Dipen Guhawrote on Aug 18 2009 11:06PM
Rajesh Khanna, born Jatin Khanna, was the adopted son of his parents and, after a stint in theatre, he won a talent contest. He made his film debut in Chetan Anand's "Aakhri Khat", a very different start to reckon with, as the movie centres round a lost baby. Then came a thriller "Raaz", and "Aurat". It is "Aradhana" by Shakti Samant, Rajesh made his appearence felt. Rajesh played a dual role, father and son, both air-force pilots. He cut a dashing figure in uniform and the mannerisms he displayed, crinkling his eyes and shaking his head, as he beckoned the heroine to him, made him the great romantic hero. The S.D Burman songs also helped and the film was a huge hit. In December 1969, Khanna started in another film, Raj Khosla's "Do Raste" and produced something Bollywood had never seen before. "Aradhana" was already running at the Opera House when "Do Raste" opened at Roxy, and Bombay witnessed the remarkable phenomenon of two movies with the same star playing to packed houses and both having golden jubilee runs.
The Rajesh Khanna Phenomenan was sweeping everyone in Bollywood off their feet and the hysteria he generated was unlike anything seen before and after. As hit followed hit, and women all over the country swooned over him, Rajesh Khanna admitted feeling "next to god" His greatest acting glory could be marked in Hrishikesh Mukherjee's "Aanand", in which Rajesh Khanna enacts the role of a cancer-patient who knows that his days are being numbered. But he is up and doing in drinking the life to the lees, endearing every body with his fun, humour, cordiality and amicability, keeping his grief enveloped within In this film Rajesh comes, vis-a vis with the image-breaker Amitabh Bachchan. Though the world came to know that a star was born, the role of Rajesh Khanna was too dominant to be dwarfed by any means.
Bachchan knew he was in the shadow of this superstar and in 1970 he deliberately decided to play the doctor who looks after the dying cancer patient. He (Amitabh) had motivation.
However, Amitabh would later recall "Rajesh Khanna---the word superstar was coined for him--brought attention to me because of him". The early 70s used to be meant for Rajesh Khanna, who ruled the roost with complete hegemony. "Dushman", "Kati Patang","Prem Nagar","Aap Ki Kasam","Amar Prem","Sachcha Jhuta","Daag","Roti","Bandhan","Avishkar", and the list is endless. It was in "Namak Haram" Rajesh had a close encounter with Bachchan's kind. The angry-young man had already brought about a surging revolution in the concept of hero. In the film 'Namak Haram" both Rajesh and Amitabh were superb in their respective roles. All the same, Rajesh Khanna started sliding from the zeneith's height. But craze that he had created in his" salad days" could not be overpowered by any other star.