Bollywood icon Rajesh Khanna died aged 69 on Wednesday afternoon at his residence Aashirwad in Mumbai. He was reportedly suffering from cancer, and will be cremated Thursday morning.
The actor, who is billed as Bollywood’s first super-star, was hospitalised on June 23 where he was treated for exhaustion and general weakness. But he was re-admitted this week and was just discharged yesterday.
His estranged wife Dimple Kapadia, his daughters Twinkle Khanna and Rinkie Khanna were with him during his last moments.
His son-in-law Akshay Kumar also wound up his shoot abroad to be with his family. Speaking to the media on Wednesday, Kumar confirmed the death and said the actor has “gone to a very nice and heavenly place”.
“He has gone to a very nice and heavenly place. We are very happy that he had gone there,” Kumar told reporters.
“I hope everybody there, whoever is watching him, can just say a little prayer for him,” he said.
Currently, his mansion on Carter Road in Mumbai’s Bandra area is surrounded by fans and cordoned off by police.
“I convey my heartfelt condolences to the members of the bereaved family and countless fans and admirers of Shri Rajesh Khanna,” tweeted India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Veteran actress Hema Malini is in shock and said she always hoped that he would recover.
“We always thought he would come back [from the hospital]. We are in shock right now,” Malini told a TV news channel.
Talking about her last meeting with the superstar, the actress said: “We met at Apsara Awards, at the celebration of 100 years of cinema. He spoke to us and he talked properly and looked fine.”
The two worked together in films like “Andaz” and “Prem Nagar” and Malini says the news is sad and she will soon meet his family members.
“I have worked with him in many films but right now this is a very sad moment and I must go and meet his family members,” she said.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said “his films had no language barriers and was liked by people all across”.
“Rajesh Khanna was a living legend and was our superhero. He has left behind the rich legacy for younger generations,” Soni told a news channel.
“We were planning to organise a retrospective of Rajesh Khanna. It is sad that we have lost him,” she added.
Long before Shah Rukh Khan or Amitabh Bachchan staked a claim on the title of Bollywood superstar, there was another man who owned and wore that crown for years: Rajesh Khanna. Wherever he went, mass hysteria followed.
Born Jatin Khanna in 1942 in Amritsar and raised by relatives, he was the first Bollywood hearthrob to unleash unprecedented, madness akin to beatle-mania.
As his career reached its peak in the 1970s, the star of more than 180 films, spanning four decades, had hundreds of swooning women writing fan-mails in blood.
An iconic scene that was slated to be shot near the Howrah Bridge in Kolkota was reportedly canned after the authorities feared that the weight of his frenzied fans would collapse of the bridge. But his long-enduring appeal didn’t come easy.
In 1966, he made his film debut with Aakhri Khat, followed by Raaz. Both were box-office disasters. But his next batch of releases, such as Khamoshi and Aaradhana, lifted him out of oblivion. The latter, in which he played a double role with actress Sharmila Tagore, placed him firmly on the Bollywood map and made him the ultimate pin-up boy.
His good looks, gentleman swagger and his signature lilting dialogue delivery -- “Pushpa, I hate tears” in Amar Prem or and “Babumoshoi” in the tear-jerker Anand -- made him an invincible Bollywood force. His superstar status was confirmed after he delivered 15 consecutive hits between 1969 and 1972. His record remains unbroken.
His personal life was equally dramatic.
He was reportedly in a relationship with actress and costume designer Anju Mahendra for over seven years. However, it was his marriage to then-budding star Dimple Kapadia that got all the mileage.
Fifteen years his junior, the couple tied the knot in 1973. However, unlike his film legacy, the marriage didn’t last long. The couple separated in 1984, but never officially divorced. Kapadia returned to his side when he took ill earlier this year, and remained there until the end.
By late 1980s, his two-decade reign in Bollywood began to wane. Despite playing to packed houses, he began starring in B-list productions such as Goraa and Wafaa opposite Rakhi Sawant.
He also dabbled in politics, holding a Lok Sabha seat as a congressman from 1992 to 1996. He was last seen in a commercial for television advertisement for a room fan.
Ironically, Khanna gave an award-winning performance in the 1971 film Anand, where he played a cancer victim who succumbs to the disease.