Remembering Rajesh Khanna: Haasan shares some tales
He was the first superstar of Indian cinema and the only actor in Bollywood to have tasted super-stardom. On Rajesh Khanna’s 74th birth anniversary, Tamil star Kamal Haasan, who shared an incredible bond with Khanna, fondly shares tales of the time spent together. “I refused to call him Kaka like everyone did. I was willing to call him Bade Bhaiyya or Mr Khanna. But not Kaka.That infuriated him... He was the undisputed king of Hindi cinema,” recalls Haasan.
Since Khanna starred in remakes of South Indian films, he was often in Chennai. That’s how their friendship started. “We spent time talking about cinema and life. He’d sometimes get philosophical about the inconsequentiality of life. Once we went to watch a film together, a mediocre American film called The Swarm. I took him to a theatre in the heart of Chennai. He didn’t know we were going to a public screening. He probably hadn’t been to one since becoming a star. He enjoyed the film, but refused to leave till the end titles. I panicked. If audiences saw him, there’d be a stampede and blood on my hands. But Mr Khanna did not listen. All hell broke loose and I became his bodyguard. His shirt was torn. But he giggled and chuckled like a child.” Khanna’s wife, actor Dimple Kapadia gave Haasan (her co-star in Sagar; 1985) a piece of her mind. “She wanted to know what was I thinking. Anything could’ve happened.”
Haasan shares another incident, when one of his films, Sigappu Rojjakal, was remade as Red Rose, starring Khanna. “The phone rang in my office. This was the era of landline phones. Mr Khanna’s film’s mahurat was the next day, and he wanted the cap I wore for my character. He also commanded me to be present there. He wanted to introduce me as ‘the upcoming star from the South’. The cap was sent from Chennai to Mumbai by hand delivery but the man on the job decided he didn’t want to part with the precious cap. Mr Khanna was livid: ‘Since you were coming why couldn’t you just bring it with you?’”
Haasan was fascinated by Khanna’s aura. “I never wanted to be a star. I observed him. Our friendship came to a sorry end at a party in his house where he was less than polite. But my friendship with Dimple is forever. It’s like the lines from the immortal Geeta Dutt song, Beqaraar Dil Iss Tarah Miley Jiss Tarah Kabhi Hum Juda Na They. I know we’ll remain friends for as long as we’re alive. My daughter (actor) Shruti (Haasan) will make sure of that. She’s more fond of Dimple than I am.”
I was willing to call him Bade Bhaiyya or Mr Khanna. But not Kaka. That infuriated him KAMAL HAASAN, ACTOR