REMEMBERING THE POETIC MASCULINITY RAJESH KHANNA’S LADY LOVE HAS BEEN REVEALED

 

His films release the middle class from questions of class and social conformity, and allow for an exploration of what it means to be an individual in those times. The time that was to follow when a new era was ushered in by the arrival of Amitabh Bachchan, grappled with a completely new set of questions that were rooted in identity and class and an overall disappointment with father figures.


In terms of style, Rajesh Khanna traded the extravagant for the conversational and spoke as if he meant what he said. Perhaps the secret to his success with women, was his ability to speak to them as persons rather than only through the lens of gender or appearance. In speaking to the person inside rather than the woman outside, in peering deeper into the eyes and valuing what lay hidden there, he brought women closer  to the imagined ideal of what cultural psychologist Sudhir Kakar calls a ‘two-person universe’

that exists between a man and woman; one where each ‘finally recognises the other’. His romantic style eschewed grand gestures relying instead on thoughtful attention communicated through gaze rather than touch. In his pivotal films, the freshness of youth masked a deeper maturity that combined attractiveness with a promise of deeper understanding. In some ways, Khanna embodied the best that could be imagined of a middle class Indian man, particularly from the viewpoint of a woman.

In contrast to the prosaic concerns of most Hindi film heroes , Rajesh Khanna represented the more poetic side of masculinity, one which exuded vulnerability but presented it a form of thoughtfulness, rather than insecurity. Romance deepened the intimacy between man and woman; it was a fire that glowed deep and burned long.

It is almost as if we were waiting for the man to die so that we could remember him. Not as he was at the time of his death but as we experienced him so many years ago. There is something about his influence that was so distinctive and deep that once it is possible to remember him again, memory gushes forth and sentiment washes over us. It is not unusual for stars to burn brightly for a short time and then fade away, but in Rajesh Khanna’s case, this pattern played out with such intensity so as to become uncomfortable. It is as if he lived only for five years, between 1969 (Aradhana) and 1973(Namak Haram), with the rest of his life, whether before or after, seeming to count for very little.

In all that has written about him after his passing, it seems even clearer that there was something that was terminally elusive about him and the success he enjoyed. The dazzling degree of adulation he attracted is difficult to explain using the usual explanations- there was little by way of physical appearance nor was he a teenage heart-throb. He did not connect with any dominant social issue of the time; his films do not have the kind of underlying thematic unity that Amitabh Bachchan’s work does. He worked with the kind of directors who made quiet films rather than epic blockbusters; it is very difficult to imagine films like Anand and Amar Prem generating mass hysteria.

What is easier to grasp is the distinctive nature of his films and his on-screen persona. Perhaps the most refreshing aspect of his best work is the emphasis on issues that are personal rather than the social. Few of his films use the familiar tropes of the day- he is rarely found embedded in a social context- his roles tended to focus on the individual, rather than the background he came from. He has been cast as Army officer, an artist, or often someone from an undefined profession and background. The questions his films dealt with were about the significant issues that we face as individuals in our everyday life. His films release the middle class from questions of class and social conformity, and allow for an exploration of what it means to be an individual in those times. The time that was to follow when a new era was ushered in by the arrival of Amitabh Bachchan, grappled with a completely new set of questions that were rooted in identity and class and an overall disappointment with father figures.

In terms of style, Rajesh Khanna traded the extravagant for the conversational and spoke as if he meant what he said. Perhaps the secret to his success with women, was his ability to speak to them as persons rather than only through the lens of gender or appearance. In speaking to the person inside rather than the woman outside, in peering deeper into the eyes and valuing what lay hidden there, he brought women closer  to the imagined ideal of what cultural psychologist Sudhir Kakar calls a ‘two-person universe’ that exists between a man and woman; one where each ‘finally recognises the other’. His romantic style eschewed grand gestures relying instead on thoughtful attention communicated through gaze rather than touch. In his pivotal films, the freshness of youth masked a deeper maturity that combined attractiveness with a promise of deeper understanding. In some ways, Khanna embodied the best that could be imagined of a middle class Indian man, particularly from the viewpoint of a woman.

In contrast to the prosaic concerns of most Hindi film heroes , Rajesh Khanna represented the more poetic side of masculinity, one which exuded vulnerability but presented it a form of thoughtfulness, rather than insecurity. Romance deepened the intimacy between man and woman; it was a fire that glowed deep and burned long. Even death in his world is imagined as a form of poetry (Maut tu ek kavita hai in Anand) rather than a sordid fact of life. The balance of poetry with masculinity was managed by his own persona as well as through the masculine timbre of Kishore Kumar (as against the mellifluous gentleness of say, a Hemant Kumar) in whose voice the poetry came to life. His films are more adult too, in that they deal with issues of life and death, love and loss, expectations and regret. Most of his popular songs philosophise in an accessible way about the deeper issues that underpin everyday life, and are tinged with a sense of mild incomprehension as to what life is all about.

Rajesh Khanna’s tragedy was that when youthfulness thickened into maturity, he was revealed to be just another middle-aged man. His face and body lost the freshness that had masked his morose conservatism, the poetry became a set of practised mannerisms and time and social context pulled the rug from under his feet. He lived the rest of his life in reverse, seeing it recede through the wrong end of the binoculars, beginning with his hey days, till he was barely a distant speck in our consciousness.

When we see Anand, Amar Prem, Aradhana, Safar, Bawarchi or Aavishkar today, we are transported back to another era not only because these are older films but because they expressed a side of us that has rarely been spoken to since. Before a time when cinema became raging spectacle, there seemed to be a brief period when we had the time for thoughtful individuality. The middle class began to take itself less seriously at around this time, as the larger reality of urban India elbowed its way into our consciousness. We miss that Rajesh Khanna of the crinkly eyes and the quiet gesture because in him we saw a reflection of who we would have liked to see in the mirror. Once upon a time.

READMOREhttp://theuncagedsoullifestlye.blogspot.com/2012/07/there-cannot-be-another-rajesh-khanna.html?zx=cd1403f487150ad9

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s