So, occasionally, I do photo walks through the bylanes of the city formerly known as Bombay, capturing aspects that were once regal, now a tad rundown. Like, old movie theatres, nestled in the heart of Lamington Road and Dongri - some have morphed into shopping malls, others screen B-Grade Bhojpuri porn, and the rest are ramshackled homes for rodents.
But, every one of them is a matinee memory of the '70s, each having screened at least one of the masala films that pitted Vinod Khanna versus Amitabh Bachchan. These were buddy movies, or the 'long lost brothers reunited at the end' formula film, or the 'antagonist-protagonist, both shaded grey' battle. Either way, two heroes sharing screen space was a norm, not a novelty.
It was total paisa vasool to watch the chemistry between two giants, particularly messrs Bachchan and Khanna, both totally secure in their own talent, yet working on the axiom that one plus one equals three. Actually one plus one produced 10 jubilee hit flicks together.
It always takes the passing of a past superstar to assess the present.
1. Like, the outpouring of grief for a fallen comrade that was evident in Bachchan's blog, Rishi Kapoor's rant at the younger set for their collective absence at the funeral and Dharmendra/Shotgun Sinha's awe-induced memories. No lip service, but genuine love and respect for a colleague, whose co-acting enriched their own careers.
2. Like, you wonder why the present generation have never followed suit in co-habiting the screen. Shah Rukh has never crossed swords with an Aamir, or Hrithik with Akshay... or Ranbir with Ranveer. Is it just a different era? Do the economics of present Bollywood not allow it? Or are egos just fragile? Either way, viewers have lost out on histrionic rivalries that could have played out as oneness, not one-upmanship, on the big screen.
3. Like, what is the modern notion of masculinity - six pack nonsense, arms akimbo attempting to look 'studly', chests puffed out. We truly lack a ruggedly handsome leading man. Vinod Khanna was that guy. He defined machismo with his shirt on.
Girls thought he was a real 'hottie', the older ladies whispered rhetorically, "He's quite fetching, no?" It was that the cleft in the chin, and the swagger, long before that word got abbreviated to swag.
4. Like, what would have been his Twitter following at his peak, if social media had adorned the '70s. In an age where cine stars need to convey to us every breath they take, every move they make, because they're being watched… 'spotted' like leopards… at airports and multiplexes, Vinod Khanna apparently shunned the paparazzi.
But his screen presence, his spiritual leanings, his SoBo life, his split to Oregon, his Satyamev Jayate return, would have found much social media traction. And he would have silenced the trollers with one glare.
In many ways you remember icons from the perspective of your youth, not theirs. His famous chin may have morphed into a double chin with time, but that cleft remained, as did his nonchalant screen attitude.
Vinod Khanna was a dude, long before that word was coined. Akbar and Anthony would agree.
Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at email@example.com
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