Chennai: He may not have done a Tamil movie, but Rajesh Khanna was a celebrity in his own right in Chennai, which he visited frequently, and its film industry. In his heyday, the actor is said to have even had a room reserved for himself at the Chola Sheraton here. Khanna’s Red Rose, Masterji, Dil-E-Nadaan and Aaina were remakes of blockbusters in Tamil. Another set of his flicks, including Humshakal, were remade in Tamil.
But a connect with Kollywood really isn’t necessary for actors here to mourn his loss. “I knew him as an all-India and probably, the world’s star. I was an upcoming actor in Tamil, but he was already a superstar,” recalls Kamal Hassan, who debuted in Hindi with Aaina, a remake of K Balachander’s 1973 flick Arangetram — which boasted a special appearance by Rajesh Khanna. He has also acted in the Hindi remakes of some of Kamal’s films, including Sivappu Rojakkal.
Kamal remembers the first ‘original superstar’ of Indian cinema as someone who “had the kindness to be my friend, admire whatever little talent I had, appreciate it and even remake some of my movies in Hindi.” Another Kollywood name, Prabhu Deva, says he was on a high after getting to meet Khanna just ahead of the release of his film, Rowdy Rathore this year.
“I inherited the craze for him from my dad,” the choreographer says, adding that when he met the matinee icon at his house in Mumbai, he was open about his admiration for the Tamil film industry. “He said his house would always be open for me,” says the actor, speaking to Express while on his way to Khanna’s house.
Actor Kushboo, who missed the opportunity of starring with the ace actor twice says, “We grew up watching him, listening to his songs. We knew what romance was only because of him and there will be no meaning for the word after him.”
Actor R Parthiban recalls how, as a schoolkid, he used to frequent tea shops just to listen to songs from Khanna’s films. “There would be a juke box-like set up in tea shops and if you put a coin, it would play three or four songs. We would often go to not drink tea but to listen to the songs.”
Superstar Rajinikanth, in a brief statement to the press, expressed his condolences.
As Kamal aptly sums up the legendary actor’s career, “I think very few actors in future would be able enjoy the kind of craze he had. Very few actors would have lived a life like him.”