saathi” (1971) became the biggest hit and also the biggest grosser ever till then. Khanna appeared in 163 feature films of which 106 had him as the solo lead hero and 22 were two hero projects. He had 15 consecutive solo superhits between 1969 and 1972, which is still an unbroken record in Indian film history.
He won three Filmfare Best Actor Awards and was nominated for the same fourteen times. He was awarded the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.
Despite his heartthrob status, Khanna played a variety of roles - the terminally ill Anand, a chef in “Bawarchi”, a lonely husband in “Amar Prem”, and a psychiatric patient in ”Khamoshi”.
He worked with the best of the talents of his time, be it directors, actresses and composers. Sharmila Tagore and Mumtaz became his leading ladies in many films including “Amar Prem” and “Aap Ki Kasam”.
Directors like Shakti Samanta, Yash Chopra, Manmohan Desai, Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Ramesh Sippy worked with Khanna.
His films' music made them more memorable, with the trio of composer R D Burman, Kishore and he himself working together in more than 30 films.
The commercial success of his films declined during 1976–78. After 1978, Khanna starred in critically acclaimed films such as “Amado”, “Phir Wohi Raat”, “Dard”, “Dhanwan”, ”Avtaar” and “Agar Tum Na Hote”.
If Khanna's rise to fame was meteoric, so was his fall from stardom. By the late 80s his charm at the box office had waned but it did not affect his personal charisma. He held a Lok Sabha seat as a Congressman from 1992 to 1996.
His enigmatic personality not only charmed his fans but also led to him into relationships with three Bollywood actresses in their heydays. Khanna was in a long-term relationship with Anju Mahendru in the early '70s, and later went on to marry Dimple Kapadia, 15 years younger to him, in 1973. They have two daughters - Twinkle and Rinke - who followed their parents into showbiz. Dimple split from the actor in 1984. Though they lived separately, the couple never completed divorce formalities.
Khanna was also romantically involved with his “Souten” co-star Tina Munim (now Ambani). The pair starred together in films like “Fiffty Fiffty”, “Bewafai”, “Suraag”, “Insaaf Main Karoonga” and “Adhikar”.