MUMBAI: Rajesh Khanna, one of the Indian film industry’s first home-grown screen idols, died this morning, his family said.
Khanna, 69, had been in and out of hospital over the past month as a result of an undisclosed illness. He died at his residence in suburban Mumbai, his son-in-law and actor Akshay Kumar told reporters.
The funeral will be held tomorrow.
Known for his shy smile and flamboyant looks, Khanna was often referred to as Bollywood’s first real superstar, someone who had a fanatical fan base among women, thanks to the many romantic hits in which he starred during the 1970s.
At the peak of his career, women would symbolically marry posters of Khanna and write letters to him in blood, according to actors who worked with him. “Rajesh Khanna taught us how to smile. He added dignity to our concept of romance,” actor Anupam Kher wrote on Twitter. His role as a dashing young pilot in Aradhana and a terminally ill cancer patient in Anand remain some of the most remembered characters in Bollywood, and many of the lines are part of Indian pop culture. (More on Page 15 )