Rajesh Khanna's Biography


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Rajesh Khanna (born Jatin Khanna on 29 December 1942) is an Indian Bollywood actor and politician.

During his career, he appeared in over 180 films. 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. Khanna is referred to as the “First Superstar” of Indian cinema. He had "the biggest and the maddest fan following, especially his female fans," which, according to Entertainment One India, has not been duplicated since he rose to fame in the 1970s.

He served a five year tenure as MP in the Indian parliament (1991–1996).

Jatin Khanna was born in Amritsar on 29 December 1942. He was raised by adopted parents (relatives of his biological parents) since they were childless. Khanna lived in Thakoredwar which was near Girgaon. Khanna attended St. Sebastian’s Goan High School in Girgaum, along with his friend Ravi Kapoor, who later took the stage name of Jeetendra. Their mothers were both keertan[clarification needed] pals. Khanna gradually started taking interest in theatre and did a lot of plays in his school and college days. Khanna became a rare newcomer who struggled in his own MG sports car to get work in theatre and films in the early sixties. Both friends later studied in Kishinchand Chellaram (KC) College. When Jeetendra went for his first film audition, it was Khanna who tutored him.

Adult life

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Khanna fell in love with the then fashion designer and actress Anju Mahendru. They were in the relationship for seven years. Mahendru states that the couple did not speak to each other for 17 years after the break up. Later Khanna married Dimple Kapadia in 1973 and has two daughters from the marriage. Khanna and Dimple Kapadia separated in 1984 as his schedule kept him away much of the time and Dimple became interested in pursuing an acting career, and thereafter lived separately, but did not complete the divorce proceedings. In the eighties Tina Munim was romantically involved with Khanna till the time she decided to leave the industry to pursue her higher studies. Following a few years of separation later the distance brought about mutual understanding between the Khanna and Kapadia. Reporter Dinesh Raheja stated that “the bitterness between Rajesh and Dimple washed away", noting that they are seen together at parties and that Dimple campaigned for Khanna's election and also worked in his film. Their elder daughter Twinkle Khanna, an interior decorator and also a former Hindi film actress, is married to actor Akshay Kumar and younger daughter Rinke Khanna, also an Indian actress is married London-based investment banker Samir Saran.

Early success (1966–1975)

Rajesh Khanna was one of eight finalists in the 1965 All India Talent Contest organised by United Producers and Filmfare from more than ten thousand contestants. He won All India Talent Contest He made his film debut in the 1966 film Aakhri Khat directed by Chetan Anand, followed by Raaz directed by Ravindra Dave both of which were a part of his predetermined prize for winning the All-India United Producers’ Talent Competition. G.P. Sippy and Nasir Hussain were the first to sign Rajesh Khanna after he won the contest. Being under contract with United Producers, he got projects like Aurat, Doli and Ittefaq. He was then noticed for his performances in films like Baharon Ke Sapne, Aurat (1967), Aradhana and Ittefaq. Through Aradhana he rose to "instant national fame" and the film critics started calling him the first superstar of India. In that film, Rajesh Khanna was cast in a double role (father and son) opposite Sharmila Tagore and Farida Jalal. The film also saw the resurgence of Kishore Kumar, who eventually became the official playback voice of Rajesh Khanna. The Kishore Kumar-Rajesh Khanna combination worked miracles and it was almost impossible to see them as separate identities. They became the most popular singer-actor duo and together they gave innumerable hits till 1989. He appeared in many romantic, melodramatic and social films, costarring with Sharmila Tagore, Mumtaz, Asha Parekh, Hema Malini and Tina Munim in the 1970s and Shabana Azmi, Smita Patil and Poonam Dhillonin the eighties. Indiatimes ranks Anand amongst the Top 25 Must See Bollywood Films.

Rajesh acted alongside Mumtaz in eight major super-hit films. Both of them were neighbours and got along very well as a result they shared a great on-screen chemistry. When Mumtaz gave up films, Rajesh-Mumtaz were the topmost pair. After Khanna married, Mumtaz decided to marry millionaire Mayur Madhwani in 1974. At the time when her marriage was fixed she was doing three films Aap ki Kasam, Roti and Prem Kahani with Khanna. She decided to quit movies only after completing these films. When she left films Khanna felt very lost. In one of her interviews, Mumtaz was quoted saying " I would pull his leg and tease him about his fan following. Whenever Rajesh entered a hotel in Madras, there was a queue of 600 girls waiting to see him at midnight. As a result, even I would get some importance, as people would ask for my autograph as well. He very generous with his associates, and would party a lot."

During the peak of his career he would be mobbed during public appearances. Fans kissed his car, which would be covered with lipstick marks, and lined the road, cheering and chanting his name. Female fans sent him letters written in their own blood. There used to be a line of cars of his producers and hysterical fans outside his bungalow every day. So popular was Khanna that even actor Mehmood parodied his popularity in his hit film Bombay to Goa where the driver and conductor of the bus were called 'Rajesh' and 'Khanna'. Even today, he remains the favourite of mimicry artists, who copy his trademark style and dialogue delivery. During the filming of Amar Prem there was scene that needed to be filmed at Howrah Bridge in Calcutta with a boat carrying Khanna with Sharmila moving under the bridge but the authorities ruled this scene out as they realised that if the public found out that the hero of the film would be there, it may create problems on the bridge itself, and that it might collapse due to the amount of people trying to get a glimpse of their favourite actor. Film critic Monojit Lahiri remembers “Girls married themselves to photographs of Rajesh Khanna, cutting their fingers and applying the blood as sindoor. Rajesh was God, there has never been such hysteria.”

Several songs sung by Kishore Kumar in the 1970s were based on Rajesh Khanna. During the filming of the song 'Mere Sapnon Ki Rani' in Aradhana, Sharmila Tagore was shooting for a Satyajit Ray film and the director Shakti Samanta had to shoot their scenes separately and then join the scenes together. Needless to say this was the most popular song of its generation and went on to become the biggest attraction of the movie Aradhana.

The BBC made a film on him, Bombay Superstar, in 1974, the shooting for which began the same time when he got married and his film Daag premiered. In the video it can be noticed that Khanna was shooting for Aap Ki Kasam. A textbook was prescribed by the Bombay University contained an essay, 'The Charisma of Rajesh Khanna!'. Music remained one of the biggest attractions of all Rajesh Khanna films throughout his career, and most of the best scores for his films were composed by S.D. Burman, R.D. Burman and Laxmikant-Pyarelal. The trio of Rajesh Khanna, Kishore Kumar and R. D. Burman went on to make several hits, including Amar Prem, Apna Desh, Mere Jeevan Saathi, Aap Ki Kasam, Kati Patang, Namak Haraam, Phir Wohi Raat, Aanchal, Kudrat, Awaaz, Hum Dono, Alag Alag among others. Rajesh Khanna had 15 consecutive hits between 1969 to 1972, which is still an unbroken record in Indian film history. His success began to diminish in terms of box office results of his films in the period 1976–78.

The Bad Phase (1976–1978)

Post-1976, Khanna had a string of unexpected box office flops up to 1978, including films which were rated highly by critics upon their release and have achieved strong cult status over the years among the viewers for their story content and memorable performances by the cast like Mehbooba, Bundal Baaz, Palkon Ki Chhaon Mein, Naukri, Chakravyuha and Janata Havaldar. He persuaded Samanta to give his sister in law Simple Kapadia a break in films by casting with him. Each film of the combination of Rajesh Khanna-Shakti Samanta were huge blockbusters but Anurodh became an exception by becoming an average grosser in spite of it being given three stars by critics and having awesome music,good storyline and amazing performances by the entire cast. The performances of the lead actors from these films were applauded by critics and the songs from these films remain popular among the Indian audiences. K.Balachander then remade his 1973 National Award for Best Film Arangetram in Hindi as Aaina with Mumtaz in the lead and Khanna in a cameo appearance in 1977 but even this film did not work at the box office.The changing trend from romantic and social movies to action oriented multi-star and lost and formula films in this period caused the decline of Khanna's career in terms of box office ratings to some extent. The declaration of emergency in India had angered the masses and this helped films having the lead character revolting against corruption becoming success. However, Khanna continued basically in solo hero social sober household meaningful films during multi-star masala films' era and played variety of characters. During this phase too he had box office hits like Maha Chor, Chhaila Babu, Tyaag and Karm.

Later Career (1979–present)

Khanna met with more huge success again in challenging roles in the solo hero projects with critically acclaimed box office hits such as Amardeep, Phir Wohi Raat, Bandish, Thodisi Bewafaii, Dard, Kudrat, Dhanwan, Avtaar, Agar Tum Na Hote, Souten, Awaaz, Naya Kadam, Babu, Aaj Ka M.L.A. Ram Avtar, Shatru, Anokha Rishta, Nazrana, Angaarey, Amrit (1979 onwards till 1989). Director Bharathiraja decided to remake his 1978 Tamil box office hit film Sigappu Rojakkal in Hindi with Khanna playing the role of psychopath. Kamal Haasan who played the same role in Tamil won Best Actor Award for Sigappu Rojakal in South Filmfare awards for his portrayal as the antihero. But the Hindi movie was seen as controversial by traditional and orthodox Hindi moviegoers and thereby became a box office failure. Though Rajesh Khanna was praised for his performance in Red Rose by the critics the film did not fetch Khanna even a single nomination for the best actor award at the award functions. Over the years people have rated Red Rose better than the original due to a stellar performance from Khanna. Tina Munim and Rajesh Khanna became the leading couples of 80’s on and off screen with hits Fiffty Fiffty, Souten, Aakhir Kyun, Bewafai and Adhikar. Ram Awatar Agnihotri wrote that Tina Munim showed the first sparks of the dedicated actress she would become in the films Alag Alag and Adhikar both with Khanna. He also acted in the Marathi hit film Sundara Satarkar in 1981. He has performed in the least number of multistar films in comparison to his contemporaries and had the main central character in the few multistarrers he acted. During the multi-starrer era, Khanna delivered multi-starrer superhits like Rajput, Dharam Aur Kanoon, Zamana, Dil-E-Nadan, Ashanti, Awam (film) and Ghar Ka Chiraag. He did three potboiler movies with Jeetendra, which were big blockbusters Dharam Kanta, Nishaan and Maqsad. Aaj Ka M.L.A. Ram Avtar is one of the memorable political film of Rajesh Khanna. Khanna presented a character of corrupt politician and how he gets success for "Power" has been resembled in this film.The viewers praised his role in the film as Khanna was successful acting as the politician. The year 1985 saw him turn a producer with Alag Alag.Twelve films with Khanna in the lead role released in the year 1985 and competed against each other and ate up the box office collection of his own films resulting in eight hits.

He shared a very close relationship with R.D. Burman and Kishore Kumar. The trio were very close friends and have worked together in more than thirty films. Work of Pancham with Khanna is regarded as legendary and far superior than any other actor-music director combinations. The king of playback singing Kishore Kumar had even credited Rajesh Khanna for his resurgence, so much so that he sang for Alag Alag,the first film produced by Rajesh Khanna without charging anything. In 1985 Pancham found himself being sidelined after failure of few films but Rajesh Khanna was among the few who continued to stand by him. Rajesh and Pancham worked together even after the death of Kishore in the films Jai Shiv Shankar and the unreleased film Police Ke Peechhe Police,both produced by Khanna and Sautela Bhai.Khanna even helped Leena Gangully and Amit Kumar in completing Mamta Ki Chhaon Mein, the last film directed by Kishore himself as Kishore died before the completion of the film.

Actors who were part of the cast of most of his films include Ashok Kumar, Sujith Kumar, Prem Chopra, Madan Puri, Asrani, Bindu, Vijay Arora, Roopesh Kumar and A. K. Hangal, who remained part of his " working team" since the start until the late eighties. The lyricist whom he preferred for his movies were Anand Bakshi. Films by Shakti Samanta with Khanna in the lead, music by Pancham and lyrics by Anand Bakshi had people swooning over. The films Samanta directed without Khanna in the eighties went downhill. His other close friends from the film industry include Raj Babbar, J.Om Prakash and Jeetendra. Pyarelal quoted in an interview that “Rajesh Khanna was lucky for us and we were lucky for him too. From the 1969 Do Raaste to the 1986 Amrit, we gave hits together both as films and as music scores. He was very particular about his music and would take a tape home if he could not assess a song. He would then give his feedback after a day or two. But if he liked a song at the sitting, he would loudly shout “Wah! Wah!” in appreciation. When we went on our first overseas concert tour in 1984, he came and danced to three songs. It was God’s blessing that we came up with such a vast range of hit songs for him, including in his home productions Roti and films like Chhailla Babu, Chakravyuha, Fiffty Fiffty, Amar Deep and Bewafai. Incidentally, he had a stake in Mehboob Ki Mehndi too. He had great interest in music and a terrific sense of melody too. His music is dominated by Pancham (R.D. Burman) and us and we accepted Shakti Samanta’s Anurodh only because Rajesh Khanna had some misunderstanding with Pancham then and did not want to work with him.” Khanna would always request music directors to fit in Kishore Kumar wherever possible. In fact, Kishoreda was very reluctant to sing Waada tera waada in Dushman and suggested Laxmikant Pyarelal to get it sung by Rafi. Then Laxmikant made Kishoreda meet Rajesh Khanna and Khanna winked at Laxmikant and told Kishoreda that in that case the song should be scrapped. On hearing this Kishore immediately agreed to sing it by himself for Khanna. Celebrity of post 2000 era like Bhandarkar says that he takes at least three or four turns in Carter Road even today only to see Khanna. The younger generation stars like Imran Khan still regard Rajesh Khanna as someone who would take the top slot as the most romantic hero of all time. Tom Alter confesses “I still dream of being Rajesh Khanna. For me, in the early 1970s, he was the only hero — romantic to the core, not larger than life, so Indian and real — he was my hero; the reason I came into films and he still is.” Rajesh Khanna was the last super star to set fashion trends before stars of post nineties era came in.

From the early nineties onwards he stopped acting and served as M.P. of New Delhi Constituency from 1991 to 1996. During that period, he returned to acting, appearing in Khudai(1994). He made a comeback as a NRI in Aa Ab Laut Chalen(1999), and Kyaa Dil Ne Kahaa(2002). In September 2007, he officially announced his planned return to the big screen, signing a contract for several new films, including some Television serials.


He is a life member of the International Film And Television Research Centre, the International Film And Television Club and the Asian Academy of Film & Television. He is the Guest Faculty of 'Specialized Cinema Courses At Asian School Of Media Studies'. On April 10, 1999 Khanna inaugurated the live concert of S.P. Balasubramanyam held at Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium, Hyderabad as a tribute to Pancham. In 2001 and 2002, Rajesh played the lead in two television serials: Aapne Parai (B4U & DD Metro) and Ittefaq (Zee TV). He performed in a video album based on Tagore's songs (Rabindra Sangeet) without payment, and is currently in the process of creating his own music channel "R.K. Music Channel". He also endorsed Star se Superstar tak - a talent hunt programme in 2007 and donated a Gold Trophy of Rs. 1 crore with Priyanka Chopra. In its Silver Jubilee Episode on 14–15 March 2008, K for Kishore aired a Rajesh Khanna special. He signed a TV serial with Creative Eye Banner (Dhiraj Kumar) in 2007, and in 2008 performed in a TV serial, Bhabhima, with Leena Ganguly as his co-star. His successful TV serial Raghukul Reet Sada Chali Aayi began in November 2008 and ended in September 2009. Khanna cites there are lack of good roles for actors like him in the films this is the reason he was rarely seen in films after 2000. He said in an interview on being queried about his decision to do TV serials, "The reach of TV is much more than cinema today and one episode of my serial is likely to be watched by more people than a super-hit film". In 2009, on his 67th birthday Shemaroo Entertainment released his films and a song collection titled Screen Legends-Rajesh Khanna-the Original Superstar.

Political and business career

Rajesh Khanna was a member of Parliament for the Congress Party, from the New Delhi constituency, where he won the 1992 by-election, retaining his seat until the 1996 election. He has since been a political activist for the Congress Party. Khanna and a group of foreign investors have bought land in Shirdi on which they plan to build a religious resort for disciples of Sai Baba.