Bombay Superstar

In 1973, the BBC documentary series Man Alive aired an episode about the then-reigning superstar of Hindi cinema, Rajesh Khanna, called “Bombay Superstar.” Thanks to my friend and fellow Rajesh fan Asli Jat (who also wrote a helpful synopsis of it for me) I managed to finally get a rare look at it: a copy of a VHS tape digitally converted several times, so quality is not optimal, but it’s easily interesting enough to make it worth seeing.

Reporter Jack Pizzey went to India and managed to interview the reclusive star, along with directors Hrishikesh Mukherjee and J. Om Prakash, actors Mumtaz and Shashi Kapoor, and others. Footage includes his surprise wedding to Dimple Kapadia, the Kashmir location shoot of Aap Ki Kasam and the film premiere of Daag. Besides being a profile of Rajesh, it’s also a fascinating look at the politics and power plays inside the industry, and the struggle it takes to stay at the top.

I’ve included some audio clips so that you can have the pleasure of hearing these legendary film personalities speak, along with some (very poor) screen shots of the program.

The program opens on the sets of Namak Haraam, where Hrishikesh Mukherjee is waiting for Rajesh to show up. Pizzey informs us that Rajesh has the “charisma of Rudolph Valentino, the arrogance of Napoleon, and he’s late.”

When Rajesh finally shows up, Mukherjee makes him wait in a game of one-upsmanship. Finally Rajesh makes the first conciliatory move, and goes to meet Mukherjee, who briefly scolds him before they begin shooting. Rajesh has said that his legendary lateness on set was never deliberate but due to his inability to get going in the morning. He also claims to have been generally more punctual than usual when working with Mukherjee, which somewhat negates that first statement. In any case, his habitual tardiness is generally considered a large contributor to his downfall.

His breakup with actress Anju Mahendroo is also briefly mentioned by Pizzey (who calls her his “latest mistress”—I can only imagine how that must have made her feel since she shared a serious long-term relationship with Rajesh).

Even the BBC has trouble getting Rajesh to show up for their scheduled interviews. When he is finally—on the fifth try—granted an audience at the actor’s home, Pizzey asks Rajesh what it’s like to be a star. I’m surprised by Rajesh’s English: it’s more British than Indian-accented. He’s also very soft-spoken.

He comes across as quiet and somewhat shy, but quite candid and sure of getting what he wants.

This interview is followed by footage of his baraat and wedding to Dimple Kapadia. It is interspersed with comments by a gossip columnist for “Star & Style” magazine named Devi. She has known Rajesh for a long time, since before he became famous. She says that he had called her to tell her of his impending nuptials, but she dismissed it as drunken rambling and told him to go to bed! Hilarious. She is quite a character (and we meet her again later).

Next stop is Kashmir, on location with Aap Ki Kasam. Pizzey sits and talks with Rajesh about his heroine-romancing style. Again, Rajesh seems quite shy and a little embarrassed, but demonstrates his characteristic eye-crinkling for Jack and the cameras.

There is extensive footage of the huge crowds that have gathered to watch the day’s filming, and Pizzey asks Rajesh and Mumtaz as they wait on the sidelines what they think of the mayhem. I love Mumtaz’s reaction.

Pizzey then talks about music’s place in Hindi cinema with the film’s director and producer J. Om Prakash, and watches Rajesh and Mumtaz filming the song “Suno Kaho.” He asks Mumtaz about lip-synching and playback singing.

Devi shows up to visit Rajesh and gather fodder for her column, and takes the piss out of him too:

She reminds me of Farah Khan, just a bit, with her caustic wit.

Song filming continues, and when J. Om Prakash is asked about the lack of a kiss to seal the musical romancing, he is quite droll:

Rajesh is shown doing the same step for the “Suno Kaho” picturization over and over and over again, after which he talks about the choreography, doing retakes and playback singing (referring also to whom I can only assume must be Kishore Kumar).

The BBC crew takes Mumtaz out in a Kashmiri boat to get her away from the crowds, and Pizzey talks to her about stardom, and about an article which Devi has written about Mumtaz on her return to Bombay, which casts aspersions on Mumtaz’s mother’s character. Mumtaz has decided to sue.

She talks a little about the pitfalls of stardom as well.

I love getting to see Mumtaz as Mumtaz (or at least as much as she’s willing to be “herself” in front of a stranger). She is just gorgeous, too.

Back in Bombay, it’s time for the annual Filmfare awards, and Rajesh is reportedly unhappy that he hasn’t won (he has won the Best Actor trophy the previous two years in a row).

I have to say that if I were an actor I’d be pretty upset about losing an acting award to Manoj Kumar too (for Be-Imaan). Rajesh’s fans aren’t happy either, as Filmfare editor Mr. Karanja explains to Pizzey.

A friend of Rajesh’s is throwing a party on the same night as the awards show and is busily inviting everyone who is anyone. Devi opines that in order to be considered a success, Rajesh’s party will need at least five big stars to show up. On the day of the awards, Rajesh himself is reported to have fallen ill, but no one is really buying it. The big question is: will he show up at the Filmfare show, at his party, at both or at neither? Nobody knows for sure except Rajesh and he’s not telling.

At the party, Devi says that only one big name has shown up (Dilip Kumar) although I’ve spotted another one whose name I consider big, anyway, and that’s beautiful Rakhee.

Rajesh and Dimple do eventually arrive, but general consensus gives the win on this one to Filmfare. The next morning Rajesh denies any ulterior motive behind the party, and then in the next breath claims to have been missed by the awards show attendees.

It’s an appropriate segue into a discussion of Rajesh’s recent failures (Devi says five flops in a row, Rajesh himself says four). He seems keenly aware of the repercussions.

His film Daag is releasing the next day, and his hopes are pinned on it. Pizzey talks to Dimple as she has her hair done for the premiere.

Shashi Kapoor (billed by Pizzey as Rajesh’s “main rival” with his own period of flops behind him) is interviewed on what makes a film successful.

He’s much more talkative than Rajesh!

Daag is taken to the rural villages (where it’s shown in a tent put up specially for the occasion, with loudspeakers providing the audio). Consensus there is that the film is good, but not worth repeated viewings: a hint that it may not be the hit that Rajesh needs so desperately.

The fascination of this documentary for me was that it’s very rare to see such footage of industry players from that era. There may have been too much time given to Devi, in that she seemed to have a bit of her own agenda; but she was very entertaining, and that’s what it’s all about. It’s evident that the BBC crew didn’t do a lot of research into Rajesh Khanna’s life or the Hindi film industry in general; the tone is occasionally patronizing and the questions pretty basic, but there’s gold in there anyway.

Rajesh himself was going through a lot at that point in his life (although I believe Daag went on to be a pretty good hit for him—in any case, I like it!). It’s fascinating to get a glimpse into what that level of fame and success brings. The last shot of the documentary shows him looking out the window at the crowd of adoring fans thronged in front of his house, before he returns to his lonely seat to contemplate his uncertain future. Pizzey’s voiceover says: “The Superstar may not be quite so super anymore.”

I wonder what he would have to say about the program today, with the perspective of time.

I hope this post has given some of the flavor of the entire thing. I also hope that maybe one day the BBC will release it on DVD! Hindi film history is rarely documented like this, and for that reason alone it’s a treasure.

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83 Comments to “Bombay Superstar”

  1. I am completely fascinated by this post and its subject. I’ll join you in hoping for a DVD; I would love to see it myself!

  2. I actually went to the site I link to in the first paragraph and found the contact information and sent an email asking about it: http://www.bfi.org.uk/help/contact.php/contact.php.

    *See new info here*

    This is what they replied:

    Thank you for your email.

    Unfortunately this material is not available on DVD or as a download. As Man Alive was a BBC production, it would be up to the BBC to decide whether they wished to make it available.

    Unfortunately, many films and most TV programmes – particularly older titles – will never have been released on DVD or video in Britain. Others may have been released at one time, but will have since been deleted from stock and will therefore not be available to purchase.

    For British terrrestrial television programmes, the two largest commercial archives in Britain are BBC Motion Gallery – http://www.bbcmotiongallery.com – and ITN Source (which handles Channel 4’s archive and a large part of ITV’s output) – http://www.itnsource.com. Please note, however, that these archives are focused to supply commercial, rather than private, usage.

    So I went to the bbcmotiongallery site and clicked on “contact” and sent them an email.

    Probably wouldn’t hurt to have more people do the same!

  3. WOWWWWW- thank u thank u

    u are a superstar urself for putting this together and posting it. I still dont love RK, but I am reveling in all the Bollywood gossip and commentary!

  4. i think i like RK better after watching/reading this – seriously. And shashi is so adorable- as I’d imagine him to be. I love how human they came thru.

  5. shweta: It’s all thanks to Asli Jat that it’s up here! I owe him big time :-) And the documentary does humanize RK. He is remarkably up front about his tactics. Even his comment about his party being a “coincidence” wasn’t meant to convince. His insecurities and fears aren’t hidden either—but (to be fair) neither is his very powerful charm.

    Plus I love that he forces the pompous BBC reporter to rethink his position in the world by blowing him off over and over!

  6. Memsaab—Great recap! And many, many thanks to Asli Jat for facilitating this.

    It was a real eye-opener, there is almost nothing like this that I have seen of that period. What was especially interesting is the time that this was filmed—right during Rajesh’s break-up with Anju Mahendroo and subsequent marriage to Dimple. Also, a time when he was reeling from the series of flops. And of course the Devyani Chaubal (Devi) bits were hilarious!

    Hits and Flops: Since this was just before Daag released in mid 1973, I guess the five flops that Devi was referring to were Dil Daulat Duniya (1972), Maalik (1972), Mere Jeevan Saathi (1972), Shehzada (1972), and Raja Rani (January 1973). Rajesh says four, and he’s probably right, as Shehzada apparently did quite well. I can quite see the anxiety about Daag and notwithstanding how the documentary finishes with the thought that it’s doing ok, but not that well, it did turn out to be a super hit and one of the highest grossers of 1973. Probably did very well in the towns and small towns rather than the villages which is what Pizzey focused on.

    What was also interesting is Rajesh’s admission that he needed to do something different in recognition of his films not running. I also think that bit about shooting for two films a day was actually a comedown for him but a decision he’d made deliberately because one of the reasons for his films failing was over exposure. He had way too many releases in 1972 (I believe it was 10!) and he wanted to cut down on his commitments and did.

    I actually think that his 1973 films were very effective in terms of establishing his acting chops though Daag was the only super successful release. However, he had Aavishkar and Namak Haram come out after Daag and both are acknowledged to be amongst his best work. He also had an extraordinarily successful 1974 with 3 jubilee hits (Aap Ki Kasam, Prem Nagar and Roti), one hit (Ajanabee) and just the one flop with Humshakal. Prem Kahani which released in 1975 did kind of ok but wasn’t the megahit that one expected out of him and then, of course, because he’d cut down on work he didn’t have any other releases as leading man that year. And we all know what happened with Maha Chor in 1976—disaster!

    Devi: She’s immensely entertaining though I’d take what she says with some salt! Devi, of course, was instrumental in keeping Rajesh in the news after Aradhana and his winning streak coining “The Phenomenon” for him. However, from what I understand from fans that were around at that time, Devi apparently wrote later that she and he had had a “relationship” and put out all the gory details! He never spoke to her again and that lasted until she died.

    Filmfare Award: The whole filmfare award thing was quite hilarious as shown here! That year (1973) Manoj Kumar won the best actor award for Be-imaan, as you noted, that nobody even remembers anymore. I mean you think of Manoj Kumar and you think Roti, Kapda aur Makaan, Shor, Kranti, Sanyasi (Hema was delectable) not Be-imaan. From Rajesh’s 1972 releases that were hits (flop film performances never got you the award no matter how good you were in them) he had Dushman, Amar Prem, Bawarchi, Apna Desh and Shehzada. The other big films in 1972 were Seeta aur Geeta (Hema’s show), Pakeezah (Meena Kumari’s show), Raja Jani (with Dharam but again Hema ruled), Victoria 203 (Navin Nischol). Maybe RK had reason here to be miffed?!

    About RK: I’ve never seen the young RK on electronic media so this was a real eye-opener. He’s always been called a loner—there were screaming headlines in some film magazine after his marriage which said something about “the loner’s now been socialized”. That came across here too, didn’t seem to want to expound much at all, unlike the clip with Shashi later with all his bits about the Indian film going public. He seemed guarded, rather insecure and quite young—he was only 31.

    Overall, I think that the BBC crew didn’t do its homework, make the right contacts, etc. They assumed that they’d get automatic access because they were the BBC, quite wrongly as it happened of course when they got the runaround which was rather amusing. In conclusion, very interesting and rare. Thanks so much again AJ and Memsaab.

    Apologies for the huge essay!

  7. Suhan: Thanks for adding context and filling in details and gaps on what was going on in Bollywood at that time (and your encyclopedic knowledge of RK helps a lot too)…

  8. BTW, memsaab, I followed the link you provided and left a request. I guess we’ll see if it renders any results…

  9. O Wow! Thanks for taking the time to put up the audio-clips. RK did do interviews and public speeches when he campaigned in the 1991 elections. But I have never heard Mumtaz speak outside of her movies and Shashi Kapoor not from those days. It is interesting to hear these people in their heydays – like being given a brief spell on the time-machine! :-)

    From the clips you’ve put RK sounds really uncommunicative – the interviewer seems to be doing most of the talking! Hope RK’s expressions were more communicative than that.

  10. Thanks so much memsaab for this gem of a post!
    I also thought that RK was a bit like when they interview footballers here, mono syllabic and a bit boring!
    Bu then when I heard for the 3rd time the inane question about playback lip synch: I would have hit the reporter on the head! I mean by that time playback was well into its 25th year? counting playback as beginning as from 48-49 with the departure of Noor Jehan.

    As several others have mentioned, talk about not doing your HW and being patronising. So I give full marks to RK for not kowtowing over, whcih many during that time would have been tempted to do.

    I really never liked RK even during his heights of stardom (too young and permanently rebellious in choices), but have to admit that Bawarchi or Amar Prem would have been better than Manoj Kumar even in one his better films, let alone Be-Imaan.

    In an interview, Laxmikant-Pyarelal said that they came into notice for winning? their award as relative unknowns, and that they had “invested” 1 lakh rupees to buy up 1000s of Filmfares and fill out that form and posting it, presumably with hired help….& they thought it was quite a normal thing to do!

  11. Thanks for putting this post together in such a professional manner.

    Glad you picked up on Rajesh’s comments about playback singers & their association with particular stars.

    He was dead right when he said that there was a lot of similarity in their voices. For people of my generation, you could only ever imagine Kishore Kumar & Rajesh Khanna together. Even when listening to other songs by Kishore in that early ’70’s era & later, you could only envision them being picturized on Rajesh.

  12. God, I am so jealous. I’ll do the same, go on the link and ask for a DVD or a download. I don’t particularly like Rajesh Khanna but this post is fascinating. Thanks for posting all those audio links. Specially listening to Hrishikesh Mukherjee, J Om Prakash and of course, Devi.

    I used to gobble up her column as a kid, she wrote very bitter, very caustic stuff. Of course, Rajesh Khanna was her obsession. Another thread that ran through her columns very often was Raj Kapoor and his obsession with her breasts! The stuff I grew up reading.

    By the way, her voice too seemed similar to Farah’s, did it to you? And Mumtaz suddenly started sounding like Hema Malini!

    It’s the first time I’ve even seen a photo of Rajesh’s house exterior. Only the BBC could have wangled their way in there. But even then, he is so reticent.

    And honest too, in his love of his superstardom, and his fear as he sees it subside. Shahrukh Khan said recently in an interview that once he stops being a superstar, he’ll retreat from public life. He won’t be able to take that loss.

    Sad, but true.

  13. Wow! Thanks so much! I’ve never seen any footage of RK from his heydays! It’s either the usual press interviews, or the gossip columns. And thanks so much for the Shashispeak! :D

  14. This was a stupendous treat!

    Was unable to listen in, but made do with your story. The last 8-9 clips didn’t open up.

    RK was the first major ‘STAR’ in Indian cinema. People writing in blood and killing themselves following his marriage. The sort of thing seen only in South cinema otherwise.

    Those were also the years when AB was taking over. After Anand and Namak Haraam (both movies in which I liked RK a lot) it was AB all the way.

    Devyani was totally smitten (too tame a word!) by RK. You could tell her about being a fan of someone else and she’d give you a hundred reasons for becoming RK’s fan! She was cursed right and proper by nearly everyone she wrote about! And sadly for her, almost all in her family died young of various illnesses and she herself was hospitalised with hardly anyone going to see her before her early demise.

    Enjoyed Suhan’s post.

  15. And yes, Banno’s comment reminded me of Devi’s ‘other RK’ and yes, his obsession with her breasts! Devi’s columns were not only catty and caustic, but filled with lurid details :P I think she was the columnist for Star & Style (which I think is defunct now).

    One of my friends in Bombay recently spotted RK. He was standing in front of his bungalow in his kurta-pyjama, staring at the sea, and people were simply passing him by, no one pausing for a look. Really tragic!

  16. Aah old school cinema, yes, sadly little has been documented in form of making of’s and stuff. Even trailers sometimes seem like utter rarities, which is odd, you’d think they’d have some lying around to stick on a DVD or two.

    This sounds like a gem and I hope BBC would have the opportunity to put it out on DVD. It also reminds me of this French document from the 60’s that mostly filmed dancing schools in South-India but also managed to get a little glimpse of filming of a Tamil classic Thillana Mohanambal (though the voice over had no regard for Indian cinema, so typical!).

  17. RAJESH KHANNA – THE GREATEST LEGEND & REAL AND ONLY SUPER STAR OF INDIAN CINEMA

    There are romantic leading men and there are romantic leading men, but very few have taken cinematic love to legendary heights. While there might be other icons but Super-Star- Actor Rajesh Khanna after four decades, he is the ultimate true romantic legend.

  18. ajnabi: Thanks! Hope others who read this do too *hint hint hint*

    bollyviewer: A Hindi cinema time machine!!!! It just makes me want to see more. RK was visibly uncomfortable being interviewed, and honestly the questions were so dumb, a ten-year-old could have been asking them: “Do you like being a star?” I mean, come on! I didn’t blame him one bit.

    bawa: Ha ha, yes he was fairly dismissive of the playback singing question. In fact at the end of that clip when he says “Absolutely accepted!” he also gives Jack a “look” that silences him—you’ll notice that there’s a short pause and then Jack says “fine” and RK says “Shall we have some lunch?” Hilarious. I loved how dismissive he was, Jack richly deserved it.

    AJ: *big virtual hug* Thank you! my friend for sharing it with me. It’s a real treasure! RK’s love for music really came through—it was the most enthusiastic he sounded in all the interviews, and he clearly did have a great time with the song picturization.

    Banno: Devi was a big find for me! I had never even heard of her, but I googled her yesterday and found all kinds of fascinating stuff. Lord, I have so much to learn. And yes, she does sound just like Farah Khan, literally and figuratively!

    sreya: Oh if only I had been the one to spot RK outside his bungalow! Although I might have frightened him into never coming outside again ever :-)

    gilga: Try the clips again, perhaps the hosting server was having problems at the time. I won’t send him my blood but RK can add me to his list of fans!

    veracious: It is a gem, hope you went to the BBC link and put in your two cents’ worth too.

  19. Memsaab,

    WOW! Am at work, so cannot listen to the clips now, will do so at home tonight – but WOW! Fantastic find (Thanks Asli Jat) – I remember Devi’s columns – my mom would censor some of them if she thought they were too racy! I’m now consumed by a desire to see if my pack-rat parents saved any magazines! I remember we used to subscribe to Illustrated Digest, Star and Style, and later Stardust – I know they have Readers Digest all the way from the 40s, but possibly these “film” magazines may have been deemed “trash” and sold for raddi…anyway, will go look, next time I go to India!

    M

  20. M: Do give them a listen, you’ll love them. Old Bollywood film magazines (from the 70’s and 80’s) sell for something like $30-$50 each! and they are even pretty rare there. So hopefully you can retrieve a stash from your parents and share them with meeeee *hint hint*

  21. Wow! Thanks for this post!! It really is a shame that Bollywood history is not better documented. I propose that we raise funds to film a behind-the-scenes look at the industry today and get some of the last legends of the old days on film along with some directors and people we don’t usually hear from.

    *starts counting pennies*

  22. If I only had a sugar daddy!!!! *wrings hands and sighs* ;-)

  23. memsaab if you go on youtube and search up “Chunky Lafunga” it is hilarious parody of the same interview, on a brilliant show BBC comedy show with indian comedians meera syal, sanjeev bhaskar, nina wadia, and others who’ve been in Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, and Namastey London. the actor does a funny side-splitting job of showing the arrogance/shyness of Rajesh through his character Chunky! its LOL

  24. Rum: Do you mean this one? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sITgFMggxW4

    It’s not really anything like this documentary, to be honest. But it IS hilarious! :-)

  25. WOW again! I saw this documentry when I was a kid. I am sure that my Dad had it on VHS. Alas – the VHS will be in the UK and I am in the US.

    Next visit I’m going to hunt for it – aside from that I am sure that we have the whole Movie Mahal channel 4 series (if you haven’t seen it all I can say is it’s the most amazing long running series on Hindi movies that has ever been made anywhere!)

    I think that as these things won’t get released it’s time to start saving what we can from whatever source we can get!

  26. Thanks Memsaab and AJ for this marvelous piece.

    I enjoy your comment Suhan.

    Thanks to those who commented.

  27. Manohar and Abhijit from RK forum is either the same guy or twin fans of RK

  28. I LOVE you!!! This is precisely the kind of thing that appeals to me! K, now I have to go listen to the stuff before I say anything coherent.

  29. Woww…that was a brilliant post Memsaab….the audio files aren’t playing for some reason right now…but m gonna play them at any cost..can somebody put the videos on youtube for us not so privileged indians??

  30. well i guess not like the documentary above, but on the dvd they all said they watched it and wanted to slightly parody it!

  31. M:
    Yes, all those magazines! I had to read the Star & Style at my cousin’s house, as it was considered “trashy”, which it was in comparison! For films we got Filmfare, and a large weekly broadsheet newspaper called SCREEN. Anyone remember that? They didn’t write that much gossip, and were more newsy, although Filmfare had a funny page where readers sent in letter spotting “bloopers” in films.

    By Illustrated Digest, you mean Illustrated Weekly of India? That was edited by Khushwant Singh when we read it. In addition we had Femina, Sports weekly, Imprint, Reader’s Digest American one, as the Indian one didn’t come along till later plus a host of other magazines, comics, newspapers subscription. Our house resembled the reading room of a public library…but racier stuff like Stardust and Star & Style were not taken!

    Unfortunately, all of it went into Raddi too every couple of months, in fact there was a special cupboard where the stuff accumulated.

    But somewhere there must be official collections? or is that too much to hope for?

  32. Muz: Oh please do rescue what you can from oblivion :-) It’s pretty easy to digitize them.

    radzi: I don’t know if Manohar and Abhijit are the same person (although I don’t think so), but Manohar is banned from here now unless he can come up with something new to say, which I doubt he will since his own “blog” consists of posts that he’s stolen without attribution from me and other bloggers.

    Amrita: Let me know what you think!

    toonfactory: Keep trying, I don’t know why the audio isn’t working for some people. They aren’t very big files and they are mp3s so it should be no problem…

    Rum: It was very funny and I’m glad you shared it, but RK didn’t come across as arrogant at all. He didn’t seem to care if the BBC interviewed him or not and was not interested in the least in impressing them. But Chunky is hilarious! :-)

    bawa: Oh the sadness that it’s all gone, although I am guilty too of throwing away the Stardust and Filmfares that I bought in India for reading on the plane home. I suspect that the “official collection” hope may be optimistic…but you never know.

  33. According to friends at the RK forums, the National Film Institute library in Pune has copies of every issue of every film magazine from the 1950s till date.

  34. God bless the National Film Institute. I think I may need to spend one or two months there.

  35. Also:

    National Film Archive of India
    Jaikar Bungalow
    P.O. Box No. 810
    Law College Road
    Pune 411 004, INDIA

    Phone: 91 20 25652259
    http://www.nfaipune.gov.in/main_page.htm

  36. Bawa,

    Oh yes, I did mean Illustrated Weekly – thanks. Knew something was off with the name, couldn’t think what :-) I think we got almost all the ones your family did, plus some regional language ones for my grandmother.

    I wonder if any of the secondhand stores in India have any old film mags? Time to round up brother and send him to check!

    M

  37. Memsaab: Absolutely splendid post. Thank you! Patronizing interviews by the Western press about Indian cinema have not improved by and large, I still read/hear similar interviews. Scant research, not even movie-watching before turning on the mike. The harping on the playback singing issue reminded me of the obsessive way European interviewers sometimes quiz Americans minutely about whether everyone in the US packs a pistol. Although Hollywood publicity insisted stars sang in their own voices, it wasn’t always true, and treated like a shameful secret, unlike the complete openess about playback in Hindi films. Rajesh’s discretion sounds to me (on sound clips!) as insecurity about his stardom, as if being too open would be a sort of jinx.

  38. Hi Laura, glad you enjoyed it! I will remember the BBC whenever an Indian person asks me politely (and patronizingly) when I say I love Hindi movies: “Oh, did you see Lagaan?” :-P

  39. Memsaab said:

    “Rum: It was very funny and I’m glad you shared it, but RK didn’t come across as arrogant at all. He didn’t seem to care if the BBC interviewed him or not and was not interested in the least in impressing them.”

    People said RK is arrogant…bla…bla…

    But actually he was/is a simple person. Most of the times, he was ignoring and dodging ‘hypes’ thrown-out onto him.

    Seen the salute SRK gave him on you-tube, Rajesh was un-ease with all the saluting. It seems that he wanted not to in the part of te ceremony all together much less trying to impress people….

    Call him loner or whatever….he is of a different mold from today’s actors.

  40. radzi: It made him quite different from actors of his day too I think! I found Bhawana Somaaya’s articles about him very interesting:

    http://www.screenindia.com/old/archive/archive_fullstory.php?content_id=257
    http://www.screenindia.com/old/archive/archive_fullstory.php?content_id=408

    She also interviewed him later, in the 80’s. You can access those from the dropdown at the bottom of the page(s) too…

  41. FiLMiNDiA: Is that Rajesh dressed as a girl? :-) I recognize Shammi from his film Boy Friend with Madhubala. Have not seen Rajesh in drag though!

  42. Re: Life is strange, especially on the internet.

  43. i know he’s not arrogant, but to me he just seemed calculating and insecure, please don’t beat me with a stick now!

  44. Rum, nobody will ever be allowed to beat you here, not even me :-) He did come across as calculating (he basically even admitted to that) and insecure. But Chunky played it as arrogant, that’s why it didn’t remind me of the documentary. Enough said? :-)

  45. Memsaab,

    Contradicting information. RK is not lone…lone..lonely…

    Akshay Kumar said his father in-law is always with friends…..

    http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=274949506&blogID=334352991

  46. radzi: That’s a really nice interview with Akshay! Thanks for sharing :-)

  47. Somaaya wrote: “…. that his pride is a defence mechanism held between him and the rest of the world because he doesn’t want anyone to know he’s lonely… damn, damn, damn lonely….”

    Somaaya wrote: “……he expects a lot of tolerance from others, when he creeps into his shell….”

    BUT…she also wrote: “…Saturday July 22: Today is a good diary day. Rajesh Khanna’s on top of the world, ready to come out of his shell and talk. ”

    ….and he talked about stuffs (sexy stuffs) that you would think twice to even shared with close friends…..much less nosy writers….and from RK who had been holding himself from his shell?????

    Hard to believe this Somaaya article. Sorry just hard. Not from RK who trying to aloof himself from all this gossip.

    Sorry…I do not bite.

  48. hey thanks for this post these are some exclusive pictures and the post itself is superb, i liked it a lot.

  49. radzi: You don’t have to! but it’s interesting to read her perspective—she spent way more time with him than I ever will.

    reehaana: You are welcome, glad you liked it :-)

  50. Thank you for this post, everything in it is very interesting.
    Mumtaz looks georgeous.

    And on an unrelated note?

    Is that Rani Mukherjee’s father?

  51. Eliza: Mumtaz is gorgeous, and no Hrishikesh Mukherjee is not Rani’s father. Her father is Ram Mukherjee, who is related to Joy and Deb Mukherjee, whose brother Shomu is Kajol’s father. Ram is a cousin of Joy, Deb and Shomu (his father was their father Sashadhar’s brother). Now my head hurts. They are also incidentally related to Ashok, Anoop and Kishore Kumar, whose sister is Joy, Deb and Shomu’s mother.

  52. Memsaab said: “..radzi: You don’t have to! but it’s interesting to read her perspective—she spent way more time with him than I ever will.”

    She spent time around him for info to ridicule him back? That is grain salt on cuts.

    Never have I seen a superstar been attacked by media more than Rajesh Khanna….and no wonder he admitted that: “It is lonely to be at the top”

    …..and maybe that was why he stayed down???

  53. Bhawana Somaaya…..love to expose and ridicule Rajesh Khanna personal life.

    http://www.screenindia.com/old/fullstory.php?content_id=7148

  54. radzi, I don’t see her writing about him as critical at all…in fact I think she finds him quite fascinating. I admit I don’t “get” the AB vs RK thing at all either, I don’t see how fans have anything to gain from tearing one or the other down. I think RK is quite happy to be retired and out of the public eye: good for him! And if Amitabh continues to act, good for him too.

  55. Memsaab,

    I do not see an RK vs. AB either. It is not like your Shammi vs. RK where both are doing romantic roles.

    AB and his camps triumph was that they managed to change the game. Action movies replaced melody dramas.

    Down-trodden years in end 80s as a result where good music composers and talented singers were less appreciated…..and barren in the talent pool.

  56. Memsaab–You’ve chanced upon the one immutable truth, the twain between the fans of these two shall never meet! Much like the Delhi vs Bombay, which is better, argument. See below :-)

    “Bombay vs Delhi arguments with visiting relatives raged over the dinner table. It was a bit like the Rajesh Khanna vs Amitabh Bachchan divide—passionate and unbridgeable. ”

    http://www.outlookindia.com/diary.asp?fodname=20010514

  57. Er sorry to have mangled Kipling up so bad! Let’s just say it as he did: “Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet”.

  58. I’m glad I don’t have to choose!!! I couldn’t give either one of them up, city OR actor!

  59. I love this post – I’ve only just been able to listen to the soundbites – I couldn’t when you first put it up, it due to the poor internet connection I had at the time. Anyway, it’s truly fascinating stuff, and it would be great if it was widely available – I’ve sent an email to the BBC Motion Gallery as well. Thanks so much for sharing this.

  60. DG, I think the soundbites (or interviews in the actual documentary) are the best part of this. It’s so nice to hear legendary directors and actors and others from the industry talking about what was going on at the time. I just love Hrishida’s bit, can listen to it over and over.

  61. ooooooh..i’d been looking for this! thank you!

  62. I’m very sad to say that the BBC does not seem in the least interested in their treasure here.

    Sigh. It’s a sad, sad waste…but I’m glad I could share a bit of it thanks to my pal AJ :)

  63. I am adding this comment to share a link to the first part of the documentary on youtube which AJ has just put up (he is adding the whole thing in sections), and he has worked hard to improve the picture quality as well (it’s a second generation VHS tape conversion):

  64. Three cheers for AJ and Mr. Naidu! Absolutely stellar job.Thanks again, and thanks to you too Memsaab for a great post.

  65. Just watched this thanks to Mister Naidu’s blog post, and read all the enlightening comments here as well. Very cool. I’d have to agree about the lack of homework and annoying harping on playback but there are still some classic quotes: “When Mumtaz pouts, she knows what she’s doing.” “Suicides are expected.”
    (Non-filmi music used in a couple sections was from the German band Neu!, I wonder if they were used for the theme music of the BBC series.)

  66. Yeah,its up on Youtube now. Thanks memsaab for letting me know about this. Great footage there, the Dimple-Rajesh marriage, the Aap Ki Kasam shoot. Nice to know that the superstar looked as gorgeous “off-camera” so to speak as he did in the films of that period. Ending the documentary with the Daag viewing in a distant dusty village, where the towncrier announces the traveling movie–great stuff. So that was the target audience.

  67. thank u memsaab. i remember reading devi colimn in star and style magazine.

  68. Sorry to join the party late but this is one post I totally missed!

    Thanks AJ & Memsaab for giving us this and Suhan for offering that wonderful perspective. I have heard a relative who once sat next to RK (in his heyday) on a flight say that he was very well behaved and quite oblivious to the attention he was getting. Maybe he was bit of a reserved person.

    I do not have much to add except that in the 70s, one often heard people say that while BBC coverage was great and reliable, commentators based outside were known to speak disparagingly about things involving India (sports, films). It took a Mark Tully, the BBC Delhi Bureau chief to significantly change that opinion with his coverage of major Indian events in the 80s.

  69. Rajesh Khanna was the sole superstar material actor in the period 1968-1976.
    it was media and politics in film industry – with many actors being jealous of Rajesh Khanna for his excellent acting and his filmography.
    frankly speaking in the filmfare award function held in 1973 – rajesh khanna should have won for Amar Prem or for Dushman.
    Mnaoj Kumar may have had hits like Dus Numbri, Sanyasi or Beimaan but they are not noteworthy films …alos they are reallyt crap film. How did Filmfare even nominate him against Rajesh Khanna in the function held in 1973.

    @ Memsaab and even others — Its totally wrong when people randomly say that Rajesh Khanna had a fall after 1976….its utter rubbish.
    He has 156 films to his credit ( which includes spl appearances etc), and of them 99 solo hero films and 14 2-hero projects with even the other actor having central role in the film as the lead hero and 32 special appearances and 5 unreleased films.

    see the record – Rajesh Khanna has 80 superhit films of the 99+14 (solo+multi and excl spl app). just 23 flops of which 13 are good films but unfortunately flopped.

    he has done films of all genres and has accpeted different roles than just repeating the same roles.
    he did not take much time to get into a character like Aamir Khan and still gave strong performances back to back. just see his filmography ….that speaks volumes.
    for continuous period of 25 years 1966-1992, he has had releases and has given superhits @ box office from 1967-1991(except 1978).
    plus even some of his films which flopped were also good..
    Khanna gave many classics from 1966-1992…..take note of it.

    this is the reason he is greater than dilip kumar or amitabh.
    only pran , sanjeev kumar, sivaji ganeshan, mgr share same pedestal as Rajesh Khanna as far as acting goes.

  70. Given how largely Devi (Devyani Chaubal) features in this documentary, found the attached on her and Rajesh which is rather sad.

    “…Rajesh Khanna is clustered in memory with Devyani Chaubal. For those of you who don’t know, or don’t remember, DC was a gossip columnist with Star & Style. Devyani was a well-connected Maharashtrian with once-beautiful features. Like The Superstar, her hair was thinning under her back-combed bouffant. She was middle-aged, single, and desperately in love with Rajesh Khanna. Also, she was under the delusion that The Superstar reciprocated her love. Insiders hinted that he had once seduced her.

    How we mocked Devyani, how she fuelled our laughter! Every week, her column would revolve around The Khanna, what he said, what he did, and all of this would be flavoured with meaningful innuendos about the “special” relationship between The Superstar and her.

    Devyani Chaubal had a sharp mind, and a pen dipped in vitriol. She wrote really well, except for her tragic vulnerability on this one obsessive subject. We laughed then, we bright young Super immortals, we sneered and hooted at her column.

    “I want to look like a million dollars,” she told me when we had lunch together. That was the last time I met her. Devyani overdid her diet, as she overdid everything, and she fell ill from malnutrition. She deteriorated. Then she slipped into a diabetic coma, and her friends who loved her looked after her.

    I don’t know if Rajesh Khanna visited her in hospital, but looking back and remembering her after all these years, I recognise there was something heroic and magnificent about her one-sided love, and I feel a bit sad and stupid about the way we had all laughed at her.”

    http://www.firstpost.com/ideas/super-days-a-remembrance-of-bollywood-past-16439.html/2

    • :( That is a great link Suhan, but poor Devyani! I thought her quite attractive and very funny in the documentary…but it takes more than that for romance to last…

  71. Hi Greta,

    Don’t know if you have watched it , but this documentary is also on you tube.

    Given below is the link.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWwsYTYJn2s (this is part 1 of 9)

    Found another very brief documentary on Dharmendra called Hamara Dharam. I guess the full version must be there somewhere.

  72. It looks as if Farah Khan borrowed heavily from this when making ‘Om Shanti Om’

  73. i wish there were more journos like devyani chaubal

  74. This is available on Youtube:

  75. Devi had a love/hate relationship with kaka. They stopped talking after devi made some caustic remarks on kaka.

    It was only in 1983 after avtaar was declared a hit (her column in S&S titled ‘I told you so – the return of rajesh”)that kaka sent her flowers & they patched up.

  76. The documentary was one sided & showed rajesh & the hindi film industry in very poor light. To add to that, we had shashi kapoor being apologetic doing hindi films.

    The interviewer asked childish questions & no wonder, he was shown in place by rajesh. He made them run around before meeting them & them gave them monosyllable answers which must have irritated them n o end.

    They deserved it.

    Talking od devyani chaubhal, she was very critical of rajesh. She termed kaka’s “Aaj ka MLA” as khanna’s noisiest flop. She spewed venom on him. Case of sour grapes?

  77. Very good post Memsaab. FYI, the entire video is on youtube now. I also feel the interviewer Jack Pizzey was very biased against Indian Cinema – he sounded almost racist! It seemed Rajesh had no idea that he would be interpreted and presented in the documentary in such a bad light. Here’s another post online about how extremely polarized the industry was against him right from the early70’s: http://tanqeed.com/rajesh-khanna-interview-and-career-and-boxoffice-analysis-article-from-1975/

    Poor guy – he didn’t deserved to be hated to that extent by the industry – he seemed to be a simple and shy, and a very private person. May he be in peace now.

  78. Incidentally,i am currently reading a book on rajesh khanna by yaseen usman titled kuchh to log kahenge.it throws light in detail over professional and personal life of superstar rk.

  79. Seems you showed us the entire video. Thanks for taking the pain

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