Film veterans remember Vinod Khanna, discuss young stars skipping his funeral

Veteran actor Raza Murad and actor-director Ananth Mahadevan get talking about the late star. 

Keyur Seta

Actor Vinod Khanna, who passed away on 27 April, has left behind a strong body of work in the form of some great performances. As he had featured in a large number of films over the years, there are lots of people in the industry who have some fond memories of him. We spoke with few of such people. 

Veteran actor Raza Murad, who has starred with Khanna in films like Ek Aur Ek Gyarah (1981) and Insaniyat Ke Devta (1993), says that he used to hang out with him even when they were not shooting. He revealed that the macho actor was opposite of what he played on screen. “Basically he was shy. He used to speak less. He wasn’t flamboyant. He was a typical town boy as he used to stay in the town area of city,” he said. 

Raza Murad

Speaking about his achievements on and off camera, he added, “He was accepted as a villain as well as leading man. He went into politics and won four times. It is difficult to win from Gurdaspur. He was not from Gurdaspur but still he enjoyed the confidence of people from there.” 

Actor and filmmaker Ananth Mahadevan’s first experience with Khanna was while shooting Yash Chopra’s Chandni (1989). Years later he got a chance to direct the stalwart in Red Alert: The War Within (2009). “I wanted a dynamic actor to play a very intellectual naxal leader. I thought of Vinod ji. When I and producer T P Aggarwal met him, he agreed to do the part. That was when we really came close to each other,” he said. 

Mahadevan recalls the interesting bit when he wanted Khanna to underplay himself. “I had to make him reconcile to a very casual and effortless natural style of acting, away from the formula, mainstream style. Initially he wondered what I was up to when I asked him to underplay everything. I told him the drama was in the scene itself and the character was so strong. His persona too comes out so strong. He took some time to warm up to that. But when you see the film today, he projected the character just how I wanted.”  He added that even after completing the film, they kept in touch for some years and Khanna used to send him funny and satirical emails. 

Murad also highlighted how Khanna changed the rules of the game by returning on screen despite going away for 8-9 years when he became Osho’s disciple. “He defied all norms. People feel if one who is out of sight is out of mind. He was out of sight for 8-9 years. He returned and was still accepted with open arms with producers. It was a great comeback for him.”

According him, success never went to Khanna’s head and he remained humble. “He never used to talk about his achievements or stardom. He was large-hearted and used to help people. If he helped someone, he never announced it. He never believed in show off. He had normal habits.” 

Mahadevan feels the same about Khanna’s real-life persona. “When I went to his apartment in Malabar Hill, he was calling the television guy asking when will the repair guy come. He was just like us. I was glad that a big star like him would pick up the phone and say, ‘Get my TV repaired.’” 

Murad recalls a fond memory while playing cricket with Khanna. “We were shooting Ek Aur Ek Gyarah. He used to bring bat and ball. We used to play in between when we were shooting at the helipad in Filmcity. I saw him bowl and I commented, “Vinod yaar, aap toh halwa ball de rahe ho yaar (Vinod, you are giving freebies to the batsman).” He challenged me to bat. I thought I will hit him for a six. He not only clean bowled me but I couldn’t connect a single ball of his over. He used to spin the ball in a way I couldn’t understand.”

The demise of Khanna also threw light on the question as to why the young stars of today have stopped attending funerals of star veterans. The debate was started after actor Rishi Kapoor expressed his anguish at stars of today not turning up for Khanna’s funeral. He also took a dig at stars attending Priyanka Chopra’s party the day before. “Angry. Met so many chamcha people last night at Priyanka Chopra's do last night. Few at Vinod's. So fuckn transparent. So angry with them,” he said. 

Ananth Mahadevan

Mahadevan completely agrees with Kapoor. “Rightly so! Because Vinod Khanna and Farooq Sheikh are recent stars. These were not stars who have faded away and gone and you don’t know them. Not knowing your film history is no excuse at all. If you are a film practitioner, you are supposed to know your history – Indian cinema and world cinema.”  

He adds the young actors need to remember those who have laid the foundation. “If you consider yourself the young brigade of today who thinks they can woo the public with their antics, you should respect the founders and founding members of cinema, the ground you are standing on. Mr Rishi Kapoor is absolutely correct when he said that. I don’t want to name anyone but I can name 10 people who should have been there at the funeral. Probably they grew up on his films.” 

Murad has a somewhat different view. He said, “There are two sides of every coin. It has happened in the past that the big stars and young stars didn’t attend the funerals of many stalwarts. But at the same time we should give them benefit of doubt because this happened all of a sudden. We got the news at 12 pm and within five hours he was cremated. It was a sudden shock for everybody. Before we could gather our wits, everything was over.” 

He feels the location could also have been an issue. “The crematoriums in Juhu and Behram Baug (Jogeshwari) are very easy to reach. Plus, there was a confusion too if the cremation is in Banganga or Worli. Reaching Banganga in a short time is difficult for anybody. Even if they wanted to come, not everyone can leave the work halfway. It’s not easy for people who stay in suburbs. So, I just hope they attend his chautha to pay their last respects to him. Hence, I feel they should be given benefit of the doubt.”