Shabana Azmi On Vinod Khanna As told to Subhash K Jha

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 “It was not unexpected. Photos showing an ailing Vinod Khanna – a pale shadow of his dashing former self  had insensitively been circulated on the social media a few weeks ago. And now he is gone..
Farooque, Om Puri , Vinod – 3 co actors with whom I worked a lot have passed away in quick succession. Makes me come to terms with my own mortality..
I first worked with Vinod in Aruna Vikas’s Shaque. I remember being terrified because Aruna and Vikas who were married then and codirecting the film, demonstrated how they wanted a particularly intimate scene to be done. I was awkward and very embarrassed. Vinod , who sensed this came to my rescue. When we started rehearsing he put his arm around me and asked the directors” if I hold her in this position will I miss the camera? Would it be better if I hold her arm higher?” Suddenly I felt ‘oh this is such a technical thing no need to be embarrassed’ and I started breathing again. I will always be thankful to him for this. He was a big star and I, a rank newcomer,if he had asked me to relax I would have got even more tense… What a considerate thing to do…
We did many films together.He was different from most movie stars.On outdoor schedules it’s common to have fans shower hospitality on stars, bring home cooked food  and generally be at the stars beck and call etc.We are happy to partake of their hospitality but avoid their phone calls when they come to our city. Vinod would not only be accessible , he would also invite them on the sets and be extremely courteous. It was a rare quality.”
I did a whole gamut of films with Vinod from
Shaque to Khoon  Ki Pukar and particularly enjoyed doing Parvarish with him. One day Manmohan Desai turned up at a studio I was shooting in and said in his inimitable manner , ” I’m producing a film for the first time . It’s called Amar Akbar Anthony and I want you to be a part of it. Frankly there’s no role for you but woh Vinod meri jaan kha  jayega that Amitabh and Rishi have heroines opposite them I need one too!”I was utterly disarmed and said yes right away.
I’ve watched Vinod through various phases in his life. His Rajneesh phase in the prime of his stardom. He had lost his mother and a close cousin almost simultaneously and was battling metaphysical questions about life and death. He felt cut off and disconnected with every thing and everybody. Rajneesh aka Osho gave him the solace he was seeking.He became the butt of ridicule in whispers around the film industry. “Such a handsome successful star..what’s wrong with him? Sab kuch tto hai kyun panga lena ? ” tittered an Industry unused to people who didn’t conform. And then one day he just used and left for Oregon, leaving behind angry producers with some incomplete films.I wonder if anybody other than Mahesh Bhatt and Jhonny Bakshi understood the turmoil Vinod was going through…
He came back some five years or so later and the film industry opened his arms to him once again. He did some substantial work but he needed to do more than just be a Hindi film actor. Inevitably he joined politics and was overwhelmed by the huge mandate he got… He gave himself wholeheartedly to politics -even became a Minister of State for External Affairs. I had political differences with him but we continued to be fond of each other. I learned he often enquired after me from common friends but we lost touch..
And now he is gone.. I regret not going to see him after I learned about his illness. Perhaps because I want to remember him as he was- handsome , warm and considerate..

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