The passing of an era – RIP Rajesh Khanna

Posted: July 20, 2012 by fattiemama in bollywood, cinema, film, Thoughts
Tags: , , , , ,

Fatema Kagalwala puts on those nostalgia-wala goggles and remembers Rajesh Khanna.

I have a very 70’s generational angst. I have a theory that we, all of us born in the 70’s are marked. And politely speaking quite fucked. We are the in-between generation constantly straddling two worlds, one full of a traditionalism no longer serving us, and another of modernisation hurtling us to a place that has stripped us completely of our original identities. We have one foot in both. Our childhoods were wrapped in what was probably the blackest period of modern India – the 80’s where decay, political, social and personal was at its ugliest, poverty and disillusionment with the Great Indian Dream had left us utterly hopeless and arts were a shadow of their original selves. Maybe, it is for this that I (we?) continue to feel like an alien in this uber-modernised, superficial millennium and keep asking myself ‘Where do I belong?’ And probably it is this that makes me misty-eyed with nostalgia, sense of loss and emptiness when I but merely watch a yester-year film song especially of the 50’s, 60’s or 70’s.

Films and the heroes we loved in our childhood keep us connected to our past and the entire world it embodied. No other medium or star can do that for us, but yes, film heroes can. And that’s why when I heard of Rajesh Khanna’s demise yesterday I had a lump in my throat like he was a long-lost childhood friend. His going brought up all that sense of immense loss and pain that had been growing ever since Dev Anand and Shammi Kapoor left us.

I was having lunch when I heard it. My first reaction was ‘Don’t go!’, ‘Don’t do this to us…’ ‘We need you…’ I was screaming inside, ‘You don’t know the way you keep us connected us to ourselves…’ ‘We don’t recognise this world we live in but with you it’s bearable…’ ‘What will we do without the dreams you gave us to dream?’ I felt I had lost yet another link to myself, my past, my world. It wasn’t about cinema anymore. It was about the world Rajesh Khanna was a part of, the world he kept alive for me. The world I could go to at will, to rejuvenate myself. A sort of coming home when tired… Rajesh Khanna, Dev Saab, Shammi Kapoor symbolised a world of gentility and innocence that I was born in and then rudely shaken out of before I had my fill. They kept me connected to what was no more…And now they are…

Rajesh Khanna the star and Rajesh Khanna the man were both something that I wasn’t personally attached to, like I was to Dev Anand, the first man I ever fell in love with. Yet, his charming smile, the innocence in his eyes, the warmth he invested in his characters and his eccentrically crooked style, all remained endearing to me no matter how frail a shadow of himself he became. In my eyes, he remained Anand, Arun, Raj and Kamal, none of his later life pursuits ever diminishing all the beautiful worlds he had created for me in my childhood. It must be the dreams he (and others before him) sold to my wide-eyed child that makes me cling to a world that has long past…

A world where innocence meant thinking that when actors died in films they died in real life…

Where women scraped the mud of an actor’s car tyres and marked their foreheads with it as sindoor…

Where an autograph or a mere sighting of our favourite star would leave us in a tizzy for days…

Where the word ‘matinee’ gave us shivers of delicious delight be it pre-fixed to our loved idol or show…

Where we dressed up for a film outing and carried tiffins to movie halls…

Where we were willing to sit on the aisles if need be and would get up dance when we felt like…

Where we could sit on the footpath to watch a film being projected at a random street celebration…

Where we made films run for months and months never tiring of watching it for the 5th or 15th time as long as it was in the halls…

Where it was a big big deal to escape school / college to watch that film’s first day first show…

Where first day first show meant a lot more than our careers ever would…

Where men were gentlemen and women ladies…

Where stars were gods…almost…

…until they passed on. And left us bitter about the fact that they are mortal after all.

This is less of an obituary to a man we all loved and will continue to and more of an obituary to the passing of an era he and many like him embodied. An era that holds the key to me, an era that gave me my roots only to find that they no longer sustain me in this weird world I find myself living in. I will always live by the dreams that you, my childhood stars showed me and hope it will suffice. Because now that you are gone, what else do I have?

Saying goodbye with one of my most favourite Rajesh Khanna song.

Thank you for that world

Thank you for those dreams

Thank you for those movies…

Without them, my childhood wouldn’t have been half as beautiful.

Rest in peace.

  1. amborish says:

    Agree. Totally. Every single word. It’s so strange…he was but a star, and I didn’t even like him all that much as an actor – but I almost cried when I heard of his passing. I realised he was a big part of our growing up – the music, the films, were a regular diet on DD, back in the 80s. Almost like an elder in the family who was always around.

  2. amborish says:

    ‘First day first show’, eh? We literally fought for tickets – there were major fights right in front of the ticket ‘counters’. Imagine shedding blood (to get the first day first show tickets) for a horrible film called ‘Ram Jaane’. Then there was this now-extinct breed called Blackers that went “Paanch ka dus, paanch ka dus..”.Watching a movie was not only entertainment, but an adventure.

  3. Fatema says:

    Amborish – When I was a kid every Sunday we’d go to Gateway of India, mom, sis, aunt, cousins and all. A big screen would be put up and some Amitabh Bachchan film would be projecting. We’d happily sit on the ground with the crowds and watch it even though we had watched it many times before.

  4. So true… the days when extra benches would be placed inside a cinema hall and people would be willing to pay full ticket price to just be inside the theatre and not complain whether or not the treatment was Gold or Platinum Class. Coming from Jamshedpur and having studied in Varanasi I totally loved the italicised pointers at the end of the Blog post 🙂

  5. Sorry to play a spoilsport over here but you too seem to have committed the same mistake which most other bloggers and main stream writers have with respect to Rajesh Khanna – Reducing him and his movies to just a product of his times.
    While I do believe that Rajesh Khanna was just a product of his times, but at the same time some of roles have endured and have appealed to all generations – esp Anand or Somu or Raghu. I have even seen my kid niece who was born in 2000s enjoying his Bawarchi act.

    P.S. – I am not a fan of nostalgia, so I might have disliked this post because of that. But few of Rajesh Khanna’s characters deserve better farewell

  6. Fatema says:

    Fair enough if you don’t like nostalgia but this piece is a personal one and not a objective treatise. It is meant to be read like that alone.

  7. You might also like this different kind of tribute to Kaka below; one that is based on the record; that discusses his associations with different directors and leading ladies; that discusses the music of his films; his relationships with different music directors; the different singers who sang playback for him; and a comprehensive list of all the great songs he featured in during his entire career:

  8. Fatema says:

    Fantastic piece! Thanks for the compilation and analysis. This kind of comprehensiveness was sorely missing from all the reporting on Rajesh Khanna’s passing on.

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