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Heard that Vinod Khanna’s family wanted private funeral: Mahesh Bhatt

Veteran filmmaker gives his reason for not attending Khanna’s funeral, admits the two had drifted apart over the years.

Mayur Lookhar

Veteran actor Vinod Khanna died yesterday at the age of 70 after losing a battle with cancer. Late last night, an angry Rishi Kapoor raised a storm and slammed those stars who failed to attend Khanna’s funeral.

Among those who were conspicuous by their absence was veteran filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, who used to be a close friend of Khanna at one time.

Bhatt, though, defended himself, saying Khanna's family wanted privacy. "This was one funeral I would have wanted to attend, but I couldn’t because I was initially told by an insider that the family wanted a private funeral. It was quite late in the evening that I got to know the press was also invited. Otherwise, nothing could ever hold me back from attending his funeral,” Bhatt told The Indian Express newspaper.

Could this be the reason why a lot of other actors, too, missed out on attending the funeral?

Khanna has been described as a sexy and spiritual star. Fans will vouch for his sex appeal, but it was Bhatt who led Khanna to unravel his spiritual side. The filmmaker was the one who introduced Khanna to spiritual guru Rajneesh (better known as Osho) at the ashram in Pune. Khanna engrossed himself in spiritualism at the peak of his career and took a break from acting in the mid-1980s.

"We became close. I was instrumental in introducing him to the ashram. We used to travel to Pune in his Mercedes car. I was a struggler, I didn’t have money. He used to take care that my travels are funded. He was in the truest sense a senior. These are the memories of our formative years,” said Bhatt.

The filmmaker credited Khanna with shaping his career when he was going through tough times. "For me, he is more than just a dazzling star, who continued to work past his prime. He is much more than a politician… he is someone who touched my life when I was a struggling director, when I was aspiring to become a director. It was his faith in my talent way back in time that resulted in me becoming a director. I would have been poorer, had he not touched my life. He was a magnificent man, very generous. He had the capacity to love people," Bhatt said.

Bhatt first directed Khanna in the 1979 film Lahu Ke Do Rang. The duo then worked together in a couple of more films — Jurm (1990) and Maarg (1992).

Once thick as thieves, the relationship between Bhatt and Khanna soured somewhat in the mid-1990s. "The ideological differences between our thinking of the universe and the mystic were so radical that we drifted apart," Bhatt said. "But the memories of our early years glued us together. His universe changed. We began talking less. Of course, we would talk, but the discourse of our relationship had undergone a change. There was a realization from both ends about this."

In his last conversation with Khanna, Bhatt expressed concern about his health, but the actor shrugged it off saying he would get better soon.

Yesterday Bhatt had tweeted about his friendship with Khanna.