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Exclusive! “Rajesh Khanna told me his death was coming rather early,” says his friend Bhupesh Raseen – Times of India

Rajesh Khanna’s close friend Bhupesh Raseen who was with him right till the superstar breathed his last on July 18, 2012, says that he hasn’t yet come to terms about losing Kakaji (as Rajesh Khanna was fondly called). “I have come to the same land in Bandra where Kakaji’s iconic bungalow Aashirwad (at Mumbai’s Carter Road) stood and am talking to you outside its gate. He would have been 80 today if he was alive. He was unique. He had the DNA of a superstar, which he proved on-screen and off-screen. He lived his life King’s size,” he says, talking to ETimes.

Bhupesh tells us that Rajesh Khanna knew 15 months before his demise that he won’t survive from cancer that he was battling. “Even much before he was diagnosed with cancer, I tried my best to take him off his cigarettes and alcohol, but I failed.”

According to Bhupesh, Mumtaz was Rajesh Khanna’s favourite heroine. “She even came to see him a few months before he passed away. She tried to keep him in good spirits by talking like a chatterbox. And you know, he had stopped talking completely to many people a few months before his death. He used to be sitting calm and composed but avoid a conversation. But when he saw Mumu (as Mumtaz was fondly called), he started talking and told her ‘You should have been cast in ‘Sholay’ as Basanti. They even shared a very emotional moment when Mumtaz spoke about her cancer (today Mumtaz is cancer free).”

Going further down memory lane, Bhupesh says that Rajesh Khanna didn’t want to take his last breath in the hospital. “He had told me that he wants to slip away peacefully at home.”

Amitabh Bachchan-Rajesh Khanna competition was a bit too exaggerated by the media,” says the friend. “Cinema was changing in the 80s and obviously he could not oppose the change. He was never an action hero and if he wanted he could have tried his hand at it. But, he never wanted to do films for just the heck of it. In fact, I distinctly recall how he avoided signing films after his comeback in ‘Avtaar’ and ‘Souten’ in ’83; both those films did very well but a few after them did not and he chose not to pursue acting anymore. As for his equation with Bachchan, I think I saw them pretty warm towards each other not just on-stage at the IIFA Awards in Singapore in 2012 but also off-stage.”

“Rajesh Khanna never told anybody that he is lonely. He always said he was alone. Dimpleji went all out and came very frequently when he had become unwell. There was no animosity in their relationship and I can’t decide if he was more in love with Twinkle or Rinke (daughters). He loved Rinke and Twinkle equally. And, he was very fond of Akshay Kumar (son-in-law). It was Twinkle’s idea to troop off to Goa for his birthday; I was with the entire family and when we were returning he sensed that it was his last birthday and told me ‘Ab final ho gaya lekin jaldi ho raha hai’ (‘I am going but rather early’).”

Continues Bhupesh, “Kakaji loved Raj Kapoor’s softness, Dev Anand‘s style and Dilip Kumar‘s dialogue delivery. He often imitated Raj Kapoor when he was at home with his near and dear ones.” And of course, Rajesh Khanna had his fair share of emotions. “I know for a fact that he had felt very upset when a certain film he had refused for a South producer went on to become a hit. He had gone and sat by the sea for an entire night and let his tears flow. But the first ray of sunshine the following morning he decided that he won’t sulk over it anymore as he had only rightly refused that producer because he felt he won’t be able to do justice to the role. And then ‘Aradhna’ (’69) happened. And you know what! Rajesh Khanna always thanked Shammi Kapoor; Shammiji was supposed to do it, but as they say, destiny had other plans.”

Rajesh Khanna loved how Kishore Kumar sang songs in a car and how RD Burman made music by moving his fingers on the dashboard, plus a very special admiration for Anand Bakshi. Bhupesh also reveals that Rajesh Khanna was fond of Ismail Darbar’s music. “When he got to know that Ismail was coming to see him, he told me to arrange for a wheelchair that can be put in his car so that we could go and meet Ismail.”

Talking further about Rajesh Khanna, Bhupesh says that Khanna liked all his films and often saw them in his home theatre at Aashirwad. “If you insist for me to point out one, I feel he liked ‘Anand’ the most. He even liked ‘Do Raaste, ‘Amar Prem’ and ‘Haathi Mere Saathi’ a lot.”

Rues Bhupesh, “The only thing besides taking him off from alcohol and cigarettes that I couldn’t do is to take him to Haridwar to buy a land, which he so dearly wanted,” and he concluded with a sigh, saying, “I miss Kakaji very much.”

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