Hindi film superstar from the 1970s & 80s, perhaps the most famous Rajneeshite ever and Member of Parliament from Gurdaspur, Vinod Khanna speaks to Rachna Kanwar about his experiences in cinema and outside.
Q; Family background and how did you land up in films?
V.K. We are from Pakistan, Peshawar, we came to India in 1947.My father was a businessman. I was in college in Bombay doing B.Com when I met Sunil Dutt at a party and he asked me to star in a parallel role with his brother in a film called Man Ka Meet which later didn't work out. I agreed to do the role and join the film industry much to my father's disgust who was ready to throw me out of the house.
Q: How was it working with great talents like Gulzar and Meena Kumari in 'Mere Apne' the initial stages of your career?
V.K.It is one of my best films. It was great working with Gulzar. It was his first film as a director. He was very organised, we used to get bound scripts in an industry where at times dialogues are written on the sets. It was a great joy working in that film.
Q; It was a very intense role where the hero is anti-establishment. Did it start a trend?
V.K. The basic message of the film was the fight of the educated youth against unemployment. About starting gang wars, which is there even today.From 'Mother India'till date the message is the same, to fight the oppressive forces. Our films expose these issues.
Q: Initially in your career you were either a baddy or a dacoit hero, how did you break out of this image?
V.K. These were very few films where I played villain or a dacoit, 'Mera Gaon Mera Desh', 'Hatyara' ets. Fortunately I did all kinds of roles, 'Achanak', 'Mere Apne', multistarrers like ' Amar Akbar Anthony'...
Q; Did other heroes specially Amitabh take away the thunder from his roles in the multistarrers?
V.K. Not at all. In fact, we all got equal share of stardom in them. It started a trend multistarrers there werw very few single hero films those days which directors like Hrishikesh Mukherjee were marking and of course theparallel cinema. All the big names in commercial cinema like Mahmohan Desai were making multi-starrers. In fact that is then I quit.
Q: It is said that you were a strong contender as Amitabh Bachchan's rival. Had you not quit where do you think you would have been?
V.K. (Smiles) Who Knows!
Q: As you said you quit films and joined Rajnish, what drew you to him?
V.K. I was meditating for a long time before I joined him. I fell the need to get away and at that time I came in touch with him.As they say "You don't go to a master, when you are ready he calls you". When the call came I went.It has changed me for the better. I am at peace with myself.
Q; Some of your favourite directors and co-stars?
V.K. I worked with some great directors like Raj Khosla, Gulzar, Manmohan Desai and Feroze Khan. Amitabh and I made a great pair in multi-starrers together. Among the heroines I think Rekha, Zeenat, Shabana. I was a great fan of Marlon Brando, Dilip Kumar and Madhubala.
Q; Your most memorable role so far?
V.K. Difficult to point out as there are so many but some great ones were in 'Achanak','Shaque', 'Imtehaan', 'Amar Akbar Anthony',' Qurbani' and of course Dayavan.
Q: What do you think of big stars turning to TV now?
V.K. What's wrong in that? The snow must go on. If there is a demand for it, then why not? It is a business proposition. Unfortunately for actors over 50 there are no good roles in our film industry, where in the west at 50 you become a star like Brando, Al Pacino and Clint Eastwood even at 70 gets great roles.
Q: Would you appear in a TV series?
V.K. Sure, if I am offered something good, though these days I am busy.I was in fact doing 'Maharana Pratap' which I will resume soon.
Q: What do you think of star sons, do they get it easy?
V.K.See, if sons have the ability they will shine otherwise they won't make it big.Its like any other field, they come with a background which does help, rest is their ability.
Q: How happy are you with your son's career?
V.K. When I joined I had no idea of films but Akshay's debut was far better than mine. He is doing very well.He was being called the greatest new-comer but unfortunately for a while he stopped signing films as some of his films didn't do well. Now he is signing again.
Q: He worked with Madhuri Dixit who was your heroine in Dayavan? How did you feel?
V.K. We were a little apprehensive that she would look older than him which she did too. Apart from this there was no problem.
Q:Aren't you planning to direct a film?
V.K.Yes I am planning to produce and direct as well soon.
Q: What do you think of the nexus between the Film Industry and the underworld?
V.K. If banks and the Govt. help in financing the films, all this will stop. Threats from the underworld are to people from all fields, but as Film Industry makes news that's why the focus is on it. Now the current Govt.is taking interest in the film industry otherwise it has always been neglected so far.