Rajesh Khanna is dead, pall of gloom on Bollywood

RajeshMUMBAI: Bollywood’s original superstar Rajesh Khanna, who charmed his way into the hearts of millions of swooning women in the 1960s and 70s, died here today.

69-year-old Khanna, who shot to superstardom with the 1969 hit ‘Aradhana’ opposite Sharmila Tagore, passed away at his home, two days after being discharged from Lilawati hospital. He had been ailing since April.

Though a romantic hero, Khanna essayed a variety of roles with ease in his illustrious career spanning four decades. His portrayal as a cancer patient in the Hrishikesh Mukherjee-film ‘Anand’ (1971) in which he got the better of Amitabh Bachchan left many teary eyed.

Nicknamed “Kaka” by his adoring fans, he is survived by estranged actress wife Dimple Kapadia and daughters Twinkle and Rinkie, all of whom were by his side when his end came.

Khanna’s family as also Lilawati Hospital authorities were tightlipped about the nature of the actor’s illness.

“We cannot tell you about the nature of Khanna’s illness….Please get in touch with his family,” a spokesman for Lilawati who identified himself only as Dr Trivedi told PTI.

According to sources close to the family, the cremation will take place tomorrow.

Vijay, a close friend of Khanna who had been interacting with the media since his illness, said, “Kaka’s food intake had gone down over the last few days making him very weak.”

The news of Khanna’s death this afternoon spread like wildfire and hundreds of teary-eyed fans descended at his bungalow ‘Ashirwad’ in Bandra.

“My father-in-law is no more. He has gone to a nice and heavenly place. I am happy that he has gone there and hope that everyone will pray for him,” his actor son-in-law Akshay Kumar told waiting reporters and fans outside ‘Ashirwad’.

Several Bollywood celebrities including actors Rishi Kapoor, Prem Chopra and film maker Shahid Khan visited Khanna’s home to pay homage to the actor.

The veteran actor, who lived a secluded life of late, recently appeared for a film advertisement of a well known brand of fan, his faces and eyes sunken. His real fans were shocked to see him a pale shadow of his former self.

During his illustrious career Khanna gave 15 consecutive solo superhits between 1969 and 1972 including “Aradhana”, “Haathi Mere Saathi”, “Anand” and “Amar Prem”.

Shabana Azmi, who starred opposite Khanna in films such as “Amar Deep”, “Thodisi Bewafaii” and “Avtaar”, said, “He was the superstar like no other, did 10 films with him. Met him last at Apsara awards. Pale shadow of himself but smile as winsome RIP RajeshK.”

“Rajesh Khanna gave us a crash course in Romance. He introduced us to a special twinkle in the eye that made us feel good about ourselves. RIP,” Anupam Kher wrote.

“Another of Hindi cinema’s giants passes, Rajesh Khanna.

Our sincere condolences to his family. We will miss him dearly,” Madhuri Dixit tweeted.

“Too young. Too early. Tragic. RIP Rajesh Khanna. A candle that burned brighter than any star for too short a time,” filmmaker Shekhar Kapur said.

“When we lose a loved one, something within us dies. Our generation loved Rajesh Khanna. Today a bit if us dies with this enigmatic star,” Mahesh Bhatt tweeted.

“Just heard the sad news, heartfelt condolences & prayers to the family to cope with this irreparable loss, RIP Rajesh Khanna, a Superstar always,” said Shilpa Shetty.

“Rip Rajesh Khanna,” said Sonam Kapoor.

“RIP to the 1st king of romance… Rajesh Khanna,” Shahid Kapoor posted on the micro-blogging site.

“Loss of a Superstar! Iconic Actor! RIP Rajesh Khanna!,” Bipasha Basu posted. -PTI