was it around this time last year that rajesh khanna died? all i remember of the man before his death was this rather unpleasant, unsatisfied looking persona. a stale goatee on a stale face, a life that reached its peak too early on. one that had to wait too long to finally end.
the only reason rajesh khanna's death was of any concern to me was because of the relief it brought to friends at the newspaper i worked for. we could devote a full page to the superstar of yore. we didn't have to go through the trouble of finding more celebrity news for the next few days.
i only began to take note of rajesh khanna as a superstar a few months after his death when i encountered a song from his movie anand. i half remember watching the film when i was very young. and being deeply moved by it. and especially by rajesh khanna's performance of a man dying of cancer but full of more life than any of the louts that surround him.
i remember that ending scene in particular when amitabh bachchan yells at his dead friend to wake up. and he puts all his might into it, of course. knowing that that's never going to happen. and that's exactly when you hear rajesh khanna's chirpy voice yell back at the awkwardly lanky bachchan.
it gave my heart pretty much the same painful flutter that amitabh bachchan must have felt. for it isn't rajesh khanna himself but an earlier recording of his voice that suddenly begins playing. was that the first time i encountered a complex knot of emotions at once so painful, shocking, hope-inducing, awe-inspiring? i don't even know if i watched the whole movie, but i must have. for that scene, and that feeling, have stuck with me.
and yet, in more recent years, i had managed to feel for the man a general distaste. and then he died and lah di da di da...until a song from the film that i came across once again, this time on youtube. zindagi kaisi hai paheli haye. and suddenly a tiny whirlwind began to stir within. and then there were goosebumps all over my thighs (god knows why there of all places). and i was quickly transported back to the days when rajesh khanna was the 'it' man when it came to emanating charisma on screen, armed with nothing but genuine simplicity. and in that one song, dressed in a pale purple kurta, the man actually glows. there's that fire within back then that must have died later on. there's a vastness in his smile, like he's caught on to the secret. one he seemed to have lost hold over in his latter years.
there he is in the song...strutting along the naked beach with confidence, carrying a naked soul so easily available to anyone who wishes to take a look.
the song begins with balloons. rajesh khanna buys a whole bunch of them--helium filled ones--and sets them free. painted half yellow half red they float leisurely. and for a while, it is just a dance between the balloons and the deep blue sky. rajesh khanna looks up at them in awe. are they handing to him that secret so big it can only be contained by a smile that swallows eternity? rajesh khanna looks at them and smiles as if in his head he's saying...
only god knows where they are headed.
and that's when the song really begins. zindagi...kaisi hai paheli haye...khabhi yeh hasaye, kabhi yeh rulaye.
as the song nears its end, the man keeps walking, this time with his shoes in his hands, farther and farther away from the camera, farther into an unending ocean as it brushes with the unending beach. spurting out words about happiness and sadness rubbing shoulders and being playful together and the likes. rajesh khanna keeps walking to the beat of the song until it ends. wahi chunkar khamoshi, yoon chalajaye akeley kahaan. and so he keeps walking even beyond the song.
god knows where he's headed.
can i please be one of those helium filled balloons that his hand releases? will you let me be one more grain of sand in his shoe?
everytime i listen to this song, without knowing what meaning it intends to convey, i am heartbroken. like it is begging to be known, and i cannot reach out entirely. like it is handing me a diamond that i do not know how to hold. is this diamond made out of ice? that if i hold it in my palms it will melt? or is it just another dream? for it smells of loss. it offers with one hand, and holds out a note with another that says 'you can never ever have it.'
i want to tag along forever.
god knows where to.
i keep coming back for more.