Rajesh Khanna was named a ‘Phenomenon’ by the press of those times. There was a period when he ruled the box office like no other actor before him. His films were all super hits, he had a crazed fan following, and the songs he lip synched were lip synched by all of India.
How did he do it? A man of average looks and average stature has an uphill task in the mainstream Indian film industry; this is a land where a beautiful actor with no talent can succeed more easily than a talented actor with no looks. So why did he succeed? I think perhaps because he had Charisma with a capital C!
In trying to choose a song for him, I am overwhelmed because many of the songs associated with him are very dear to me. I was an impressionable young girl in his times of success and though I didn’t watch many films I was passionate about the music. I remember hours of late evenings spent on our छत, the flat rooftop/balcony, looking up at the stars while holding a transistor radio to my ears (no you young ones, we didn’t have mp3 players at that time !) Let me mark the ones I remember best.
I start down memory lane with Mere Naseeb Mein Ae Dost (Kishore Kumar) from Do Raste (1969), a perfect song for Rajesh Khanna. In the same year, there was Woh Sham Kuch Ajeeb Thi (Kishore Kumar) from Khamoshi (Thank you Priti!), a beautiful song with the black-and-white cinematography being a perfect setting for its introspective mood. My friend from Bangalore admits to an addiction to Jeevan se Bhari Teri Aankhen (Kishore Kumar) from Safar (1970); this addiction I understand, its a lovely song indeed! Kati Patang (1970) with its bold theme for those days offered good music; what I like best is Jis Gali Mein Tera Ghar sung by Mukesh. Though the voice match is not that good, Rajesh Khanna was a master of lip-synching and he made it convincing. While Kishore’s Ye Shaam Mastani from the same film is a better voice match, I prefer the soulful and sad songs for Rajesh Khanna. I believe that was his niche.
The other song by Mukesh which I consider to be a Rajesh Khanna gem is Zuban Pe Dard Bhari Dastan from Maryada (1971). This and Manna Dey’s Tum Bin Jeevan from Bawarchi are the rare exceptions in my long list of Kishore Kumar songs. Kishore Kumar and Rajesh Khanna were such a superb team that at one stage it was difficult to think of one without the other, Kishore was Rajesh’s voice.
I’ll start with Amar Prem’s two gems, Chingari and Kuch to Log Kahenge. A movie with such fantastic music that I will need to write a separate post for it. O Mere Dil Ke Chain from Mere Jeevan Sathi (1972) was a favourite when it was released as was Mere Dil Mein Aaj from Daag (1973). From Namak Haram (1973), Main Shayar Badnam comes to mind. The only duet I offer is Karwate Badalte Rahein (Kishore, Lata) from Aap Ki Kasam (1974), a movie with excellent music. Rajesh Khanna’s chemistry with Mumtaz is remarkable. I will not mention Aradhana again as I have already done a post on that album.
I add two more songs to my Kishore-Rajesh list : Yeh Lal Rang from Prem Nagar (1974) and Mera Naina Sawan Bhadon from Mehbooba (1976). That was the end of Rajesh Khanna’s rule as the film Sholay in 1975 had already established Amitabh Bachchan at the top.
Inspite of the perfection of the Kishore-Rajesh team, the song that I have picked to feature today is not by Kishore Kumar but by Mukesh. The film Anand (1970) was a tear-jerker. When it ran, it was adulated to an extraordinary extent. I remember as if it were yesterday the lights coming on at the end of the film and the whole theatre streaming out, tears rolling down their faces. The song Kahin Door is blessed with a beautiful melody from its composer Salil Choudhury. The lyrics by Yogesh are equally memorable. As I grow older, they seem more and more meaningful to me. Who in my generation will not resonate with :
ये मेरे सपने यहीं तो हैं अपने मुझसे जुदा न होंगे इनके ये साये (these dreams of mine, aren’t these the only things truly mine; their shadows will never part with me).
The song seems almost prophetic. The poet writes of an approaching sunset to a life which must end soon. The clip below features a silent Amitabh Bacchan, who, within a few years, would tumble Rajesh Khanna from his throne, whose sun would indeed set.
For those who would like to wallow in nostalgia, like I have, and listen to the songs I have mentioned, you can listen to this playlist in Youtube. Enjoy!