Welcome to The 70s Blog Mela in BollyLand! For the next seven days, your favorite Bollybloggers turn their back on The Golden Made- in-Bengal Age of Hindi Cinema and take time off from cribbing about modern cinema to focus on the era that taught us the true meaning of paisa vasool.
On the first day of the madness, I thought I’d kick things off with IndieQuill’s missing link… Rajesh Khanna! The man who was king for a glorious few years before The Lanky One set fire to his crown. Everybody else gets the love, why shouldn’t he?
There are those who are frightened off by his later performances (one word: yeeowtch), and others who live in fear of the outraged howls of his dedicated fan base in case they mention they don’t care for all the melodrama (of which there is plenty!).
To which I say: pooh! The Super Star (Original) is for everyone.
Eagle-eyed nitpickers will note that while this list is comprised of ten movies, it contains multiple entries from various years, skips a couple, and stops short in 1976. This is because I’ve only seen about five of the movies he made from 1977 – 79 and from what I remember of them, I wish I had not seen them. Perhaps one of the films I have not seen is a forgotten masterpiece but Chalta Purza (1977), Chhaila Babu (1977), Bhola Bhala (1978), Amar Deep (1979) and Janata Havaldar (1979) are definitely not “essential” to anybody save the dedicated Rajesh Khanna fan. Although Chhaila Babu does have sequences like the above for the twisted (I love the !sexy!cough!).
In chronological order:
The Essential Rajesh Khanna
Khamoshi (1970) – Rajesh Khanna acted in any number of melodramas. I don’t care how many times he told Pushpa in Amar Prem that “I hate tears!” – the tear duct is an important component of the RK-viewing experience. I remind you of this because I wish for you to pay attention when I say this is the saddest movie he ever acted in. An air of gentle melancholia infuses every frame of this movie as it builds to its hopeless climax.
Sachcha Jhutha (1970) – The basis for any number of Bolly-insider jokes about lame sisters and lookalikes, this early Manmohan Desai film is just building up to his later zaniness but there’s Vinod Khanna skulking around in shades, Mumtaaz in pretty outfits, a loyal hound, lookalikes, crimes, capers and fun.
Kati Patang (1971) – Madhu is a girl who gloriously gives it all up for love… only to discover that Prince Charming is a full blown toad. Next come The Consequences which take the form of cute babies, impersonations, in-laws, drunken exes, blackmailing vamps, social issues, jail and finally – true love! When I think about it, it’s pretty annoying. But thinking about it is akin to thinking about chicken soup – who wants to remember what goes into it when it feels so comforting?
Anand (1971) – Personally, I can’t stand Pollyannas so this kind of gets me down in half an hour flat but I can see why other people love it so.
Dushman (1971) – This is one of my mother’s favorite movies. The story of a man who does a terrible thing and is then forced to look it in the face everyday instead of taking the “easy” option and going to jail, Rajesh Khanna is rather un-Super Star in this.
Bawarchi (1972) – Vintage Hrishikesh Mukherjee fare about a mysterious man who shows up one day at a fractured household claiming to be a gifted cook who’ll work for a pittance. What dark secrets does he hide and can a movie this happy possibly have a happy ending?
Dil Daulat Duniya (1972) – The real stars of this movie are Om Prakash as the tramp with a heart of gold and Ashok Kumar as the millionaire with a teeny tiny heart. The two of them are hilarious. RK mainly plays the good looking youngster part but he does win points by turning into a devoted pooch-lover.
Joroo ka Ghulam (1972) – Fans of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Chupke Chupke will love this comedy about a woman who lies outrageously to her disapproving parents about her husband’s financial success and then is forced to put her mansion where her mouth is. RK as the hapless husband who silently bears the burden of his wife’s mountain of lies is hilariously heartwarming although Om Prakash steals the show per usual.
Aap ki Kasam (1974) – It takes a brave man to make his audience despise him at the height of his stardom and RK does that very well in this weepie about a man who suspects his wife of having an adulterous affair with his best friend. Mumtaaz and Sanjeev Kumar don’t get to do much other than look scornfully outraged and thoroughly decent respectively, but Rajesh Khanna not only take the role and runs with it but also succeeds in running it into the ground and stomping on its grave in the third act. Hmm.
Mehbooba (1976) – Yes, it’s terrible. And you really do want to give both of them a good shove. But look! Ghosts! Reincarnation! Haunted tanpuras! Music! It doesn’t get more essential than that when it comes to Rajesh Khanna movies. What? I never promised “good”; I said “essential”.
The Train (1970) – A good time is had by all when there is murder on a train. More filmmakers should understand this. Plus you have Nanda and Helen!
Haathi Mere Saathi (1971) – Let me be honest. I can’t stand a good portion of this film, mainly thanks to its heroine who is more than borderline cuckoo and the inexplicable love the hero has for her. The reason it finds itself on this list then is because it has some serious recall value if one of my cousins is anything to go by: the only Bollywood movie he ever saw, he not only remembers its name but the main song thirty-odd years after he’d seen it last, to his mother’s astonishment and my applause. Also, elephants! ELEPHANTS! What more do you want, you Grinch?
Mere Jeevan Saathi (1972) – “Movies like these come by only once in a lifetime,” raves one IMDB user. Yes! Yes, they do! Let us all bow our heads and pray in gratitude.
Namak Haraam (1973) – Watch the torch pass as Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan team up once more for Hrishikesh Mukherjee.
Prem Kahani – still seething about the way he treated Mumtaaz in Aap ki Kasam? Well, then this is the movie for you – Mumtaaz not only kicks him over for a delicious looking Shashi Kapoor (his natural state, obvs) but nails him in other ways as well.
For the Noob
In addition to the above, there are a few movies that will inevitably come up in every conversation about Rajesh Khanna. People will ask you again and again if you have seen them and recommend them to you if you haven’t. They are:
- Amar Prem – Cynical, unhappily married drunk falls for religious, weepy prostitute; miserable people are miserable.
- Safar – An emo opera waiting to happen.
- Daag – Never marry a pretty girl. Or chivalrous men.
- Chhoti Bahu – Immaculate conception is the medical need of the hour. Where’s Jesus when you need Him?
- Andaaz – This is actually a Shammi Kapoor movie, but that never stopped anyone from plonking it in the middle of a Rajesh Khanna discussion. He sang a song in it, you know.
- Maalik – Atheism is very, very bad. At least when God does you wrong, you can nag Him into doing something better.
- Avishkaar – Some people should never get married. Two of them form the couple at the crux of this story.
- Roti – Tales of a hungry man. Do not watch on an empty stomach.
- Anurodh – The uplifting tale of a man whose father is horrified both by his singing and his consumptive friend. Musicians are rebellious even if they’re on AIR, kids!
The good thing about almost all these movies is that they come with excellent soundtracks. So even if you pick a dud, chances are you’re crying and cribbing along to a great tune.