The veteran actor succumbed to cancer in Mumbai on Thursday
Recently released pictures of Vinod Khanna in a grimly laid up condition had sent an entire generation of cinegoers into bereavement and the news of his death due to advanced bladder carcinoma on Thursday finally signaled the end of an era for them. The tall, handsome hunk from the 70s and 80s could have been the biggest thing in Bollywood along a certain Amitabh Bachchan, but he was a maverick of sorts and lived life on his own terms. He nonetheless left behind a legacy that will stay etched in our memories for many years to come.
In the most unconventional of fashions, Khanna started off his career as a villain in Man Ka Meet (1969) after Sunil Dutt had spotted him at a party in Mumbai’s Churchgate. He was in fact the member of one of two local South Bombay gangs (the other was led by actor and filmmaker IS Johar’s son Anil).
Several low-budget movies and side character roles followed, including Nateeja (1969), Aan Milo Sajna (1970), Purab aur Paschim (1970) and Saccha Jhuttha (1970) as Mera Gaon Mera Desh (1971) was one of his most memorable performances.
Within a couple of years though, the broad jaw lined actor would find himself in more frontman acts that started with Gulzar’s Achanak (1973). It had him play an Army officer who kills his wife and her lover before escaping. Projects like Nehle Pe Delha (1976), the multi-starrers Amar Akbar Anthony (1976) and Muqaddar Ka Sikandar (1978) and his double role in Mahesh bhatt’s Lahu Ke Do Rang (1979), remain his most popular roles from the decade. Then came along the glitzy Qurbaani (1980), starring Feroz Khan who apparently also passed away on the same date in 2009. It further enhanced his poster boy credentials before he hung up his acting boots in 1982.
Prior to the conversation shifting to his sexy-sanyasi avatar, as he pledged his allegiance to cult godman Osho, Khanna’s sharp looks and drool worthy frame became the muse for several other lenses too. He appeared on the covers of several magazines alongside his leading ladies and his young sons Akshaye and Rahul.
His alpha-male persona was perfectly captured in the Cinthol advertisement that has him ride a horse on the beach before he slips into a tuxedo as he opens the door for his stylish topless Mercedes.
The Second Coming
After a turbulent late 80s and early 90s, which saw him make a lukewarm comeback and suffer a divorce from his college sweetheart Gitanjali, he launched his son Akshaye in 1997. He stepped into politics the same year and then was a Member of the Parliament on a Bharatiya Janta Party ticket for three terms thereafter.
Khanna enjoyed a later-career resurrection in paternalistic roles in Salman Khan’s Wanted (2009) and Dabangg (2010). Among his last releases was Shah Rukh Khan’s Dilwale (2015) with the Vijaya Raje Scindia biopic Ek Thi Rani Aisi Bhi still in production that is set to be his emotional swansong for many.
Here’s to the original handsome hunk of Bollywood. May you rest in peace Mr Vinod Khanna.