Vinod Khanna – A Soft Walk into His Luminous Life

Amar of Amar Akbar Antony, Vishal Anand of Muquadar Ka Sikandar, Major Ranjeet Khanna of Achanak, Lalit Khanna of Chandini, Shakti Velu of Dayavan, Sameer Niyogi of Lekin – how many distinct characters have this charming hero walked into? Vinod Khanna is one among those rare actors of Bollywood, who was lucky enough to portray different types of characters on screen, also he never insisted to play only solo hero roles on big screen. As one of the last Bollywood legends from Peshawar who reached India after partition, Vinod Khanna has gone to other world leaving behind a legacy for every Bollywood fan to look forward to. Through this column I would like to give a fine ride for all Vinod Khanna fans through the different shades and roles in his real life.

A brief note on his entry to films

He was born in Peshawar, Pakistani Punjab just before Partition in the year 1946. His father was into textiles and dye business. Soon after partition the family shifted to India and they settled in Mumbai. His studies were completed at Mumbai and Delhi. Vinod Khanna was a shy boy during his school days, and at one occasion his teacher forced him to take part in a school drama. It was that moment since Khanna started loving the art of acting. Films like Solva Saal and Mughal-e-Azam during his school days made him a fan of celluloid.

Sunil Dutt’s 1968 film Man Ka Meet marked his acting debut in Bollywood in the year 1968. His name was suggested to Sunil by an acquaintant. He played villain’s role in the film. After that he got many roles in Bollywood, mostly negative and also supporting roles and he accepted all without any reluctance. He mostly played villain’s roles till early 1970s. In fact he had rapport with then superstar Rajesh Khanna, and worked in many of his movies such as Sachaa Jhutha, Aan Milo Sajna etc. Even after getting lead hero roles in a few movies, he continued working with Rajesh Khanna for a few movies such as Prem Kahani, and their friendship continued in 1980s too. They worked together in Rajput and Khudrat in the early 1980s, before Vinod Khanna took a break from acting for 5 years.  

Gulzar gave him big break through a couple of movies

Though his talents were restricted only to villain roles during the first few years, he received his first big break as a lead hero through the film, Hum Tum Aur Woh. It was followed by Mere Apna & Achanak, both directed by Gulzar, and very soon Vinod Khanna established as a star of the industry. Achanak, based on the true life story of K. M. Nanavati vs. State of Maharashtra proved to be a landmark role in Khanna’s acting career. The duo later worked together for two offbeat movies – Meera and Lekin. Khanna’s negative role in Raj Khosle’s Mera Gao Mera Desh also got noticed.

A series of hits established him Bollywood star

In 1974 he played the role of a college professor in Imtihaan, and its success cemented Khanna’s position in Bollywood. Yet he never insisted on solo hero roles, and signed multi-hero movies, and this decision proved to be right. He has been a part of several blockbuster movies of 1970s, where he played parallel lead aside Amitabh Bacchchan, Muquadar Ka Sikander, Hera Pheri, Khoon Paseena, Amar Akbar Antony and Parvarish to name a few. In fact he was paid more than Amitabh Bachchan for many of these blockbusters. Since mid-1970s he became an integral part of multi-star film making genre of Bollywood, and majority of them earned cash at box office.

He established as a star when Bollywood was fully dominated by Punjabi actors. Though Vinod Khanna didn’t own Rajesh Khanna’s charismatic eyes, Kapoor brothers’ variety in handling roles, Jeetendra’s dance moves or Dharmendra’s killing smile, he created a niche of his own through the simple roles he played onscreen. He also didn’t have any filmy background. His good looks made him one of the most handsome heroes Bollywood screen has ever witnessed. His fans just loved his screen presence; that was ‘Vinod Charisma’.  He was regarded as the best looking hero of the late 1970s, and he remained a highly paid actor of the era. He also received a good fan base in the late 1970s.

His sudden disappearance in the early 1980s at his career peak

In the year 1980, his multi-starrer Kurbani became the top grosser of the year. His star value was equal to Big B and many lead heroes of that time. But all of a sudden, in 1982, he called a press conference. His wife Geetanjali assisted him in the press conference. It was a great shock to everyone, both filmmakers and his fans when he announced renounce from acting. He also told that, he is to spend his rest life with his spiritual guru Osho. Without giving space to more dramatic moments he concluded stating that he loved to do what his heart tells, and where it guides.  

He moved with Osho to Oregon Ashram of US, where he spent next 5 years. Gardening was the prime job, and he also washed his guru’s clothes and prepared food for him. He also spent time in prayers and spiritual readings. In all means, he renounced all happiness of physical world. It gave strains to his relationship with his wife Geetanjali, who was once his college sweetheart and resulted in their divorce. They had two sons – Rahul Khanna and Akshaye Khanna, who entered Bollywood in the late 1990s.

It was during late 1970s, he got attracted towards Osho’s spiritual world. After that he frequently visited Osho at his Ashram at Pune every weekend, leaving behind all shooting schedules. After that he started wearing orange kaftan and rudraksha with Osho’s locket too. Gradually he started losing interest in the magic world of cinema. When he came to know that Rajneesh is to leave Pune, he didn’t have a second thought, and took decision to renounce everything, his fame, popularity and all luxuries which Bollywood gave him, and assisted him to his ashram.  

His return to film world after 5 years and entry to politics

He returned to Bollywood after a hiatus of 5 years giving second surprise to his fans. Though he registered hits through Chandini, Dayavaan, Jurm and a few more films, his charisma was gone. In the 1990s most of his films met with financial failure, and his age too started conquering him. In 1990 he got married to Kavita, and slowly started his stint in politics. He became successful in that field too.

In 1996 he launched his song Akshaye Khanna to Bollywood through Himalayaputra, and moved to character roles, and became fully active in political career. Yet he was busy with his Bollywood journey next two decades, and was last seen in the film ‘Dilwale’, where he played Shah Rukh Khan’s father. He served as Lok Sabha member thrice representing BJP, and has once served Union Minister post as well. He was serving as MP from Gurdaspur when death took away on April 28, 2017. Quite ironically his delayed released, Ek Thi Rani Aisi Bhi had a delayed release just one week before his death.

Just a few days before his death, a photo of Khanna circulated across media, and it shocked the whole entertainment world. This charming and dashing hero of yesterdays looked too weak in the photo. Vinod Khanna lived till 70 years, and in true means he has tasted different shades of a human’s life, both real world and spiritual world. He rarely did fall into controversies, which is quite uncommon in Bollywood. Media has linked up him with many Bollywood heroines like Smitha Patel, Sonu Walia and the controversial intimate scene shoot with Dimple Kapadia for one Mahesh Bhatt film. But he always kept silent.

He never ran behind money, popularity or no: 1 position and only decided to stay back when he was a shooting star of Bollywood in the early 1980s. He never created a fan circle around him, instead taught others thoughts on spirituality. Cigar in one hand and drink glass in other – that’s how he appeared in social parties. He also successfully carried the roles of a good actor as well as a successful politician, and his fans will always remember the charisma of one of the most handsome stars of Bollywood ever.

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A freelance writer and blogger by profession since October 2011, interested in writing over a wide range of topics. Hope you enjoy my writings. I belong to one of the beautiful places of the world, Kerala, nicknamed as 'God's own country'.

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