MUMBAI—Vinod Khanna, a Bollywood superstar who later embraced politics, died in the morning on Apr. 27 following a battle with cancer, marking the end of an era in Hindi films. He was 70.
Khanna, a former union minister, is survived by his former wife Geetanjali and their sons Akshaye and Rahul Khanna, who are now actors, and his present wife Kavita and son Sakshi and daughter Shraddha.
The actor was cremated in the evening at the Hindu Crematorium, Worli. Sakshi lit the funeral pyre a short while after Khanna’s flower-bedecked body was brought from their Malabar Hill residence where it was kept for people to pay homage. A large number of teary-eyed actors, producers, directors and a few actresses, his colleagues in the Bharatiya Janata Party, fans and admirers also turned up to pay their final respects both at his home and the crematorium.
President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined the nation in mourning the death of the villain-turned-hero who acted in some 150 films in a career that spanned five decades.
Khanna was admitted to Sir H.N. Reliance Foundation Hospital early in April for cancer, but the family was then tight-lipped about his condition.
The hospital said he died at 11.20 a.m. due to advanced bladder carcinoma.
The actor was the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member of the Lok Sabha from Gurdaspur in Punjab. He was into his fourth term as MP.
While President Mukherjee called him "a highly talented and acclaimed actor and MP," Modi said Khanna was "a popular actor, dedicated leader, and a wonderful human."
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said Khanna was "one of the greatest legends of Indian cinema."
Khanna debuted in Bollywood in 1968 with "Man Ka Meet" as a villain.
After playing various supporting roles in movies like "Purab Aur Paschim," "Sachaa Jhutha" and "Mastana," he got his first big break as the lead actor in 1971 in "Hum Tum Aur Woh."
He featured in some of the biggest Bollywood hits like "Mere Apne," "Insaaf," "Parvarish," "Muqaddar Ka Sikandar," "Qurbani," "Dayavaan," "Mera Gaon Mera Desh," "The Burning Train" and "Amar Akbar Anthony."
Filmmaker Subhash Ghai called Khanna a "real handsome man" both on and off the screen.
Born in Peshawar (now in Pakistan) into a business family, Khanna did his schooling in Mumbai, Delhi, and Nashik and graduated in B.Com from Mumbai's Sydenham College.
The Bollywood bug bit the young Khanna after watching the Dilip Kumar-Madhubala epic "Mughal-E-Azam" and the Dev Anand-Waheeda Rehman starrer "Solva Saal."
At the height of his career, Khanna suddenly took 'sanyas' in 1982 to become a disciple of Bhagwan Rajneesh, the founder of Osho, and lived in Pune for five years.
He returned to Bollywood in 1987 and joined the BJP too.
He was appointed Minister of State for Culture and Tourism in July 2002 and later Minister of State for External Affairs in the government of then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Khanna was first elected from Gurdaspur in 1998. He was re-elected in 1999 and 2004. He lost narrowly in 2009. He won again from Gurdaspur.
Bollywood went into mourning.
Megastar Rajinikanth tweeted: "My dear friend Vinod Khanna... Will miss you, RIP."
Veteran singer Asha Bhosle added: "A decent man and a star till the very end."
Actor-politician Shatrughan Sinha recalled his long innings with Khanna, both in the film world and politics.
"Truly 'Mere Apne,' one of my most admired and loved personalities, the supremely handsome and talented superstar... Right from films to politics, Vinod Khanna and I sailed together."
Actor Akshay Kumar said Khanna's death marked "truly end of an era."