Rajesh Khanna, the Indian actor who was a phenomenon in Hindi-language cinema from the late 1960s through the mid-1970s, is to be the subject of a biopic.
Producer Nikhil Dwivedi (“Veere Di Wedding”) has acquired the rights to Gautam Chintamani’s bestselling book, “Dark Star: The Loneliness Of Being Rajesh Khanna.” Farah Khan, who made “Main Hoon Na” and “Om Shanti Om,” starring Shah Rukh Khan, is in talks to direct the adaptation of the book. Khan will write the script with Chintamani.
Born Jatin Khanna in Amritsar, Khanna debuted in films with “Aakhri Khat” in 1966, which was India’s entry to the Oscars. From 1969 through 1974, Khanna starred in 15 consecutive hits, earning him the sobriquet ‘Superstar.’
Khanna rose to prominence with dual blockbusters “Aradhana” and “Do Raaste” in 1969. The films, in which he co-starred with Sharmila Tagore and Mumtaz, respectively, ruled the box office for weeks. For the next several years he toplined light-hearted formulaic films including “Safar,” “Kati Patang,” “Sachha Jhutha” and “Haathi Mere Saathi.”
In 1971, he teamed with helmer Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Amitabh Bachchan, then just starting his career, for “Anand.” Khanna’s performance as the titular character, a dying cancer patient, proved he was no lightweight. The duo teamed for other hits such as 1971’s “Bawarchi” and 1973’s “Namak Haram,” an adaptation of “Beckett” in which he was paired again with Bachchan.
Khanna changed gears again for 1972’s “Amar Prem,” co-starring with Tagore as a lonely husband.
During the 1970s an entire generation of Indians, male and female, swooned for him. Men copied his hairstyle and dress and the head bob that always accompanied his songs, while women wrote him letters in red (allegedly using their own blood).
But the rise of Bachchan as well as newer actors such as Rishi Kapoor displaced him. His marriage to Dimple Kapadia, the teen star of “Bobby” and 16 years his junior, dampened the enthusiasm of femme fans. During the ’80s he acted in a string of B-grade movies. In later years he had roles in TV series and films, but unlike Bachchan who continued to be a box office pull, Khanna’s star had set.
He moved into politics, serving as a member of India’s lower house of Parliament from 1991-96.
Dwivedi said: “Yes, I’ve acquired the rights to Gautam Chintamani’s book, ‘Dark Star,’ and I’m in talks with Farah Khan to make the film. That’s all I can say for now. As and when any major development happens, I’ll be happy to share because I’m really very excited about bringing Rajesh Khanna’s story to the big screen.”
Khan said: “Yes, I have read Gautam’s book and it’s very fascinating. It’s definitely an exciting story. We are in a conversation over this but I cannot comment more.”