In Dark Star: The Loneliness of Being Rajesh Khanna, Gautam Chintamani chronicles the life of India’s first superstar – Rajesh Khanna – for whom the term is believed to have been coined, given that he reigned over Bollywood between the late 60s through to the mid-70s with hits such as Aradhana, Anand and Safar.
It is interesting to note that it was not for a film that Khanna faced the camera for the last time, but for a commercial for Havell Fans in 2012, and Chintamani focuses on this commercial and its impact in Pack Up – the last chapter of Dark Star.
Produced by Lowe Lintas, the TVC begins with Khanna walking towards a stadium (only his legs are shown), with shots of a younger Khanna crinkling his eyes in a manner only he could, followed by glimpses and sounds of frenzied fans (primarily women) as he relives his past: “Fans kiya hotay hai mujhse pooche...” (“Ask me what fans are...”). Cut to the frail, present-day Khanna whose face appears as he walks into the stadium, which is filled with ‘regular’ Havell fans.
Against the background of Kishore Kumar’s unforgettable song Ye Shaam Mastani from the film Kati Patang (starring Khanna and Asha Parekh), he says: “Babumoshai, mere fans koi nahi cheen saqta...” (“Babumoshai, no one can take my fans from me.”) Incidentally, Khanna called Amitabh Bachchan’s character Babumoshai in Anand – and the line can easily be perceived as his last dig at a man he viewed as the usurper to his throne.
Of the TVC, Chintamani writes: “In its entirety, the concept is a specimen of sheer copywriting brilliance and is infused with a tinge of piteous nostalgia as soon as one realises that it is Rajesh Khanna who is staking claim on his ever-faithful fans. Recalling the actor’s response to the pitch, Balki (the commercial’s director) remembers how Khanna laughed himself silly and said, ‘this is the ad!’” The actor clearly felt that by being featured in the ad he was making fun of his glory days and saying, “these are the only fans I’m left with.”
The commercial met with mixed reactions: “To many fans, watching the Rajesh Khanna look into the camera and equate the undying admirer to an electric appliance was nothing less than an acknowledgement that their idol had feet of clay. To some, it reeked of desperation on Balki’s part for exploiting Khanna’s longing to cling on to anything reminiscent of his glory days.”
Either way, the commercial generated a lot of buzz, resulting in “people talking about Rajesh Khanna in a manner not seen in 20 years,” and even trended on Twitter for several days.
Given the fact that Khanna was a star whose fondness for adulation was nothing short of legendary (during his glory days, women wrote him letters with their blood, married his photographs, wore white saris the day he married Dimple Kapadia, while men mimicked his mannerisms and clothes – causing him to admit proudly that he felt “next to God”), it is not surprising that Khanna revelled in the attention he was attracting after a long time.
Sadly, time was something that he was running out of; Khanna passed away a few months later. His funeral procession was attended by nearly a million fans, who came from all over India to pay homage to their hero despite the torrential Mumbai monsoon.
It was a befitting farewell to the man who once revealed that during his lean phase, he went out into the rain and shouted, “God, don’t test my patience to the extent that I lose faith in you,” and ironically lent credence to Havell Fan’s tagline – “Fans Are Forever”.
Mamun M. Adil is Manager, Business Development & Research, DAWN.