When Mumbai bid Rajesh Khanna a farewell…
A crowd of thousands gathered on the streets of Mumbai on Thursday, the 19th of July 2012, to bid adieu to India’s first superstar.
Rajesh Khanna lost his battle to cancer on the 18th of July 2012. His funeral was a rather grand one. His body was taken to the cremation grounds in Vile Parle from his home in Carter Road, Bandra on a truck. The truck was decorated with white flowers and had huge, fully blown up images of Rajesh Khanna from his young days.
What added to the funeral and made it so remarkable were the mourners that mobbed the truck when the body was being carried for cremation. Thousands of fans and admirers gathered on the streets to catch a last glimpse of the superstar. I happened to be crossing Pawan Hans, Vile Parle (probably the closest landmark to the cremation grounds) on the day of the funeral. Around the entire area, there were four police vans with many police out on the streets on a traffic bandobast. Unaware that the funeral was going to take place, I was initially worried looking at the kind of security Vile Parle was provided with. As I proceeded towards Santacruz, I saw the crowds and the truck carrying the body. That’s when it struck me that it was Rajesh Khanna’s funeral.
The crowds on the streets were a reflection of the level of stardom Rajesh Khanna had achieved in the 60s and 70s. From my auto-rickshaw, most of the crowds that I could see were women in their mid-forties. These teary-eyed women were struggling, pushing, snubbing everyone in their way to catch a glimpse of probably, their first crush.
Being the month of July, the rains did not favor the funeral. But, the rains didn’t stop more and more people from joining into the funeral. As my rickshaw proceeded further towards Bandra, I could only see the crowd increasing.
I had heard many stories, from many people about the kind of fan following Rajesh Khanna possessed in the 70s. I had seen 40 year old women blush as they spoke about him and his sex appeal in his younger days. But only when I saw his funeral, did I believe all of that. I don’t remember seeing such love and remorse at any celebrity’s funeral in the past. I actually saw both men and women, holding up pictures of him and crying on the streets. At certain areas, the crowds had become uncontrollable. The police had to take control of the crowd.
On the whole, the streets between Bandra and Vile Parle were filled with grief, madness and traffic jams on Thursday, the 19th of July 2012. Mumbai took time out to bid a goodbye to her favorite superstar. Akshay Kumar was heard quoting, ‘My father-in-law received the kind of funeral he deserved.’ It was a scene that the streets of the city hadn’t seen in a long time and wouldn’t probably see for a long time from now.
Luckily, I happened to be a part of this kind of a celebration of stardom. RIP Rajesh Khanna, you did give your fans something that your contemporaries didn’t which is why they showed you their love at your funeral.