Blessed with a physique of a Greek god and a charming smile that would make girls fall head over heels in love with him, a dashing young man debuted in 70’s movie – Man Ka Meet as the leading antagonist along with Sunil Dutt’s younger brother Som Dutt and actress Leena Chandavarkar. The antagonist got noticed and went on to become the successful star of 70’s and 80’s. He was Vinod Khanna. He started his career with portraying villainous roles in movies like ‘Mera Gaon Mera Desh’ and ‘Aan Milo Sajna’. Probably he was the only handsome villain who could outlive the hero. Vinod Khanna went on to become a lead hero in countless successful movies like Mere Apne, Qurbani, Parvarish, Amar Akbar Anthony, Achanak, Garam Khoon, Lahoo ke do rang, Chandni, Dayavan etc.
Vinod Khanna’s portrayal as the rebellious youth in Gulzar’s Mere Apne was a cult in its own where he was pitted against Shatrughan Sinha the other young angry young man of 70’s. Their fierce performance not only made the movie successful but also established both these actors as tough contenders against Amitabh Bachchan. Vinod Khanna later acted along with Amitabh in Khoon Paseena, Parvarish, Muqaddar ka Sikandar and Amar Akbar Anthony. I got acquainted with his power house performance during my childhood days when I first watched ‘Mera Gaon Mera Desh’ where he played the role of a dacoit and had literally knocked down Dharmendra. That was the movie that introduced me to Vinod Khanna.
His memorable portrayal was the role of Shakti Velu in Feroz Khan’s movie – Dayavan. A remake of Mani Ratnam’s movie – Nayakan, Dayavan is story of a generous godfather who reaches out to help every needy. Dayavan was a successful movie of early 90’s. Amitabh considered Vinod Khanna as his toughest contender and competitor in 70’s. Both were mighty in their respective movies. I remember one scene where Vinod Khanna literally beats the life out of Amitabh in movie ‘Amar Akbar Anthony. Vinod Khanna played the role of Amar, the elder brother of Amitabh and Rishi Kapoor in Manmohan Desai’s ambitious movie. 70’s cinema was all about lost and found formula, pick pockets, smuggling and this plot was recycled several times. Whether it is Parvarish or Haath Ki Safai, Vinod Khanna conquered the moment with his dynamic presence. In mid-eighties, Vinod Khanna quit Bollywood to seek meditation in Osho’s Ashram. If he hadn’t quit Bollywood, the story would have been different. He made his comeback several years later with Insaaf, Satyamev Jayate and Dayavan. Though his second innings was successful, Bollywood had already changed with entry of actors like Sunny Deol, Sanjay Dutt, Anil Kapoor, Govinda and the Khans. (Aamir, Salman, Shahrukh).
With times, he shifted to playing character roles in Wanted, Dabanng, Risk and Dilwale. His last appearance was the role of an ageing don in Dilwale along with Shahrukh Khan. Vinod Khanna shared a good rapport with his friend and actor Feroz Khan in Qurbani and Dayavan. Yash Chopra’s Chandni was another memorable movie of Vinod where he played the role of a heartbroken businessman. Though his character arrives in post interval, he literally steals the show in Chandni which was one of his memorable roles. Whether it was playing the convict in Gulzar’s Achanak or the dacoit in Mera Gaon Mera Desh, he nailed every role to perfection.
‘Koi hota jisko apna hum apna keh lete yaaro, paas nahi to door bhi hota, lekin koi mera apna’ – lines from movie Mere Apne
Though he couldn’t survive the battle of cancer, he has already become immortal in world of Indian cinema. In these 5 years, Indian cinema has lost two great actors – Rajesh Khanna and Vinod Khanna. One was a romantic star while other was a dashing hunk. Today not a single actor can compete the charm of Vinod Khanna. It was disheartening to know that very less people arrived to pay respects on his funeral. Nevertheless, an artist never dies. He lives on through his works.
Through this article, I have tried to pay respects to a great artist of Indian cinema. Legends like actor Vinod Khanna are born only once.