It took many years of struggle for Amitabh Bachchan to establish himself as an actor and wear the tag ‘Big B’. However, fame was much kinder to Rajesh Khanna who was recognised as a ‘Phenomenon’ much early into his career and became the one for whom the word ‘superstar’ was coined.
Khanna, then clearly eclipsed all actors when it came to grabbing success on the silver screen. After all, no other actor has been able to beat his record of consecutive solo super hits, between 1970-79, like Safar, Kati Patang, Sachaa Jhootha, Anand, Amar Prem and Mere Jeevan Saathi. His portrayal of romantic characters had such a profound impact among his countless female fans that they went hysterical to have a glimpse of him. When he ruled Hindi film industry, stories of girls getting married to his photos or standing outside his house for days together, leaving lipstick-laden kiss marks on his car and applying ‘sindoor’ from the blood that flowed after they cut their fingers were a common occurrence. India’s original superstar, as he is now being called, had humble beginnings.
He was born on December 29, 1942 and was adopted by his foster parents. Before being called Rajesh, he was known as Jatin.
He got his first chance as an actor after he won the All India Talent Contest organised by United Producers and Film Fare.
It was at this point, when one of his uncles changed his name to Rajesh Khanna. Over the years, he came to be known as ‘Kaka’ in the film fraternity. In his 40-year career, he has appeared in about 160 films, of which 106 had him playing the sole hero while 22 were two-hero projects. However, his age and the rise of other actors like Amitabh Bachchan brought a sudden stop to his career.
Khanna’s stardom was not untouched by controversies. His tumultuous marriage to Dimple Kapadia and his decision to act in a B-grade film Wafaa starring Laila Khan, who was incidentally killed last year, had shocked many of his fans.