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In 70s, Amritsar’s Khanna families named their sons Rajesh, after Superstar! ..By Rashmi Talwar


Lowered Goggles --Rajesh Khanna
In 70s, Amritsar’s Khanna families named their sons Rajesh, after Superstar!

By Rashmi Talwar

The lowered goggles, the twinkling ‘come-hither’ eyes, nod of the head and girls swooned!

This was the charisma of Rajesh Khanna- the first superstar born to India.
After Rajesh’s sad demise from a mysterious ailment, for many teenagers then of 1970’s in Amritsar –the Hathi Mere Saathi – star’s stardom is remembered longingly, especially amongst his female fans.

His lip sync in songs was so perfect , it raised the equation of the singer –Kishore Kumar with the actor.
The languid –‘Pushpa, I hate tears !’ drove girls teary eyed. Many slept with pictures of the Rajesh Khanna under their pillow, spoke to him, offered sweets on his birthday, to his pictures! Many were known to have written letters in blood. His co-star of many films Sharmila Tagore Pataudi –his –‘Sapno ki Rani–, had aptly contended that she was wonder-struck by ‘Kaka’s’ hysterical fan following .

Rajesh Khanna

But the 69-year old star born on December 29, 1942 never came back to Amritsar, his birthplace in ‘Gali Tiwariaan’ after his stardom. On his death though, in the narrow Gali, gloom has set in amongst the actor’s die-hard fans, relatives and friends who mourned the death of India’s first superstar, that took romance to new heights.

“Who would have thought that this pimply –faced boy would one day rule the hearts of women for more than a decade.” recalls Faquir Chand his childhood friend in the gathering outside his ancestral house.

Jatin Khanna , as he was named in childhood was lovingly called ‘kaka’ as were most boys in those days in Amritsari mohallas. Rajesh’s father a railway contractor in Lahore, moved to Amritsar after partition. Rajesh was adopted by Nand Lal Khanna his father Chunni Lal Khanna’s brother . Later shifting to Bombay wherein before entering the glittering glare of tinsel town, he was renamed Rajesh Khanna.

So popular and endearing was he to Amritsaris during his stardom, that many boys in the Khanna families of Amritsar were named Rajesh after him. I remember one such Rajesh Khanna, who was nicknamed ‘Babu Moshia’ the name Rajesh Khanna used for Amitabh in film “Anand” – the dialogue “Babu Moshia, zindagi aur maut upar wale ke haath hai… hum sab toh rang manch ke katputhliyaan hain jinki dor upar wale ki ungli pe bandhi hain kab kaun kaisa uthega yeh koi nahin bataa sakta hain !!” Well, true turned out this dialogue for Rajesh and true is it for all. .

“It is a sad moment. even though he did not come back to this area after becoming superstar but still he took the name of the family to dizzying heights’’, says Duni Chand Khanna, cousin of the actor. “The family had migrated from Lahore and after a brief stay in Amritsar left for Bombay. “Rajesh Khanna, regularly visited here to spend vacations as a child. He even came when he was going to college in Mumbai. But after becoming a superstar in films, he never came back.” Duni added

However, pride can be painful for dear ones at times. When Rajesh’s name cropped up for Amritsar’s MP elections , Rajesh refused- he probably felt that he had snapped his connect with the city of his birthplace.
Other events in his life like his sudden marriage to a 16 year old Dimple Kapadia less than half his age and ditching long standing girl friend Anju Mahendru did not deter his fan following that mounted more due to the fairy-tale Mills and Boons type of romance.
Now much-married to Reliance scion Anil Ambani , Tina Munim another actress and that phase of ‘toothbrush’ sharing with Rajesh, made headlines. Politics however was never his cup of coffee. Many including his most noted co-star Sharmila Tagore says ‘Kaka’s brush with politics could be much avoided, though he won against fellow actor Shatrugan Sinha in delhi’ .
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The ancestral house of the superstar jointly held by three brothers including Rajesh’s father , his foster father and uncle besides another uncle Munni Lal Khanna was donated to a Shiva temple and serves as an attached property of the temple .
Faqir his friend recalls about Rajesh’s vacation visits to the mohalla . “In the Mohalla too , Rajesh as -Bumbai ka Babu- , as he was called could get away with anything owing to his innocent smile.

Between the years 1969 and 1972 almost everything he touched turned to gold — 15 consecutive hits of various degrees. No wonder producers chanted: ‘Upar aaka, neeche Kaka !’(God above and Kaka, Khanna’s pet name, on earth below). Unable to find a phrase that captured the phenomenon, the hypnotic and the media industry finally coined a new term: the Superstar for Rajesh Khanna. He was not without flaws but in the backdrop of a train journey, a number revisits my mind for this trend blazer– ‘Zindagi ke safar se Juzaar jatey hain jo Maqaam …woh fir nahi atey …” of film Aap ki Kasam .. ‘Umar bhar unka pukarey koi naam, ..woh fir nahi atey ….”

BOX Item — Kuch toh log kahenge…. Pak town claims ‘Superstar’ as its own ?

A sleepy township of Burewala in Faisalabad, Pakistan claims that Rajesh Khanna was born here in 1942 and the gathering there is planning a remembrance session in memory of the departed Indian superstar.

Old-timers of Burewala say the Indian actor was not only born there but also stayed until he was 5 years old in a double storey house that is still intact and probably built around 1934-35 . They claim that the actor studied in MC Model High School. Some claim that records in school mentions admission of one Jatin Khanna (a name that was later changed to Rajesh when he joined Bollywood) to substantiate their claim.

They also claim that Khanna’s father was not only one of the founder members of this school but also remained its headmaster for many years till the Indo pak Partition after which the Khanna family left for Amritsar.

The house attributed as birthplace of Rajesh Khanna is said to be located on Multan Road and according to some , has ‘Jatin Bhawan’ engraved in Hindi on its elevation besides lines from the “Gayatri mantra”, to which the new owner has made no changes .
The claim by the township could be true, as Rajesh is said to be born before partition in year 1942 and their family was living on the Pakistani side. Only family members of superstar Rajesh Khanna can put the controversy to rest.

Hit Songs :
1. Yeh Jo Mohabbat Hai – (Kati Patang)
2. Zindagi Ek Safar Hai Suhana – (Andaz)
3. Kahi Door Jab Dil Dhal Jaaye – (Anand)
4. Mere Sapno Ki Rani – (Aradhana)
5. Kuch Toh Log Kahenge – (Amar Prem)
6. O Mere Dil Ke Chain – (Mere Jeevan Saathi)
7. Kora Kagaz – (Aradhana) [1969]
8. Jai Jai Shiv Shankar – (Aap Ki Kasam)
9. Maine Tere Liye Hi Saat Rang Ke – (Anand)
10. Yeh Kya Hua – (Amar Prem)
11. Roop Tera Mastana – (Aradhana)
12. Hume Aur Jeene Ki Chahat Na Hoti – Agar Tum Na Hote
13. Chingari Koi Bhadke – (Amar Prem)
14. Yeh Shaam Mastani – (Kati Patang)
15. Pyar Deewana Hota Hai – (Kati Patang)

FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR

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Remembering Lahori YASH CHOPRA By Rashmi Talwar : RISING KASHMIR


Yash Chopra’s SILSILA — A casting Coup

Lahori-Yash Chopra

By Rashmi Talwar

The swish of chiffon Sarees had already mesmerised our generation of teenagers or those in their early 20s. Yash Raj films had introduced us to ‘Tulips’ and ‘Windmills’ of Amsterdam for the first time in Silsila – a film that took much from the real-time high profile romance of Rekha with the most handsome baritone voiced Amitabh Bachchan.
The fragrance of mountains from Kashmir to the Swiss Alps, the lakes and flora had seemed like the stars in his films were floating on whispering clouds, endless rainbows, the bluest waters.

RISING KASHMIR: Remembering Lahori YASH CHOPRA

Kabhi Kabhi, Chandni, Lamhe, Darr had the leading lady so dreamlike, that one wondered if such creatures actually existed. We, as young girls then, all wanted to emulate them. So, school and college farewells, saw girls in sheer chiffons with a swaying paalu following them. Never mind if some of starry-eyed ones tripped on the edges, but they had to be one amongst the exalted queens of Yash Raj films, to be able to garner a tall-dark-handsome, Mills and Boons, type of guy.

During my journalistic years much later, as women journalists were often saddled with soft beats- like it or not, I too was put to task on film personalities. I do not feel any guilt in saying, I enjoyed it thoroughly, much to the smirks of fellow women journalists, who felt it was a page3 type story. Hardly journalism! as they called it. In, came a chance to interview Yash Chopra, the King maker of Romance.

He was here in Amritsar with his wife Pamela Chopra and was conferred the degree of Doctorate of Philosophy (honors causa) for his contributions to art and culture by Guru Nanak Dev University, in 2004.
The then Vice Chancellor (VC) Dr SP Singh was more like a father figure to me. He invited me, individually to have special lunch with the awardees at the 30th Convocation of the Univ.
As I saw Yash ji and his wife holding a plate, Dr Singh, a bright glint in his eye, egged me on to interview him there and then. “A journalist must never lose a chance. I know this, because I too was journalist at one time,” he urged.
But I couldn’t bring myself to barge in upon a couple, cosily eating lunch together. I told Dr Singh, that I shall do the interview only after, he is over with his lunch. Later the honoured VC even related this incident to my Bureau Chief, as all laughed at me, in our office.
Perhaps Yash ji had heard our conversation and quickly finished his lunch and joined us. “Tell me what do you want to ask?” ‘Sirrr! I wanted to talk to your wife’, I blurted out in confusion. ‘About what?’ he asked. Sirrr ji! I want to know how she views your films, your profession and your success.’ I said.
He gave a coy smile and said, ‘ No, Pamela doesn’t like to talk to the media’, as I stole a glance at his wife enjoying the lip smacking Amritsari cuisine, in a world of her own. I remembered that they had a love marriage. Soon, we reached an unoccupied cane sofa and Yash ji, made me sit beside him. The rest of the media persons too had been let in as the lunch was almost over.
We all sat with him, some at his feet glancing at him, some standing over his head and others surrounding the little sofa. Once on the route to queries, I asked him if he would ever make an Indo-Pak film as he was connected to Lahore as his birthplace. Yash Chopra said his forthcoming film would be exactly that but categorically ruled out taking his film troupe and artistes to Pakistan. He expressed his apprehensions over security issues. However he said he did not like to project any Anti-Pak sentiment in his films. He had not named his film at the time but ‘Veer Zara’ was already in the pipeline. On being asked if he would ever make a Punjabi movie, He smilingly retorted ‘but I always bring Punjab in my films’. Well, DDLJ, Silsila, Dil Toh Pagal Hai, Veer Zara had plentiful of Punjabi flavor in them. About getting the Rekha, Amitabh and Jaya in love triangle in Silsila which was a seen as scoop of sorts, Yash ji said, I signed them and the next day flew off to Switzerland. Those were the times of only landline phones’ he laughed. We all understood and looked gigglingly at each other.
Yash Chopra, who was then on the advisory board of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, showed no qualms about taking on the government on censorship issue for their leniency in passing vulgarity in films and TV programmes. He said remixed songs were jarring to him as they mutilated a beautiful composition and made it like a ‘Hijra’neither man nor woman. ‘No one can see these vulgar videos with their family’. Over reports of a nexus between films and International Mafia raging at the time in 2004, he said he was unaware of it, if it did exist.
Interestingly, I was one of the first ones to cover the story of Indian Prisoner Sarbjit Singh still imprisoned in Kot Lakhpat Jail in Pakistan which is known to be a case of mistaken identity and by some strange coincidence another case of mistaken identity was also underway at that time in the sessions court in Amritsar and I had minutely studied it and verily reported it even as it was a sub-judice case , but had led to release of the accused, a 70 year old .
It was, but a wild thought then, that Yash ji too would be including a twist of ‘mistaken identity’ in his forthcoming Indo Pak movie. Lo and Behold! This hunch came true in Veer Zara. Later, I covered the entire shooting of the film in Amritsar at Khalsa College, Attari International Railway station, Samjhauta Express, Harike, Wagah Land route and various other sequences shot in Amritsar and around.

Scene from Veer Zara

When I went to Lahore the very next year in 2005, for the first time . People there were thrilled over this very Indo-Pak romance. However, some said the language used was not authentic lahori and petulantly pointed out that the sets too could have been improved had Yash ji come to Pakistan and noted the minute details as he is wont to do in all his movies. One elderly lady in Pakistan had a question to ask –‘Why is the boy from India and the girl from Pakistan in the movie?’ She asked sweetly, ‘Why not vice-versa?’ I gave her beaming smile, How could I have an answer about the storyline of one of the topmost Directors of Bollywood in whose honor the government of Switzerland named a lake as ‘Chopra Lake’ in a place called Alpenrausch.

A Clip from Film SILSILA

True to the title of his last film-‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’ Yash ji passionately took on his work.
In Yash ji’s sad demise, I feel as if the Heavens had their quota house-full for this ominous year 2012, wherein many greats in performing and other arts, musical legends and now even the most loved comic- Jaspal Bhatti of ‘Ulta Pulta’ fame has his Powerlines cut, true to his forthcoming release ‘Power Cut’. Along with Amritsaris heavy weight Dara Singh – the benign grandfather figure, Rajesh Khanna the ultimate in romantic hero, Jaspal too has journeyed to the Gods to provide the endearing comic touch, to the Grand Play being mastered in the World Beyond.
First Published in RISING KASHMIR after Yash Chopra passed away ….

Bol- ‘Bold’ By Rashmi Talwar /Film Review/ Pak film Tops in India


Bol-'Bold' By Rashmi Talwar /Film Review /

Bol- ‘Bold’

By Rashmi Talwar

Bol is bold, brash and banshee … Every time one tries predicting; a new twist fevicols (glues) one to the seat. At the outset it seems just another stereotype sob-story but its inner mazes – wraps and unwraps- you in a blind-hole, wherein you search the light out of the mysterious tunnel.

Writer-Director Shoaib Mansoor’s second inning’s outstanding production after the much acclaimed Khuda Kay Liye, Bol rains questions on Pakistan’s society on retro practices, hollow honor, patriarchal modes and the sufferance of innocent humankind as puppeteer controlled dolls.
In flashback mode, Shoaib takes a dig at society’s claim on male heir, while queuing a dozen daughters to attain the elusive son. Told through a compelling narrative as Zainab (Humaima Malick) narrates her life history, to the watchful media, minutes before being noosed to death- the eldest of the many daughters of conservative Muslim family of Hakim saab (Manzar Zehbai) reveals all in her journey to death’s rope.
The elusive son-chase ends with birth of Saifee (Amr Kashmiri).

A storyline so amazing, no mumbo-jumbo to those of the Indian sub-continent but shocking for western farers, the film explores the depths of deep-rooted bias and exploitation born out of systemized centuries-old drilling, about the role and place of a woman in society. The scene of ‘currency–note washing and ironing’ to purify is an unmistakable gesture, worming from debased superstition.

Saifee’s artistic development, his closeness to his sisters is the mystery in the movie owing to its ‘queer’ storyline . However, Saifee being admonished by his protagonist sister for donning lipstick and wearing duppata et al, sees him raising a vital question ‘ Is being a man –Means to be stiff-lipped, beat women and treat family like scum?
Saifee’s eventual destiny is that which connects you the angst over something that human being is hopeless to rectify .

A murder twists the plot into a complete shredding of ideals and age-old pretext values and as they say –‘Allah’s rage looms large’- of father taking a complete dirt-road, out of his predicament.

Hakim saab’s trot to the house of Saqa Kanjar (Shafqat Cheema), a tout of Lahore’s infamous Heera Mandi –And then the ‘strangest agreement’ – –seen as money-spinner for Kanjar and Hakim’s sole face saver. Hakim hits rock bottom with his association with Heera mandi’s tawaif Safina (Iman Ali), who calls herself Meena after the legendary leading lady of Kamal Amrohi’s Pakeezah.

Safina’s or Meena’s role is a gem. Posturing, a simple conversation in Royal dialect, the next moment elapsing into true crass form of brothel dialect, throws one. Her eventual melting point is a peep into motherly emotions winning over in contrast to her environmental pressures.
Sets and acting of each character including Kanjar’s slurping – dipping finger licks, Punjabi abuses of Meena or that of Kanjar’s wife, the wandering chicken in courtyard, Lahore’s signature trucks makeover into bridal-like contraptions, narrow watchful streets, old family haveli, four-poster antique beds, true-blue lahori dialect and occupations to match, dialogue delivery and gestures, all point towards a piercing eye to detail and authenticity.
I could compare the details of Bol to ‘Tere Bin Laden’ another movie set in Pakistan, though shot on sets in India, which too entrenched the same quality unlike top of the charts film ‘Veer-Zara’ of Yash Chopra which lost out on vitals of lifestyle, language , décor and many other aspects.

The plot, spins, twists and turns lend a very authentic storyline to Bol. The Film’s narration, cinematography is brilliant.
A whiff of soft music that doesn’t necessarily gel in the story, by Atif Aslam otherwise adds lightness in his signature style ‘Hona tha pyaar..’ and proves a breather in the haystack.
The question at the end by the protagonist daughter is at seen as throw on burgeoning population in a mad race in her country “If it is a crime/sin to kill, then why is it not a crime/sin to give birth?” leaving one with a lingering feeling of children as a head-count or herd gathering mechanism .
Overall the film leaves one thoughtful, enthralled and in complete wonderment.

Passing away of Shammi Kapoor reminds me of my lost love Rajshree/ By Ravinder Kaul


Shammi Kapoor and Rajshree

Shammi Kapoor is no more. His passing away has been mourned by all film buffs, particularly those belonging to the ‘yahoo’ generation. His demise reminds me of the time when we used to paddle to various locations in Kashmir to watch his film shootings. Special programmes to recall the contribution of Shammi Kapoor to Indian cinema are being beamed by all news channels. And it is in a song in one of these programmes that I, after a very long time, once again, came face to face with Rajshree, my first crush, the dream girl of my younger days. Rajshree was virtually like a modern day ‘desi’ Barbie Doll. Watching her on screen as a 10-year old, I used to get enveloped in her. For me, she was the perfect woman, my first heartthrob. Ever since I saw her in the film ‘Geet Gaya Patharon Ne’ in the now defunct Firdous cinema hall in Srinagar sometime in the sixties, I adored her, and loved her.

While watching her film ‘Jaanwar’ I would always imagine that it was me, and not Shammi Kapoor, who wooed the ‘woman in red’ in the song ‘Laal chhadi maidaan khadi ‘. In the film “Around the World”, it was not an aging Raj Kapoor, but me, who followed her on a world tour on a measly eight dollars. The paltry economic condition suited me in those adolescent years. Eons later, when I walked the streets of Geneva, Paris, Rome and London, that Raj Kapoor had traversed alongwith his ladylove, I always had a feeling that Rajshree would somehow surface out of nowhere and demurely stand in front of me. Woebegone, all such delectable daydreams would melt like a snowflake as soon as they touched ground. Yet, visiting these locations was virtually like a pilgrimage for me. The places had at some point of time been sanctified by the steps of Rajshree, my beloved.

Shammi Kapoor in Kashmir Ki Kali

While I was still preparing to grow into a man and be worthy of her attention, the news of her marriage floated. My heart broke. She had married a foreigner. I somehow consoled my bleeding, broken heart with the thought that there was no man in India who deserved her and solely for that reason, she had married a foreigner. For me, she was a ‘desi princess’ who had found solace in the embrace of a ‘gora prince’. After marriage, she simply disappeared and not a word was heard about her. I too stored her memory in the deep recesses of my mind and moved on with life.

But my heart finally and resolutely broke today. After watching the film-clipping of hers with Shammi Kapoor, I googled her name and tried to find out the details about her whereabouts. And what I found has, once again, thrown me into deep despair. Sadly, she had not married a ‘gora prince’, as I had imagined. She had actually married a struggling young tailor. As Shakespeare would have said “O! What a fall was there, my countrymen”? I am so angry with her today. A tailor? I have nothing against tailors per se, but I cannot visualize a tailor as the prince charming of the darling of my dreams. My heart bled anew after watching the website of her husband Greg Chapman. He spells her name as ‘Raj’a’shree’ and calls her ‘my Raju’. After more than forty years of being married to her, he cannot spell her name right, and ‘Raju’, for god’s sake!

When in Los Angeles next, I intend to go and meet Rajshree, albeit taking full care to guise my feelings and put my dreams to rest. Maybe I’ll take my revenge by ordering her husband to stitch a suit for me.
***

Ravinder Kaul is famed Global Critic for Art, Literature, Dance, Music, Poetry and Theater