Mumbai: Police struggled to control the throng of people who turned up at the Vile Parle crematorium where actor Rajesh Khanna's last rites were performed by his family. His 9-year-old grandson Aarav, the son of Akshay Kumar and Twinkle Khanna, lit his funeral pyre.
Hundreds of fans braved the rain to pay homage to Bollywood's first superstar as he began his final journey from his home in suburban Bandra. But in the jostling that followed, police resorted to lathicharge to control the burgeoning crowd.
Aarav, Khanna's only grandchild, lit the pyre, according to a close family source. Fans lined the road leading up to his house as his body was carried away to the cremation ground in a hearse covered with flowers. Fans walked the distance to the crematorium carrying huge posters of Khanna, reminiscent of a time when legions of his female followers would line up for hours to catch a glimpse of him.
The funeral procession began from his bungalow on Carter Road at around 10 AM and his body was being taken to the Pawan Hans crematorium. Resting in a glass coffin, the body of the superstar was accompanied by son-in-law and actor Akshay Kumar, estranged wife Dimple Kapadia and his younger daughter Rinkie Khanna by his side atop the vehicle, flanked by huge black and white photographs of the actor, on both sides.
The actor, lovingly called Kaka, who was hailed as India's original superstar, died following a prolonged illness on Wednesday. His demise brought back memories of the charmer, lover and hero that he was to his family, fans and well-wishers. For them, his magic will remain forever.
Actor Dilip Kumar paid a beautiful tribute."Death is just the end of life, not a relationship. Rajesh will be missed dearly," he said.
"He has gone to a nice and heavenly place, we are happy about that," Akshay Kumar, married to his elder daughter Twinkle, said after his death around 10 am.
A pall of gloom descended on the film industry with Khanna's death with artists calling it the end of an era in Bollywood. Actress Shabana Azmi said, "There was something for everybody in Rajesh Khanna. He was every inch the star and he totally and completely enjoyed it. He played it to the hilt when he wanted and wore it lightly when he wanted. But none of his arrogance ever touched his relationship with his fans, with whom he had immediate, one to one contact.
Dimple says that on the July 14 he said, 'It's time to pack up'. So he lived it and realized that it was time to go."
"I think what Shabana said was bang on. He was somebody who you could identify with. He wasn't someone who was larger than life. He looked like one of us and yet there was this distinct charm of his own. We cannot sum up a phenomena like Rajesh Khanna. It's very important to point something out. His descent into oblivion is part of the Rajesh Khanna narrative. The king without his kingdom and his personal style in his day to day life is also part of that narrative. His on screen persona and his private life both contributed to make him this enigma that is still enduring," filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt said.
Saira Banu, who missed a chance of working with Khanna during his stardom days, said the actor was very humble. "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 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."
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