Thousands throng the streets and follow the funeral procession right from the actor’s residence
A mass frenzy of sorts was unleashed on the streets of Mumbai on Thursday as thousands of eager fans and onlookers poured onto the streets to get a last glimpse of legendary superstar Rajesh Khanna. The veteran actor passed away at his residence on Wednesday.
Mr. Khanna’s body was adorned with garlands of white roses, mogra and chrysanthemums. It was enclosed in a glass case mounted on a truck decorated with flowers. The funeral procession began from Mr. Khanna’s bungalow, ‘Aashirwad,’ on Carter Road in suburban Bandra.
Dimple Kapadia, Mr. Khanna’s wife, his daughter Rinkie, his son-in-law and actor Akshay Kumar, and grandson Aarav led the funeral procession on the truck to the crematorium at Pawan Hans in Ville Parle. His other daughter Twinkle Khanna, who is pregnant, was not seen at the funeral.
The procession arrived at the final destination at 11.15 a.m. Mr. Khanna’s last rites were performed by Akshay Kumar, who was accompanied by Aarav.
The road outside the crematorium teemed with humanity. The skywalk that rose over it was jammed with people and media cameras. Thousands thronged the streets and followed the procession right from the actor’s residence.
One such fan was Mohammad Rafique. It was a delirious moment for him when a plastic sheet that covered the case in which Mr. Khanna was kept flew in his direction.
“I was running behind the truck,” Mr. Rafique told The Hindu, hugging the plastic sheet.
“This flew off and I grabbed it. I will always cherish it as a memento of the superstar.”
A dejected Sayyed Baby Sheikh held a garlanded poster of the star and waited patiently among the sea of people. “Aapke bina Bharat adhoora [Without you India is incomplete],” the poster read.
“I made this poster on Wednesday. I am his fan. I did not get a chance to meet him. I am very unhappy about his demise. I have been carrying this garland since Wednesday. I went to his house and now I came here, but the police did not allow me to see him. I think when such superstars pass away the government should organise condolence ceremonies at bigger places like Shivaji Park or Azad Maidan, so that everyone can pay their last respects. I am unhappy that I could not pay a tribute. I saw him for the first time on the truck, but my garland of flowers could not reach him. I will always regret that. May God give him peace. He is everybody’s favourite. I have his photos at home. I am mad about his songs,” Mr. Sheikh told The Hindu.
A large number of fans turned up from the neighbouring state of Gujarat. “Some 51 luxury buses have come from various parts of Gujarat,” Kushal Singh, a fan of Kakaji [as Mr. Khanna was fondly called] from Ahmedabad told The Hindu. The Gujarat contingent marched, carrying a garlanded photograph of the veteran actor, shouting,“Long Live Rajesh Khanna!’ and ‘Rajesh Khanna Zindabad!’
People raved about Kakaji’s songs, his idiosyncrasies and dialogue delivery. Snatches of songs and dialogues were being enacted at various spots.
Datta Waghmare from Vashi in Navi Mumbai took a day’s leave from his clerical job at a school. “I love the way Mr. Khanna blinked his eyes and his hand gestures. He had a natural appeal. When I learnt of his demise, I shed tears,” Mr. Waghmare told The Hindu.
The dark lining
However, there was a dark lining to this outpouring of sentiment as, overcome by mob hysteria, the crowds caused a ruckus, posing and cheering in front of the cameras and robbing the poignant occasion of its dignity. Eager onlookers mobbed each passing car and the police had as difficult a time managing them as the creeping traffic. Continual scuffles broke out among the police, onlookers and the media.
There was much shoving and pushing for the entire duration of three hours that the funeral lasted and even after that. Onlookers perched on the skywalk, in the nooks of its metal frame, on trees, rooftops, road dividers and compound walls.
At one point the police resorted to lathi charge to control the crowds. A steady downpour made matters worse.
Heavy bandobast was deployed at the crematorium. Police vans were stationed and teams of local and riot police were pressed into service. Traffic crawled in the western suburbs and massive jams brought a part of the city to a halt.
Many Bollywood personalities including Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan, Raj Babbar, Karan Johar, Kabir Bedi, Aditya Chopra, Shakti Kapoor, Manoj Kumar, Rani Mukherjee, Vinod Khanna, Sajid Khan, Randhir Kapoor attended the funeral.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan also paid his last respects to the legend at ‘Aashirwad.’