A lesson in intelligent living from Rajesh Khanna’s superstardom

Learn to live Life ever-so-humbly, ever-grateful and ever-accepting!
Rajesh Khanna: Dec 29 1942 ~ Jul 18 2012
Picture Courtesy: Internet
A new book on India’s first superstar Rajesh Khanna – Dark Star – The Loneliness of Rajesh Khanna by Gautam Chintamani (Harper Collins, Page 242, Price: Rs.499/-) – “paints”, as Kaveree Bamzai reviews in the latest issue of India Today,  “a startling portrait of a star in terminal decline”. It is now, perhaps, common knowledge that Khanna’s attitude, all through his magical superstar years, 1969~1973, and afterward, had an arrogant ‘I-am-God’ quality to it. Whether it was his forever arriving late on sets, or his handing a half-finished cigarette to acclaimed writer Gulshan Nanda (who wrote ‘Kati Patang’ and ‘Daag’ , both Khanna hits, among others) while he went to complete a shot, or his making his displeasure known of his self-appointed rival by calling Amitabh Bachchan manhoos(unlucky), or his planning a party, the very night a film magazine denied him an award, to teach ‘them’ a lesson (until they come to him begging him to attend their event), or his refusing to visit a local district collector’s residence despite long-time friend and director Shakti Samanta’s insistence – all these and more made Khanna the complete snob, the one who played tantrums with anyone and everyone – taking his stardom to be permanent and himself to be invincible. But Chintamani’s book brilliantly chronicles Khanna’s fall from grace, from the limelight to the darkness of his Carter Road home, Aashirwad, and Khanna’s slipping into his all-night drinking binges, during one of which he is reported to have gone up to the terrace, and while it rained heavily, he is believed to have asked a menacingly dark sky, “Why me?”. The reference of that loaded question was, obviously, to Khanna’s losing out to the Bachchan era, his falling out with the writer-duo of Salim-Javed whom he had helped with an independent writing credit for his hit movie Haathi Mere Saathi (1971), his being dropped from Yash Chopra’s list of “must-have” stars and him being replaced by Shashi Kapoor in Raj Kapoor’s Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978).
Now, who was responsible for Khanna’s superstardom falling apart? Who was responsible for everything that he touched, in the second half of his Life, turning to dust – from films to relationships to politics? So much so, as Chintamani reveals in his book, he once had to trade his imported car for a Maruti 800 and had to switch to smoking Gold Flake from 555. While it may be argued that time and events conspire to plot our destinies, I also believe that being humble is a responsibility that all of us must be both aware of and fulfill. Be humble to know that everything happens through you and not because of you. This means, if you are a star today, the first duty you have is to the industry and the audience that made you one. Be responsible and humble towards them. Treat your work with respect and treat your colleagues as human beings. I guess Khanna lacked this perspective. And when things go wrong, as they often will, and you fall, have the wisdom and humility to accept that what goes up comes down. So, when you are down, don’t grieve. Don’t wallow in self-pity. Just treat it as a phase in Life that you can learn faith and patience from. I guess Khanna lacked this perspective too.
But let’s not forget that there’s a Khanna in each of us. At various times, in varying degrees, each of us does get carried away by our success or gets snowed under when we fail at something. We must all realize that the nature of Life is cyclical. Each dark night will be interrupted by a brilliant dawn. And each day will dissolve into darkness. To imagine that we are consigned to a lifetime of darkness, whenever things don’t go “our” way, or to believe that we will be blessed with sunshine for eternity, when everything’s going per “our” plan,  is immature to say the least. The best way to live Life is to live ever-so-humbly for what you have managed to achieve, ever-grateful for what you have and ever-accepting of what you don’t have or don’t get. This is the one lesson I will take away from Rajesh Khanna’s Life – a lesson that he, unfortunately, failed to learn himself, until perhaps in the last couple of years of his Life!    

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