How It Happened

I was a discovery of the talent hunt for actors by United Artists. Being selected as a potential actor did have me pinning high hopes to make it big on the silver screen with my performances. My idols were and still are Guru Dutt, Meena Kumari and Geeta Bali. My inspirations include, Dilip Kumar's dedication and intensity, Raj Kapoor's spontaneity, Dev Anand's style and Shammi Kapoor's rhythm.

Though “Aakhri Khat” is my first film, I received my first break as a leading actor in Ravindra Dave's, “Raaz” in 1967. My heroine was Babita, already a popular actress then. Though I had lots of confidence, I was shy in facing the camera initially. In my first three shots, I had to perform with stress on my body language and dialogue delivery. Though I was right with my dialogues, my movements were not up to the mark. Ravindra Dave explained me my scenes and movements very clearly correcting my way of walking.

How It Felt

I consider “Aakhri Khat” a memorable film of my initial days. It was out and out a director's project and Chetan Anand, highly imaginative and sensitive director handled the film with expertise. I still clearly remember how cinematographer Jal Mistry shot the song sequence, “Ab Na Ja” on me and Indrani Mukherjee in five to six close ups also picturising the natural panorama of the Himalayas with rare aesthetics and perfection. My most challenging scene in “Aakhri Khat” was the last one where I am in a pensive mood in silence till I recognise my son, Bunty. Chetan Anand used to wake me up with late night phone calls so that my face had the ideal pathos oriented look.

How Life Changed

Followed “Baharon Ke Sapne”, “Doli”, “Ittefaq” and then came “Aradhana” in 1969 which made me what I am. I have had a number of hits but my most memorable performances are in “Dushman”, “Anand”, “Amar Prem”, “Avishkar” and “Avtaar”.

I will be really ungrateful if I do not make a special mention of late Uttam Kumar, the greatest living actor of my times. He had a divine screen presence with a God gifted smile and dialogue delivery. While shooting for “Amar Prem” the Hindi Version of Uttam Kumar's, “Nishipadma”, I confessed to director Shakti Samanta, I will consider myself really lucky if I can perform even 50 per cent of what Uttam Kumar did.

(As told to Ranjan Das Gupta)

Keywords: Rajesh Khanna