Hema Malini & Shabana Azmi Remember Vinod Khanna

Hema Malini and Shabana Azmi recall their late co-star, Vinod Khanna.

5 min read
Shabana Azmi and Hema Malini remember Vinod Khanna. (Photo courtesy: Twitter; altered by <b>The Quint</b>)

Vinod Khanna, 70, who passed away today, worked with Hema Malini in The Burning Train, Rajput, Patthar aur Payal, Meera and with Shabana Azmi in Amar, Akbar, Anthony, Lahu Ke Do Rang among other films.

Hema and Shabana recall Khanna’s Rajneesh days, his political rise, apart from his incredible star power.

Just a few days ago our last film together Ek Thi Rani Aisi Bhi released. And now he’s gone. Vinod Khanna was a very fine gentleman, educated articulate and well-informed. I had the opportunity to work with him in several capacities. He was the villain in my early film, Patthar Aur Payal where Dharamji was the hero. Then in Haath Ki Safaai he was my co-star, though not paired opposite me. Then Vinod was my hero in one of my most favourite films; Aruna Raje’s Rihaee where he played my absentee husband. Though he was so urbane and sophisticated in real life, he looked every inch the rustic carpenter in Rihaee. He carried off the dhoti so well in the film. I feel he could play every role convincingly. He was my co-star in another of my favourite film, Chetan Anand’s Kudrat. Rajesh Khanna was also a part of it. Now both the Khannas are gone. It makes me very sad.
Hema Malini, Actress

She also talks about how he left his career to join Acharya Rajneesh in Oregon for five years.

Gulzar Saab’s Meera which is one of my favourite films featured Vinod as my husband. I played Meerabai and he played Rana Bhojraj. He brought such calm tranquility and understanding to his role. He was like that in real life too. On the sets, I would spend a lot of time discussing Acharya Rajneesh with him. I wanted to understand what it was about that man which made Vinod leave his career and join him in Oregon for five years. He would patiently try to explain the philosophy of Rajneesh to me. Do you know, I came into politics because of Vinod Khanna? I had no idea about politics and how it worked. One day Vinod called to say, ‘I am fighting elections from Gurdaspur. I want you to campaign for me.’ I refused outright saying I knew nothing about politics or campaigning, He insisted. My mother also said I should go since Vinod was such a dear co-star. That’s how my career in politics started. It’s sad when colleagues are gone. Now hardly any of my co-stars are left.
Hema Malini, Actress

Shabana Azmi, who worked with the actor in films like Lahu Ke Do Rang among others also reacted on the actor’s demise.

It was not unexpected. Photos showing an ailing Vinod Khanna - a pale shadow of his dashing former self had insensitively been circulated on social media a few weeks ago. And now he is gone. Farooque, Om Puri , Vinod - 3 co-actors with whom I worked a lot have passed away in quick succession. Makes me come to terms with my own mortality.
Shabana Azmi, Actress

She remembers the first time she worked with him.

I first worked with Vinod in Aruna Vikas’s Shaque. I remember being terrified because Aruna and Vikas who were married then and co-directing the film, demonstrated how they wanted a particularly intimate scene to be done. I was awkward and very embarrassed. Vinod , who sensed this came to my rescue. When we started rehearsing he put his arm around me and asked the directors, ‘if I hold her in this position will I miss the camera? Would it be better if I hold her arm higher?’ Suddenly I felt ‘oh this is such a technical thing no need to be embarrassed’ and I started breathing again. I will always be thankful to him for this. He was a big star and I, a rank newcomer, if he had asked me to relax I would have got even more tense. What a considerate thing to do.
Shabana Azmi

She remembers how accessible he was, despite being such a big star, “We did many films together. He was different from most movie stars. On outdoor schedules, it's common to have fans shower hospitality on stars, bring home-cooked food and generally be at the stars beck and call etc. We are happy to partake of their hospitality but avoid their phone calls when they come to our city. Vinod would not only be accessible, he would also invite them on the sets and be extremely courteous. It was a rare quality."

I did a whole gamut of films with Vinod from Shaque to Khoon Ki Pukar and particularly enjoyed doing Parvarish with him. One day Manmohan Desai turned up at a studio I was shooting in and said in his inimitable manner, ‘I’m producing a film for the first time. It’s called Amar Akbar Anthony and I want you to be a part of it. Frankly there’s no role for you but woh Vinod meri jaan kha jayega, that Amitabh and Rishi have heroines opposite them, I need one too!’ I was utterly disarmed and said yes right away.
Shabana Azmi

Shabana also recalls Vinod’s Rajneesh phase and the turmoil he was going through.

I’ve watched Vinod through various phases in his life. His Rajneesh phase in the prime of his stardom. He had lost his mother and a close cousin almost simultaneously and was battling metaphysical questions about life and death. He felt cut off and disconnected with every thing and everybody. Rajneesh aka Osho gave him the solace he was seeking. He became the butt of ridicule in whispers around the film industry. ‘Such a handsome successful star... what’s wrong with him? Sab kuch to hai kyun panga lena?’ tittered an Industry unused to people who didn’t conform. And then one day he just used and left for Oregon, leaving behind angry producers with some incomplete films. I wonder if anybody other than Mahesh Bhatt and Jhonny Bakshi understood the turmoil Vinod was going through.
Shabana Azmi

She continues, “He came back some five years or so later and the film industry opened his arms to him once again. He did some substantial work but he needed to do more than just be a Hindi film actor. Inevitably, he joined politics and was overwhelmed by the huge mandate he got... He gave himself wholeheartedly to politics - even became a Minister of State for External Affairs. I had political differences with him but we continued to be fond of each other. I learned he often inquired after me from common friends but we lost touch. And now he is gone... I regret not going to see him after I learned about his illness. Perhaps because I want to remember him as he was - handsome, warm and considerate.”

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