When a superstar grows out of shadow of another, it paves way for comparisons of legendary proportion. With almost similar ambitions and humbling struggles, both Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan wrote their own scripts in life. While Rajesh Khanna was the ‘Original King of Romance’, AB is Bollywood’s Shahenshah. Kaka, as Rajesh Khanna, was popularly called in the industry is no more, AB is a septuagenarian and is still going strong with his Angry Young Man tag intact.
Let’ compare how both fared in their journeys to achieve superstardom and who triumphed over the other.
Rajesh Khanna was born on 29th December, 1942 in the holy city of Amritsar as Jatin Chunnilal Khanna. Jatin signed his first film, Raaz as Rajesh Khanna while his first film to be released was Akhri Khat. Both were hits.
Amitabh on the other hand was born to the illustrious Hindi poet, Harivansh Rai Bachchan. He was named as Inquilab but later got it changed to Amitabh to rhyme it with his other sibling Ajitabh.
Contest Winner versus an AIR reject
In a way, Rajesh had a rather golden start, while Amitabh struggled initially. RK was the winner of the Filmfare-Madhuri Talent while AB was disappointingly rejected for his baritone voice by AIR.
Unmatched Box Office Success for Rajesh Khanna
RK is colloquially referred to as the ‘Pasha of Passion and Romance’. With as many as 74 golden jubilee hits out of 105 registered hits, this Punjabi lad was the obvious ingredient for instant success and record-breaking box-office run. A career that spanned nearly four decades, Rajesh Khanna did 180 films. Amitabh took time to shed his silent hero tag before donning Angry Young Man.
Amitabh-Rajesh Khanna Rivalry
Rajesh Khanna was not the easiest of co-stars to work with, especially if you are projected as a ‘Future Star’. As per gossip mills, a struggling AB was mocked for hanging around Jaya Bhaduri over the sets of Bawarchi and not focussing on his work.
From senior to a co-star, Rajesh Khanna is believed to have had a rather significant effect on AB’s career. He managed to overcome everything that RK failed at.
From alleged hook-ups to failed marriage, Rajesh was stardom personified, while AB continues to be modest.
The Initial camaraderie turns into AB’s one-man show
From 1969 to 1975, RK was a solo icon of Bollywood before he was sucked by the Bachchan wave. The two paired together for Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s masterpiece Anand followed by Namak Haram. Rajesh took the meat with a memorable performance, while Namak Haram announced the superiority of AB’s versatility. Babumoshai swept the maniacal Kaka hysteria with his death scenes and Vijayesque attitude. RK himself crowned AB as ‘a Fluke Superstar’ at the premiere of Namak Haram even as he continued to overlook the evident writing on the wall.
Love Life and Matrimony
Women in the country were stuck with Kaka and pledged to marry him. While Kaka had a relatively steady personal life, it changed overnight when he married a teenager, Dimple Kapadia just months before her first release, Bobby. It infuriated many producers who were banking on his bride’s future projects.
AB, on the other hand, dated, married and continues to stay committed to Jaya Bachchan. He even got Jaya a meaty role in Sholay despite the pressure of an impending motherhood.
Personal Life and Alcohol
Kaka baffled his god-like image with series of flings and a failed marriage with Dimple Kapadia while AB remains an epitome of monogamy despite gossips. Kaka’s love for alcohol did no good to his career. Amitabh remains a teetotaller and has a rather subtle poise in the public life. Despite medical issues, AB is hale-hearty and is a symbol of longevity in an industry that sees quick exits.
Reinvention: Musical Rivalries and Story Picks
While RD Burman and Kishore Da were pairing to rework Kaka’s magical on-screen presence, Laxmikant-Pyarelal made AB a groovy star. Salim-Javed too stitched specific action-oriented, Total Indian masala movies with only AB in mind. While Kaka continued to exploit his lovable-man image with no scope of reinvention.
Shared stardom was not acceptable to Rajesh Khanna. He never accepted a role with AB or shared the same connect in their earlier days.
Bombay Superstar: Bows out on his own shadow
While he never made it to the Madam Tussad’s Wax museum like AB, he features on a stamp released by India Post and poses stylishly through the bronze statue at Bandra Bandstand in Mumbai.
Mood defined Kaka’s life, while Bachchan defined the mood of the whole industry. And no, Ajooba was not a Namak Haram after all…