How many actors can boast of having the same popularity in every part of the country? After all, doesn’t the barrier of language limit your stardom? But Rajesh Khanna’s success could defy the borders. An actor whose works were replete with a plethora of roles — the incurable romantic, the brooding man or the do-gooder— Khanna undoubtedly had a mass appeal.
Haathi Mere Saathi, a film written and produced by Sandow MM A. Chinnappa Thevar, is rated to be one of the most watchable children’s film with a dash of drama, making it a complete family saga.
With Khanna opposite Tanuja in the Disneyesque movie that had a generous amount of Indian entertainment, the movie had all the necessary ingredients of a hit film.
With its enduring magic, it was natural that the film was eventually remade as Nalla Neram under the same banner, Devar Films. The film was helmed by MA Thirumugam with none other than M G Ramachandran playing the role played by Khanna in the original. Another superhit MGR film Nam Naadu was a remake of Apna Desh.
Khanna proved his versatility with comedy roles as well and one director who explored the facet was Hrishikesh Mukherjee, who collaborated with him for several hits. Exploring the subject of family harmony and with a protagonist who played the role of bringing together a bunch of squabbling family members, Bawarchi was one of the light-hearted flicks that is considered to have a timeless appeal among audience across regions. Originally inspired by Tapan Sinha’s Bengali classic Galpa Holeo Satyi, the film was remade as Samayal Kaaran in Tamil directed by Thirumalai Mahalingam, starring M K Muthu in one of the few roles he donned in his brief career in films.
Yet another Mukherjee film starring Khanna along with Amitabh Bachchan, Namak Haram was the Indian version of Becket. With another star cast in Tamil, the film produced by K Balaji had Sivaji Ganesan and Gemini Ganesan donning the lead roles in Unakkaga Naan. Avtaar which marked the comeback of Khanna after a slump in his career, dwelt entirely on a subject that offered him a role that was completely his forte. As Avtaar Kishen who beat all odds, the film’s formula was a sure shot route to success. The role was played by none other than the formidable Sivaji Ganesan in its Tamil remake titled Vazhkai.
Madras was no alien to the charm of Khanna, and his films that served as subjects for remakes were testimonials to his popularity.