• VINOD KHANNA

    • Oct 03, 2016
    • 4:50 PM
    VINOD KHANNA IS NOW THE HEAD OF THE KHANNA CLAN


    For all those who had seen the dashing Vinod Khanna in the prime of his youth and at the peak of his career (like this writer had), it was a very heart-warming experience to see him looking much older and walking with a limp at the convocation ceremony of Whistling Woods International. He was, however still looking as handsome as ever after a world of experiences he had gone through. He was accompanied by his wife Kavita and their young children, Saakshi and Shraddha and as the family took their places, the audience mostly comprising of students gave Vinod a standing ovation which he richly deserved. He was presented with the WWI maestro award for lifetime achievement and if there was anyone who deserved the award, it was this man who had stood the test of time for more than four decades... And when it was time for him to speak he had the entire audience listening to him in rapt attention. In his longish but very enlightening talk with the students he narrated the entire story of his life as his audience sat listening to him in rapt attention...

    He was from a high class business family from South Mumbai and was preparing to share the responsibility of running the business with his father. He was at a party where he was the centre of attraction because of his personality. Among the many luminaries at the party was the actor and filmmaker Sunil Dutt. Dutt was planning a film called "Mann Ka Meet" to promote his younger brother, Som Dutt as a leading man. He had found Leena Chandavarkar to play the leading lady and was looking for a new actor to play the villain. Dutt spotted Vinod at the party and kept looking at him and went up to him and asked him if he would be interested in acting in a film. Vinod found the offer interesting and told Dutt that he would consider his offer. Dutt asked him to see him in his office as soon as he could, but Vinod landed up at his office the very next morning. They had a short meeting and Dutt saw in Vinod the ideal young man to play the villain in his film and gave him time to decide because he (Dutt) had already decided to cast him. Vinod like any other young man was thrilled, but his battle had just begun...

    He met his father the next morning and told him about his decision to make it as an actor in Hindi films. His father who had great hopes for his son flew into a rage and said his son who he had seen as his successor could not betray him and especially not for a career as an actor. Vinod tried to make his father understand and when he still did not change his mind, Vinod requested him to give him two years to try his luck in films and if he could not make it big in that time, he would come back and join the family business. His father agreed....

    Vinod started shooting for "Mann Ka Meet" and Sunil Dutt was sure that he had found the right man to play the bad man. The film was released and did not do well and Som Dutt's career was nipped in the bud, Leena left a mark, but Vinod stole the show. He was seen as the next most capable villain of Hindi films.

    He continued playing the villain in any number of films and in most of them he either over shadowed the heroes or was on par with them and he was one villain who got the sympathy of the audience when the hero beat him up and the hero was hated for beating him which was a phenomenon that had happened for the first time, with the only other villain who got the same applause being Shatrughan Sinha...

    He was the most successful young villain and his father had to change his mind and give his son the freedom to follow the career in which he had found success and popularity, he even felt proud about his son. Vinod had become a very interesting and integral part of the industry.

    He did more than twenty films as the villain and then there was a big change. The writer and poet Gulzar who had assisted directors like Bimal Roy and Hrishikesh Mukherjee was planning a film called 'Mere Apne' which was about politics and violence on the campus, a story he had taken from Tapan Sinha's Bengali film, "Apan Jaan". He had decided to cast a number of young actors who had just come out of the FTII, which included Shatrughan Sinha, Danny Denzongpa, Asrani, Paintal and others, but he wanted a hero who was a part of Hindi films already. It was after a long search that he gave up and took a bold decision to cast the villain Vinod Khanna as the hero of 'Mere Apne'.

    The grand success of the film commercially and critically gave everyone associated with it a new life. Vinod Khanna was accepted as the new hero of Hindi films, and he continued to be one of the most popular heroes. Very few actors had made the transition from villain to a hero with the kind of success Vinod Khanna had.

    A time came when he was ahead of all the other heroes, except for Amitabh Bachchan. Filmmakers and other experts who passed judgment decided that Vinod was the only one who could replace Amitabh as the number one hero and they were almost right when Amitabh and Vinod were seen together in films like 'Parvarish', 'Suhaag' and 'Amar Akbar Anthony', all of them made by Manmohan Desai, the man with the magic touch. It was during the interval of 'Amar Akbar Anthony' when Amitabh and Vinod have a hand to hand fight till they fall together without any of them accepting defeat that it seemed like the entire nation had decided to elevate Vinod to the number one position, but...

    Vinod was always a restless man in search of what he once called 'inner peace'. He had separated from his first wife Geetanjali and had taken serious interest in the teachings of Osho also known as Bhagwan Rajneesh. He followed every word spoken by his Bhagwan and one evening while he was still at the very top, he called a press conference and announced his decision to quit films and leave the country to join Bhagwan Rajneesh in Oregon in America. The entire industry was taken by shock to see an actor in his position renounce all that he had earned for himself to join his Bhagwan and become Swami Vinod Bharati and work as his gardener which he did for eight long years but filmmakers and his friends and admirers had not forgotten him. Gulzar who was his best friend was the only person from the industry he kept in touch with and it was the renowned editor and writer Pritish Nandy who managed to find his way to Oregon and was surprised to see a grey haired and bearded Vinod working in the garden and was successful in getting the first interview with him after eight years. He had shown signs of being disillusioned with the life he was leading under the shadow of his Bhagwan and his advisors...

    It was shortly after the interview was published that Vinod Khanna came back to Bombay to try and start a new life in films. It was not easy, but it was his friends like Gulzar, Raj N. Sippy and Feroz Khan who gave him the chance to prove himself as an actor all over again. It was with films like "Lekin" and "Dayavaan" that he showed that the actor in him was still alive.

    His sons, Rahul and Akshaye who he had left when they were children were now ready to be actors like their father. Rahul had already made a name for himself as an international model and actor. Vinod took the responsibility of giving Akshaye his first break in "Himalayputra" which he produced and even though the film fell to the ground, Akshaye was noticed and it was one of Vinod's best friends, J.P Dutta who discovered the true actor in Akshaye in 'Border'. It was a beginning that could have taken Akshaye to new heights of success, but there seemed to be something wrong and he did not act for several years. He is back now with films in which he has meaningful roles, even if it is as the villain in Boney Kapoor's 'Mom'....

    Vinod got married for the second time to Kavita, the daughter of a leading industrialist and had his new home in a multi-storied building called "Il Palazzo" facing the Priyadarshini Park in the heart of the city. They had two children, a son called Saakshi and a daughter, Shraddha. Vinod has never interfered in the decisions taken by his children whether it was Rahul and Akshaye and now whether it is Saakshi or Shraddha. Saakshi who is a trained actor is all set to make his debut as an actor and Shraddha is a known choreographer and Vinod is happy being the head of the new Khanna clan in the industry...

    Vinod was drawn to politics by veteran leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K Advani and has been a BJP MP from Gurdaspur in Punjab, a seat he has won four times and was also a Union Minister in the Cabinet of Atal Bihari Vajpayee...

    Asked if he had any regrets about the decisions he made, he said, 'I have been there, I have seen everything in life, and I have tried to find myself with the help of gurus like Osho and now Sri Sri Ravi Varma. The search has still not ended for me and will continue till the very end, I believe".

    The fact that the hundreds of students of WWI sat with their heads in their hands and their eyes focused on the man who was an icon for them on the most exciting day of their lives is testimony to the fact that Vinod Khanna is one of the most exciting chapters in the history of Indian cinema and also a man who has the capability to accept experiences of every kind, learn from them and then move on to the next experience.

    BY ALI PETER JOHN