MUMBAI—April 27. A day when handsome, rugged and stylized Feroz Khan, actor-filmmaker, passed away in 2009. Exactly eight years later, his close friend, also handsome, rugged and stylized, Vinod Khanna died, at the age of 70. The two had done three films together, “Shanker Shambhu,” a moderate success in 1976, which was an action drama whimsically titled after a popular pair of qawwals, and two films that Khan produced, directed and edited, “Qurbani” (1980) and “Dayavan” (1988). “Qurbani,” incidentally, was Khan’s biggest hit ever, and one of Khanna’s biggest hits as well.
Vinod Khanna’s career began as a villain, in Sunil Dutt’s “Man Ka Meet” (1968). His last release, ironically, was six days before his death – the delayed “Ek Thi Rani Aisi Bhi,” a biopic on Vijayaraje Scindia, in which he played Hema Malini’s husband, which hit the screen Apr. 21. Incidentally, Khanna’s character passed away within the film as well!
Here’s looking at the life and 40-year career of one of Hindi cinema’s most good-looking and suave actors and its milestones.
1946: On Oct. 9, Vinod Khanna was born to businessman Kishanchand Khanna and wife Kamla in Peshawar. In a tribute after his death, Rishi Kapoor, co-star in “Amar Akbar Anthony,” “Chandni” and “Garajna,” termed him the last of those in the film industry who came from the town in undivided India that is now in Pakistan. Khanna has three sisters and a brother named Pramod.
1948: The family migrated to Mumbai after Partition.
1960: Khanna was sent to a boarding school near Nashik. It was here that the film bug bit him. He watched two films that consolidated his desire to enter films – Dev Anand’s “Solva Saal” and Dilip Kumar’s “Mughal-E-Azam.” For college, he returned to Mumbai, did some modeling and tried his luck in films.
1967: He signed Sunil Dutt’s first production, “Man Ka Meet” as a villain to Dutt’s younger brother as a hero, Som Dutt. The film introduced two new heroines, and Leena Chandavarkar reached the top. It was a remake of the Tamil “Kumari Penn.” Khanna was never a great favorite of the South, but his last South remake was “Dayavan” (1988), which was a remake of Kamal Haasan’s “Nayakan.”
1968: “Man Ka Meet” released and did not do too well.
1969: His chiseled looks caught the eye of small-time filmmaker Jugal Kishore, who cast him in “Nateeja,” a small-budget action flick that marked Khanna’s debut as a leading man. His leading lady was another negative role specialist: Bindu! Bindu later played a key role in one of Khanna’s best works: “Imtihan.”
1970: Khanna found acceptance in sympathetic roles in big-budget films with Manmohan Desai’s “Saccha Jhutha” and his first director A. Subba Rao’s “Mastana,” both musical hits, playing second fiddle to Rajesh Khanna and Mehmood respectively.
1971: This was a memorable year for the actor. He gained a multitude of new fans as a hero (“Mere Apne”) as well as in a villain’s role (“Mera Gaon Mera Desh”). Long associations began with these films’ other leading men, Shatrughan Sinha and Dharmendra, and directors Gulzar and Raj Khosla. “Aan Milo Sajna,” “Elaan,” “Rakhwala” and “Jaane Anjaane” were also hit as a villain. Manoj Kumar’s “Purab Aur Pacchim” also did well with him as the second lead. Khanna’s only flops that year were the Kishore Kumar-Mehmood comedy “Hungama,” Sunil Dutt’s “Reshma Aur Shera” and Shammi Kapoor’s “Preetam.” So it was a prolific year as well.
On the personal front too, the year was special. Khanna married long-term college girlfriend, Geetanjali.
1972: Their first son, Rahul, was born.
1973: Two memorable performances came from the actor: “Kucche Dhaage” with Raj Khosla again and the more-hyped “Achanak” from Gulzar. The latter, songless, drama featured him as a decorated soldier who returns from war to find a philandering wife and kills her and her lover. It posed the question: how can a man who got medals for killing dozens of enemy soldiers get the gallows for killing two betrayers in his personal life? It was based on a Czech film.
1974: Vinod Khanna got the Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award for Prakash Mehra’s “Haath Ki Safai,” starting a long association with him. But the better and more celebrated performance was of the idealistic college professor in “Imtihan,” a smart adaptation of “To Sir With Love.” The year saw the last of his films as a villain, the Dharmendra-Hema Malini hit “Patthar Aur Payal” and the flop “Chowkidar” produced by a relative of Malini.
He also starred in his home production "The Cheat" co-produced by Pramod Khanna. It flopped as it was a thriller ahead of its times. It was directed by Sudesh Issar, father of Puneet Issar of Amitabh Bachchan's "Coolie" accident and Duryodhan of B.R. Chopra's "Mahabharat" fame.
1975: Khanna discovered godman Osho (Acharya Rajneesh) who would have a long-lasting impact on his life, family, and career. His tryst with Amitabh Bachchan began with “Zameer” produced by B.R. Chopra. They had both played small but key roles in “Reshma Aur Shera” in 1971.
Akshaye Khanna was born this year.
1976: His film with Amitabh Bachchan, “Hera Pheri,” a crime caper ran for 50 weeks.
1977: Suddenly Vinod Khanna was considered a very close contender to Numero Uno Amitabh Bachchan, his co-star in three more hits, “Khoon Pasina” (where Khanna stole the show), “Parvarish” (where Khanna stood up to Bachchan) and the biggest of them all, “Amar Akbar Anthony.” Individually, Khanna had hits in “Hatyara” and “Inkaar” and success in “Shaque.” Shabana Azmi, decades later, went to town about how Khanna made her feel very comfortable in an intimate shot, her first-ever, for the last-mentioned film.
In this year, Khanna had four more films with Azmi, including “Amar…,” “Parvarish,” the moderate success “Chor Sipahee” and “Aadha Din Aadhi Raat.” From 1977 to 1980 Khanna signed many films with fellow Rajneesh devotee Mahesh Bhatt, but none took off, except one.
1978: Khanna starred in his career-biggest hit in a secondary role to Bachchan again in “Muqaddar Ka Sikander.” After this, he nixed all filmmakers who wanted to cast them together – the films included Prakash Mehra’s “Namak Halaal.” His solo films “Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki” and “Khoon Ki Pukar” also worked. The latter again starred Azmi.
1979: An unremarkable year, but for Khanna’s first dual role in Mahesh Bhatt’s flop “Lahu Ke Do Rang.” Azmi again.
1980: “Qurbani” was Khanna’s fifth film to become the biggest hit of a specific year after “Saccha Jhutha,” “Mera Gaon Mera Desh,” “Amar Akbar Anthony” and “Muqaddar Ka Sikander.”
1982: A plethora of flops from 1979 to 1982 seemed to demoralize Khanna, who left home, hearth and work for Acharya Rajneesh when he moved to Oregon, cleaning dishes and working as his gardener. Soon, his wife filed for divorce.
1986: Disillusioned like so many, Khanna returned.
1987: His first signed comeback film was old friend Raj N. Sippy’s “Satyamev Jayate,” but “Insaaf” beat it to release, and also proved the true comeback of Dimple Kapadia, with whom Khanna now formed a fairly repeated team. Khanna also released his delayed but last film with Azmi in “Jallianwala Bagh.”
1988: “Dayavan” won Khanna acclaim, but it failed to make the commercial grade.
1989: As a hero, Vinod Khanna got his last hit in Yash Chopra’s “Chandni.” Again a secondary role, this time to Rishi Kapoor.
1990: Khanna did Hema Malini’s and his boldest film, “Rihaee” on sexual taboos. He also remarried – his bride being Kavita Daftary, the daughter of a tycoon.
1991: The couple got a son, Sakshi, who is now contemplating a career in Hindi films. Sometime later, daughter Shraddha was also born.
1997: Vinod Khanna turned producer to launch son Akshaye Khanna with “Himalayputra,” which starred Khanna with his special favorite co-actor Hema Malini. But the film was a washout. He also joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
1999: Elected from Gurdaspur constituency in Punjab in the Lok Sabha poll. Khanna also initiated Hema Malini into politics by persuading her to campaign for him. Khanna also received a Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to the industry for over three decades.
2002: He created history by becoming a Union Minister for Culture and Tourism. Six months later, he was moved to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) as Minister of State.
2004: He was re-elected from Gurdaspur.
2009: Khanna entered television, playing the lead in the Smriti Irani-produced Hindi serial “Mere Apne.” He also acted in his first hit as a character artiste, “Wanted.”
2010: Khanna got his biggest hit as a character artiste in “Dabangg,” his first of three films that crossed 100 crores.
2012: Khanna acted in his first sequel, “Dabangg 2.” The film also collected over Rs. 100 crores.
2014: Gurdaspur again elected him for the 16th Lok Sabha.
2015: “Dilwale” proved to be Khanna’s last film. It collected over Rs. 100 crores but did not recover costs of production.
2017: The delayed “Ek Thi Rani Aisi Bhi” hit screens on Apr. 21.