Remembering the poetic masculinity Rajesh Khanna’s lady love has been revealed

305655_398529870221749_912844129_n

Men, actress Mumtaz loved and lost!
Shammi Kapoor, Dara Singh, and now Rajesh Khanna. A week before her 65th birthday, Mumtaz revisits men, movies and marriag

His films release the middle class from questions of class and social conformity, and allow for an exploration of what it means to be an individual in those times. The time that was to follow when a new era was ushered in by the arrival of Amitabh Bachchan, grappled with a completely new set of questions that were rooted in identity and class and an overall disappointment with father figures.


Shammi Kapoor, Dara Singh, and now Rajesh Khanna. A week before her 65th birthday, Mumtaz revisits men, movies and marriage
 She was only 26 when she left the musty studios of Mumbai to marry Mayur Madhwani, head of one of the largest conglomerates in Uganda, and moved into manors in Mombasa andLondon.

The last few months have given actress Mumtaz a reason to revisit a world she left behind with ease. The deaths of Shammi Kapoor, Dara Singh, and now Rajesh Khanna, make the Mumtaz story fresh again. Shammi, who she loved intensely but couldn’t marry. Dara Singh, who agreed to pair opposite a B-grade rookie, and gave her stunt princess status. And Rajesh Khanna, in whose superstardom, she shimmered. Right from Bindiya chamkegi to Jai Jai Shiv Shankar, their ditties rocked the airwaves and box office. Excerpts from a long-distance chat:

What memories of Rajesh Khanna do you carry with you?
I met him on the sets of Do Raaste. He was choosy about his friends, very reserved. I was flattered to be his close friend. I was voluptuous, so he’d always say, ‘Aye moti, idhar aa…” He was a perennial latecomer. He wasn’t strong on dance or rhythm, so, when we did combination shots, main sambhaal leti thi. The dance masters would cheat with his close-ups (laughs). We had trouble doing the Chal dariya mein doob jaaye (Prem Kahani) song. But we managed somehow.

When did you last meet him?
Rajesh wasn’t meeting anyone for a while. Thanks to Dimple (Kapadia) and Anju (Mahendroo), I got to meet him at his bungalow, Aashirwaad. We spoke about my fight against cancer and surviving chemotherapy. Dimple said they were ordering all the things he liked to eat, but he wouldn’t eat anything. She joked that they ended up eating all the stuff. I gave him duas, and said he’d survive his ailment.

They say Shammi Kapoor and Jeetendra were in love with you…
I was lucky that men wanted to marry me. There was an attraction, yes, but I didn’t act on it. I’d wake up at 4 am every day, and reach the studios on the dot at 9. I had far too many responsibilities to have affairs. There was no time for love and romance. Of course, I was fond of Jeetu. Dharmendra was an attractive man. Dev saab was so handsome. But it’s not always necessary to have an affair with your co-stars. You can admire them from a distance (laughs).

But Shammiji was keen to marry you.
I was all of 18, and in love with Shammi Kapoor while we were filming Brahmachari. He wanted me to give up my career, but I wasn’t ready. I had my family to look after. I had lost my mother during Boond Jo Ban Gaye Moti.

What comes to mind when I say Rajesh Khanna and Shammi Kapoor?
Jaise meri life mein doosra Rajesh Khanna nahin ho sakta…waise hi doosra Shammi Kapoor bhi nahin ho sakta.

Is it true that heroes had refused to work with you because you started as a stunt film heroine?
Yes. Dharamji (Dhamendra) refused. Later, of course, we did Loafer. Shashi Kapoor refusedSachaa Jhutha because he was cast opposite me. Later, when I was about to get married, he was keen that I work with him. We did Chor Machaye Shor just before I quit the industry. I’m grateful to Dara Singh, who was the hero in all my stunt films. He could have said no, like the others. I’m also eternally grateful to Dilip saab ( Dilip Kumar), who agreed to act opposite me inRam aur Shyam.

You and Sharmila Tagore never got along. Is that true?
It wasn’t rivalry. She was born with a golden spoon. Her first film was opposite Shammi Kapoor (Kashmir Ki Kali), and she became an instant star. I started with supporting roles opposite Shammiji in films like Brahmachari. Perhaps because both, Sharmila and I, did several films with Rajesh Khanna, the press wrote rubbish. But the fact is, heroines cannot be friends, not then, not now. We didn’t do dinners or hang out together. It’s always been like that.

But even as a supporting actress, you got some memorable songs like Aaj Kal Tere Mere, that gave you the chance to make a fashion statement.
All credit for that goes to Bhanu Athaiya (costume designer). I was uncomfortable dancing in a saree. So, she made me one with readymade pleats, and a zipper on the side. That became the ‘Mumtaz saree’. Funnily, Aaj Kal Tere Mere was a song composed for a Nasir Hussain film for Dev Anand. Dev saab rejected it, and we used it for Brahmachari. Kismet dekho! The style is aped even today. Recently, Manish Malhotra (costume designer) told me he had made something similar for Priyanka Chopra.

Apparently, producers told every heroine, including Rekha and Neetu Singh, to ape you? Any actor today who you think imitates you?
I don’t think actresses today resemble me. I had too much of a pug nose. The only one who comes close is Shah Rukh Khan’s wife Gauri. I’m told the director of Dhadkan asked the heroine ( Mahima Chaudhary) to imitate my steps from Zindagi Ittefaq Hai (Aadmi aur Insaan) for a dance number in the film (Aksar is dunia mein). They say Shah Rukh Khan and Akshay Kumarare my fans (laughs). No, I don’t ask them if they were in love with me. They treat me with so much respect.

Back then, were star wives jealous of your sassiness?
I’m not sure if I left star wives insecure. Magar ek aurat doosri khubsoorat aurat ko dekhke zaroor jalti hai. Upfront, everyone was nice to me. I never bothered to find out what they said behind my back.

And you gave it all up at the peak of your career.
There’s a time for every woman to get married. You should seize that moment. Several heroines of that time didn’t get married. They’re still single. I found a good man who loved me, so I chucked it all. I was fed up of films. I had planned the wedding in advance. A year after I got married, Prem Kahani, Roti and Aap Ki Kasam released. I refused Safar, Haathi Mere Saathi… because I was hellbent on getting married. Despite that, the phone never stopped ringing, whether I was in Mombasa or London.

For a superstar, marriage must’ve been an adjustment.
Yes. My husband comes from a traditional Gujarati family, and loved his food. I learnt to make dal-dhokli, undhiyu and khandvi. Today, I’m a fairly good cook.

But your marriage hit a rough patch when your husband got involved with another woman. I’m practical. I had two beautiful daughters and a husband who loved me immensely. I was not going to give up a marriage because of a stray incident. My husband is not a flirt; he’s a good-looking man. He made a mistake. Rather than dumping him, I chose to be by his side, and we tided the rough weather together. At the end of the day, I’m his wife. That’s what matters.

You had a tough pregnancy, didn’t you?
After a string of miscarriages, I gave birth to my first child. I spent six months of my pregnancy stuck in bed, staring at the ceiling. So my kids mean a lot to me.

Will you return to the movies?
What will I gain? I don’t want to play Shah Rukh’s mom or Akshay’s aunt.

In terms of style, Rajesh Khanna traded the extravagant for the conversational and spoke as if he meant what he said. Perhaps the secret to his success with women, was his ability to speak to them as persons rather than only through the lens of gender or appearance. In speaking to the person inside rather than the woman outside, in peering deeper into the eyes and valuing what lay hidden there, he brought women closer  to the imagined ideal of what cultural psychologist Sudhir Kakar calls a ‘two-person universe’

that exists between a man and woman; one where each ‘finally recognises the other’. His romantic style eschewed grand gestures relying instead on thoughtful attention communicated through gaze rather than touch. In his pivotal films, the freshness of youth masked a deeper maturity that combined attractiveness with a promise of deeper understanding. In some ways, Khanna embodied the best that could be imagined of a middle class Indian man, particularly from the viewpoint of a woman.

In contrast to the prosaic concerns of most Hindi film heroes , Rajesh Khanna represented the more poetic side of masculinity, one which exuded vulnerability but presented it a form of thoughtfulness, rather than insecurity. Romance deepened the intimacy between man and woman; it was a fire that glowed deep and burned long.

It is almost as if we were waiting for the man to die so that we could remember him. Not as he was at the time of his death but as we experienced him so many years ago. There is something about his influence that was so distinctive and deep that once it is possible to remember him again, memory gushes forth and sentiment washes over us. It is not unusual for stars to burn brightly for a short time and then fade away, but in Rajesh Khanna’s case, this pattern played out with such intensity so as to become uncomfortable. It is as if he lived only for five years, between 1969 (Aradhana) and 1973(Namak Haram), with the rest of his life, whether before or after, seeming to count for very little.

In all that has written about him after his passing, it seems even clearer that there was something that was terminally elusive about him and the success he enjoyed. The dazzling degree of adulation he attracted is difficult to explain using the usual explanations- there was little by way of physical appearance nor was he a teenage heart-throb. He did not connect with any dominant social issue of the time; his films do not have the kind of underlying thematic unity that Amitabh Bachchan’s work does. He worked with the kind of directors who made quiet films rather than epic blockbusters; it is very difficult to imagine films like Anand and Amar Prem generating mass hysteria.

What is easier to grasp is the distinctive nature of his films and his on-screen persona. Perhaps the most refreshing aspect of his best work is the emphasis on issues that are personal rather than the social. Few of his films use the familiar tropes of the day- he is rarely found embedded in a social context- his roles tended to focus on the individual, rather than the background he came from. He has been cast as Army officer, an artist, or often someone from an undefined profession and background. The questions his films dealt with were about the significant issues that we face as individuals in our everyday life. His films release the middle class from questions of class and social conformity, and allow for an exploration of what it means to be an individual in those times. The time that was to follow when a new era was ushered in by the arrival of Amitabh Bachchan, grappled with a completely new set of questions that were rooted in identity and class and an overall disappointment with father figures.

In terms of style, Rajesh Khanna traded the extravagant for the conversational and spoke as if he meant what he said. Perhaps the secret to his success with women, was his ability to speak to them as persons rather than only through the lens of gender or appearance. In speaking to the person inside rather than the woman outside, in peering deeper into the eyes and valuing what lay hidden there, he brought women closer  to the imagined ideal of what cultural psychologist Sudhir Kakar calls a ‘two-person universe’ that exists between a man and woman; one where each ‘finally recognises the other’. His romantic style eschewed grand gestures relying instead on thoughtful attention communicated through gaze rather than touch. In his pivotal films, the freshness of youth masked a deeper maturity that combined attractiveness with a promise of deeper understanding. In some ways, Khanna embodied the best that could be imagined of a middle class Indian man, particularly from the viewpoint of a woman.

In contrast to the prosaic concerns of most Hindi film heroes , Rajesh Khanna represented the more poetic side of masculinity, one which exuded vulnerability but presented it a form of thoughtfulness, rather than insecurity. Romance deepened the intimacy between man and woman; it was a fire that glowed deep and burned long. Even death in his world is imagined as a form of poetry (Maut tu ek kavita hai in Anand) rather than a sordid fact of life. The balance of poetry with masculinity was managed by his own persona as well as through the masculine timbre of Kishore Kumar (as against the mellifluous gentleness of say, a Hemant Kumar) in whose voice the poetry came to life. His films are more adult too, in that they deal with issues of life and death, love and loss, expectations and regret. Most of his popular songs philosophise in an accessible way about the deeper issues that underpin everyday life, and are tinged with a sense of mild incomprehension as to what life is all about.

Rajesh Khanna’s tragedy was that when youthfulness thickened into maturity, he was revealed to be just another middle-aged man. His face and body lost the freshness that had masked his morose conservatism, the poetry became a set of practised mannerisms and time and social context pulled the rug from under his feet. He lived the rest of his life in reverse, seeing it recede through the wrong end of the binoculars, beginning with his hey days, till he was barely a distant speck in our consciousness.

When we see Anand, Amar Prem, Aradhana, Safar, Bawarchi or Aavishkar today, we are transported back to another era not only because these are older films but because they expressed a side of us that has rarely been spoken to since. Before a time when cinema became raging spectacle, there seemed to be a brief period when we had the time for thoughtful individuality. The middle class began to take itself less seriously at around this time, as the larger reality of urban India elbowed its way into our consciousness. We miss that Rajesh Khanna of the crinkly eyes and the quiet gesture because in him we saw a reflection of who we would have liked to see in the mirror. Once upon a time.

READMOREhttp://theuncagedsoullifestlye.blogspot.com/2012/07/there-cannot-be-another-rajesh-khanna.html?zx=cd1403f487150ad9

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: