Sunday, 7 May 2017

Vinod Khanna's Unforgettable Role

The death of a yesteryear superstar often brings back memories lying mothballed in remote corners of one's mind. Few weeks before his death a picture of a sick and ailing Vinod Khanna flanked by two people sent shock waves across the social media. Those on the wrong side of 40 were aghast that their teen idol has become so emaciated. He was reportedly suffering from bladder cancer.

After a couple of rumours about his 'death' the inevitable ultimately happened. And he was 70, not an untimely exit, but still looked a tad early considering that he was an adorable hunk during his prime. At the death of every actor there is a flood of write ups listing among others his most influential films.

Though many had listed movies like Amar Akbar Antony, Lahoo ke do rang, Chandini or Jurm, but to me the movie that remains hauntingly etched in my mind is Mere Apne (1971), a little known film which he did in the early part of his career when he was transitioning from a villain to hero and still many films away from stardom.

Directed by legendary Gulzar, the movie steers clear from the Bollywood binary of good versus evil, with all characters having shades of grey in varying degrees. The only exception is Meena Kumari, who after having lived all her life in a village comes face to face with changing mores of city life in the autumn of her life.

The film was about campus violence, educated unemployed and the ongoing rivalry between two gangs - one led by Vinod Khanna and the other by Shatrughan Sinha. As both Vinod and Shatrughan were newcomers they had a lot to prove, with no starry airs to distract them. Hence one gets to see some great acting on display. As for Gulzar, he showed lots of promise in his debut venture and later went on to make masterpieces like Maachis.

Much later after Vinod Khanna had become a Member of Parliament he had told a journalist that during the shooting of Mere Apne there was a cold war going on at the sets between the FTII trained actors and the rest. Shatrughan, Asrani, Paintal were FTII trained whereas Vinod Khanna wasn't. But he did make up for his lack of formal training with amazing screen presence and carried off his role with aplomb.

Later he went on to become a very bankable star and a formidable rival to Amitabh Bachchan, but suddenly left all that to join Acharya Rajneesh's ashram, leaving many of his producers and fans befuddled or heartbroken. Thankfully, unlike Rajesh Khanna, whose career suffered a sudden shipwreck from which he could never recover, it was not the end of his film career. He returned after few years and proved his could still set the box office on fire.

Be it his acting career, quest for spirituality or taking a plunge into politics Vinod Khanna lived his life in his own terms, without caring much about 'log kya kahenge'.

Also Read: Bangalore Beat