Well let’s just contend with the fact that there aren’t many in Bollywood who debut as a villain; hot with anger and bursting with emotion, and finish as a hero. And in their momentous film journey, despite having grey shades that often turn blackly villainous, are hailed as a hero. After all, not everyone can be a Vinod Khanna. In one word, a simple 4-letter phrase aptly sums up Vinod Khanna- hero.
The mind doesn’t quite accept the idea that one of Bollywood’s most unsung enigma’s has been snapped away from us. Funny it is, to note the brevity of life when a Wikipedia suddenly states, “he was an actor”!
As millions, at this time whether in India or elsewhere are writing either E-obituaries or perhaps finding time from tedious current pursuits to ring up someone (from the 60s or 70s) to soak up some nostalgia of his bygone era, a thought goes out to the dreaded concept of death.
How inevitable and brutishly strong is the idea of an end that even those who seemed impregnable to time’s drilling are contained. That those who seemed infallible to the lapses of age, untenable to old age’s butchery are swept away, like sand slowly slipping in between the fingers. Almost an irony then that Vinod Khanna’s younger son and someone sagely aloof a bit like his dad rom the spoils of Bollywood, pretty much enacted the same phrase in Dil Chahta Hai!
The more we try to hold onto something, the more it slips away from us; love, money, fame, and yes, even our dearest ones.
One isn’t quite sure as to what extent has Vinod Khanna’s passing drilled a hole of misery in Bollywood’s heart. It is, after all a place that’s becoming increasingly insular and buck-spinning to commercial clutter, ever so less about real men of emerald qualities. You’d do well to note that Vinod Khanna wasn’t just good-looking or of princely swagger, he was an intense man, a deep thinker, a spiritual sojourner and, quite the anti-thesis to succumbing to the idea of being bitten by stardom.
It wasn’t just that his career ran long over 4 and a half decades, fostering a romance in filmdom through around 141-145 movies. It was what lay in Vinod Khanna’s interior that directed worldly attention to that immensely gripping exterior; a suave that was unruly, a charm that was anything you’d seen and a presence that was very natural, echoing sexiness and raw machismo.
He was to many, an aloof actor, who often seemed disinterested in the perks of commercial stardom. Must we ask: was he attracted to the idea of discovering the meaning of life?
It could be said so, without much argument, considering that at the peak of his fame, seemingly, at about the time of Amar Akbar Anthony’s success, the Peshawar-born almost renounced the world and went to Osho’s Ashram in Pune. Just when it had seemed that finally there was an actor who could thwart even Amitabh Bachchan’s fame. A lifespan that saw 2 marriages, perhaps both to Parsis, it’s not yet established, traversed the thin line of material love and longings, given that in the life post return from Osho Ashram, he married for the second time.
The second wind of Vinod Khanna as the elderly statesman in Bollywood- mid 90s and until a few movie roles ago-lent perfect symphony to the charming curve of his first inning- where through films like Aan Milo Sajna, Purab Paschim, Mera Gaon Mera Desh, Aarop, Rakhwala and, Meera- Vinod Khanna essayed a personality that was royal as any of Rajasthan’s palaces. And as ethereal as the cult of a king enjoying a reign; foxing detractors and sweeping fans off their feet through erudition, smartness, an understated but toxic appeal.
In an industry that’s as quick to stereotype good-looking men, fixing them under droopy sub-tags such as ‘chocolate hero’, Vinod Khanna’s personality challenged established norms. You could almost sense, in every pivotal character of his heydays of 70s stardom and 80s charm- he rurled with lordly elegance. That carefree demeanour and imposing but very graceful presence connoted the film industry had a Rock Hudson meets Kirk Douglas. You could see the actor in him reach his true potential through art waggons that bordered on a philosophical train of thought, albeit sketched in very ‘Bollywoodian’ landscape.
If Aan Milo Sajna and Mera Gaon Mera Desh made him, creative outlets such as Meera and Lekin defined him. They exposed a hitherto less explored Sufi; a man who seemed lost in the sacred path of self-discovery. Love, in these two flicks, seemed his aim, but the path went through pain. But amongst the many splendid outelts Vinod Khanna made his own through his touch of class, Lekin conveyed his versatility. The film could be likened to an enchanting oasis’ in the middle of Rajasthan’s desert rusticness, where a somewhat lost man set out to find himself in the confusing swirls of life, whilst swayed to the hypnotic rhythm of a ghost, only as beautiful as Dimple Kapadia.
If you haven’t seen it, get a DVD now. If you haven’t yet been witness to the magnificent chemistry between the timeless Hema Malini and the broodingly intense Vinod Khanna in Meera, then get the film now! Wonder what contemporary romances of Bollywood, etched in showy canvasses suggest? Do they stand anywhere close to these uncelebrated magnum opuses?
Finally, while much of Bollywood has sadly remained a one-way street, to the extent of solo-worshipping Mr. Bachchan, with all due respect, above other equally charming talents, in souls like Shashi Kapoor, Feroz Khan and, Vinod Khanna, Bollywood unfurled a flamboyant, extremely pleasant streak of men. These were men who weighed far better than what mass media tongued them to be and remained far too princely- beyond the wayward streets of Bollywood’s myopic hats of judgement- that are often nothing more than about hype and blatant crony capitalism. If Shashi Baba was good looks personified and Feroz Khan was an epic swagger, then Vinod Khanna- 1946- 2017- was Bollywood exulting a sandstorm of drop dead gorgeousness.