The man who mesmerized women of all ages for almost a decade, got letters from them written their own blood, and caused mass hysteria wherever he went, Rajesh Khanna, is the subject of this documentary:
BBC reporter Jack Pizzey managed to get exceptional access to Rajesh Khanna and the result is this fascinating documentary – Rajesh Khanna – Bombay Superstar.
In part 1, we see an entire set, and breathless women fans, and the superstar is several hours late! Hrishikesh Mukherjee and his set wait for Rajesh to arrive for the filming of Namak Haraam. When he does arrive a game of one-upmanship begins and it Rajesh who blinks first.
After making the filming crew wait for five days with appointments he does not keep, he finally meets up with the film crew for this documentary. When asked – How do you stay on top? His response is – You have to be cruel, I am impulsive, do things by intuition. His sudden decision to marry 15-16 year old Dimple, one film old, is described at length in this clip – is it true love or the result of a night with 14 drinks? Gossip columnist Devi (Devyani Chaubal) from Star and Style thinks it is the latter.
Next the film-makers talk to J Om Prakash and a new film he is about to make with Rajesh. On location in Kashmir, Rajesh talks about that “expression” in his eyes, that smile, that acts as a lure for women!
The leading lady is Mumtaz! The crowds on location jostle to see what is going on. Rajesh says he loves the attention. Mumtaz simply shrugs and pouts. Lata sings the song that is to be filmed, before that the microphone is garlanded by Pancham. Mumtaz can turn the smile and pout on and off like a TAP! The bitchy gossip columnist, Devi (an outspoken lady) says Rajesh was better before but all superstars become a bore and they have nothing to offer to anyone. The narrator feels that picturizing a song is an impressively thorough and exhausting business.
We go through 20 takes on one step onto a rock in time to the music! Rajesh talks of how his voice is similar to Kishore Kumar’s and getting the movement perfectly matched to the beat is what gets “seeti” moments in the theater. Then we see poison pen Devi talk about Mumtaz, and how we only know of Naz, her mother, but nothing about her father. Mumtaz then decides to take her to court, and says the classic line (the resonates even today in film journalism) “All they want to do is sell magazines!!!” She also is extremely grounded and talks of how one day she may wake and after 5 years at the top it is suddenly ALL OVER.
Things look on the downside for Rajesh as he is not awarded the Filmfare that year. Fans threaten to boycott buying FF and the star arranges a rival party on the awards night. Many show up at the party, even though news is doing the rounds that Rajesh is ill and may not show at either the awards or the party! He does arrive at the party with his young wife in tow. Amitabh is talking the best actor award while the party goes on at the other end of town, with Rakhi, Dilip Kumar and a small number of lesser stars. A king is being dethroned.
When asked what he felt as he attended a rival party while the Filmfares were being awarded, Rajesh replies – “It was a coincidence, it was not planned!!!” His latest film Daag is about to release after 5 flops in a row, and Rajesh is worried. He is looking at different roles, he is introspective about falling from grace. The Daag premiere night and Dimple is getting ready, gushing about loving premieres as her hair is put into an elaborate do. They arrive at the premiere.
Rajesh has resorted to some “fairly torrid” scenes in his film, to get his audience back. In contrast Shashi Kapoor as stayed near the top, but never there, for many years. He learnt his lesson that the audience that are his fans are not the type who will enjoy any social realism in cinema. Escape is what they need. The new film Daag is shown in a village, a Swades moment here! Of course it will be followed by a film on family planning. If they do not like it this is the only time they will see it. If they like it, they will travel 16 miles to the nearest town and see it again, if they really like it they will do that 6 times and Rajesh will have a hit!!!
Their judgment will get back to him – is he still their star or have they made him a has been? The village sees it, and makes up its mind, it is not a bad film, but they will NOT be seeing it six times. The same judgment swells up from many other villages. The decline of the superstar has begun!
We do not get an insight into the rise of the superstar, and it is ironic that the film begins with Namak Haraam, which is thought to begin the fall of the superstar and his dethroning by Amitabh (also coincidentally seen winning the Filmfare award that year!). Perhaps some day someone will make a film on how exactly Rajesh rose meteorically to such dizzying heights and what kept him there for so many years. In this fascinating documentary on the last days of the superstardom of Rajesh, the nature of fame, the film biz, filmi gossip, are all exceptionally captured. Worth a watch!