Hash-tag Vinod Khanna. #RIP. Adieus Mr. handsome; what’s your buzzword on the departed soul? Maybe, a Facebook picture added suddenly. Maybe an extra moment spent on watching the actor’s funeral on television when you would swipe news for anything more cultural and entertaining?
With all due respect, have you posted something in the sad heat of the moment?
On social media? Like a message that’s a painful eulogy attempting to convey the immensity of sadness surrounding Vinod Khanna’s departure?
Someone you thought had proximity to a bootlegger, but one who wouldn’t be found swathed in alcohol. Someone who smoked but his puff smoked you away in amazement of his handsomeness. Tall, brooding and, very settled with unsettling, probing eyes! His amazing intense presence, that was very understated, very elegant. He was almost Sufi-like; even when those magnificently stitched bellbottoms tucked a pink shirt, that none could carry quite like Vinod Khanna. And when the camera zoomed on his facial expressions and the blazing macho chest, two buttons, care freely unbuttoned from the top of the collar.
Women and wine; he had them all in plenty. But as fans, not as objects Vinod Khanna would play with. He wasn’t the perfect Bollywood hero; someone you would expect to be in the listless queues waiting to hold the next award. But he was, for every man, boy, co-actor, then in his heydays of the 60s and 70s, the quintessential ladies man. Very idealistic in personality, very charming and off-beat.
To my untrained eye, he essayed the raw machismo of a Rock Hudson. Why it is then that Bollywood often engages in its merciless succumbing to Hollywood, in search of sexy men when good looking heroes were so homegrown as Vinod Khanna- is a great mystery! And probably, would remain one.
Doesn’t it feel that the time when the likes of Shashi, Shammi, Feroz Khan and Vinod Khanna regaled the film world, that the world was a lot nicer and people friendlier? Even as competition to ace films was perhaps just as intense if not confusingly complicated as today? Where do we see so many of so called ‘upcoming’ or rising actors decked up in blue pants, white hats, and orange boots, in an attempt to stand out?
In films such as Mera Gaon Mera Desh, Purab Aur Pashchim, Amar Akbar Anthony- he marveled as a priceless diamond. Handsome, but very clever as an actor! Original but, unwavering to the attention that came to his direction! And all that it required from Vinod Khanna to have people marvel at him was the ease of someone spinning a roulette machine.
Later, he lent his effervescence in intelligent collaborations such as Qurbani, Hera Pheri, Khoon Pasina, Parvarish- where his magnetic charm enabled fans to see that movies weren’t always about Mr. Bachchan. And Bachchan alone. How rarely have we seen someone with princely swagger come and dominate the film scene, sharing the same space as Bollywood’s Big B, ensuring the clout of fan-following didn’t follow a one-way street? Even as, from his end, Vinod Khanna focused merely on doing his part best with utter sincerity, worrying not for which way the fans’ winds blew!
His loss is to be mourned for a multitude of reasons. First up, that perhaps the last strand of a glorious bygone era of the cinematic landscape- where the term Bollywood hadn’t yet been framed and when things were just a part of Indian film industry- is gone. With Shri Vinod Khanna’s passing, we’ve been left bereft of a regal creature, someone who valued simplicity over the lust for fame. Someone who valued putting together the puzzle called life, a journey he often saw as a direction that beckoned his attention, rather than an enigmatic switch button from the ordinary to go the ostentatious way. How else would you describe his mini-renunciation; a time where, right at the peak, just when Vinod Khanna had knocked on doors of thwarting Mr. Bachchan’s fame- he suddenly, unbeknownst even to his family, left for Osho Rajneesh’s ashram.
Indian cinema, it could be argued, is celebrated by success stories, lifted by material aggregations but, remembered and made special by personalities that had both. Vinod Khanna put his unforgettable mugshot to this rare league, yet never succumbed to the captivity of either. In his wake are also art wagons that seemingly feel like abject Bollywood vehicles. Have you seen him in Lekin, Meera and, Purab Pashchim? So un-Bollywood like were these movies and yet so reminiscent of an old world’s charm and its values, that you can watch and re-watch them again and again.
With Vinod Khanna’s going, we must celebrate him for what he stood for, not simply drown in our own bucket of tears; values such as chivalry, peace of mind, and forever- a jovial spirit. What’s more- he’s given us one of his own; an actor who’s often under appreciated but possesses the repertoire of decency, charm, and intensity, quite like his own dad- Akshaye Khanna.
All’s not broken! Rest in Peace till eternity sir.