Yes, this is a tale of two shooting stars.
One generated a huge euphoria that led people to believe that cupid must be in the air, because they could not help but falling in love. During those heady days, many of his female fans dreamt of him silently praying,’Aan Milo Sajna’.
The other emerged as a messiah for the masses, who’s new political ‘Maryada’ made people swear their allegiance to this man.
One took his female fans for a celluloid ride with his unmatchable ‘Andaz’, decades ago. While the other is planning to take women folk of Delhi for a ride, and people are seeing through his ‘Sacha Jhuta’ intentions.
The duo’s sudden luminescence in their respective arenas was a ‘Raaz’. Initially people thought that their instant success was an ‘Ittefaq’. Both traversed a terrain which was akin to ‘Do Raaste’: one in acting, and the other in activism; but it was clear that both had boarded ‘The Train’ to super-success, albeit brief.
Jealous competitors claimed that their starry journey was a brief ‘Safar’, and predicted it would enter the ‘Khamoshi’ zone soon.
But many also hoped that the ‘Prem Kahani’ with their respective constituents would last long. But before the duo knew what hit them, their super-celeb status was dangling like a ‘Kati Patang’.
The ‘Anand’ that they had generated among their legions of supporters evaporated, and many started perceiving an ‘Ajnabi’ in them -- and somehow, they couldn’t erase the ‘Daag’ of ill-will that was subsequently created.
You’ve guessed right—we are talking of Rajesh Khanna (RK) and Arvind Kejriwal (AK). Here were two personalities of contemporary history, who blazed an unbelievable trail. Both belonged to different eras, both were active in different fields, but they successfully created a mass following of die-hard fans.
Rajesh Khanna, made his appearance on the silver screen in 1966, but the superstar crown was bestowed on him in 1969 with the blockbuster, ‘Aradhana’. It’s reported that he had 15 consecutive solo super-hits between 1969 and 1972, which still is an unbroken record in Indian film history. The Rajesh Khanna phenomenon had no parallels—in fact, in filmy lexicon, the term “superstar”,was first coined to describe Rajesh Khanna.
Arvind Kejriwal’s ‘Aradhana’-moment came in 2011 ,when he teamed up with Anna Hazare and fired the public imagination on matters regarding probity in public life, like no one ever had done before in the past. The AK star had taken birth! And in a matter of few years, he had created a sensation, not just in Delhi, but across the country, emerging as the media’s and the honest Indian’s chosen darling.
While RK was the staple diet of every film journalist & entertainment magazine during his heydays, AK was more fortunate, since his stardom coincided with the networked world of social media, digital & television journalism. In fact, his critics still allege that the AK sensation was media-manufactured.
Rajesh Khanna challenged the established mega stars with his boy-next-door looks, normally adorning a simple kurta-trouser combo; just about 1.75m tall with no great physique or personality. He was called a "faaltu hero" because of his unconventional features. Remember that was the age of celluloid giants who ruled the box office-- Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Dharmendra, Shashi Kapoor, Raaj Kumar, Sanjeev Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor, Vinod Khanna…They were better-looking actors with impressive physiques and proven histrionic abilities.
Somehow, RK had the wow factor. Bollywood is replete with the tales of many Khans: from Yusuf Khan to Shahrukh Khan. But the asli Romance Khan was Rajesh Khan(na)!
Coincidentally, AK burst into the political mindscape wearing an unimpressive half-sleeve shirt over a pair of loosely-fit trousers and sandals, plus the Gandhi topi, which the new-gen congress fraternity had abandoned as unfashionable. He was just 1.65 m in height and looked puny in front of the dominant political stalwarts of that era—L.K.Advani, Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, Sonia Gandhi, Mamata Banerji, Jayalalitha, Mayawati, Mulayam Yadav, Lalu Yadav, Nitish Kumar, Sharad Pawar, Rahul Gandhi, Sheila Dikshit…
The AK mini-saga, sans any political lineage or dynastic crutch, rode roughshod over all these political superstars; like Rajesh Khanna who also didn’t belong to a star family. Somehow, Arvind Kejriwal, too had the wow factor.
RK appeared on the scene like a pole star but soon was to become a shooting star, fading away a bit too soon; his 24 karat-gold tenure lasted for just about half a decade. When Rajesh Khanna passed away (18 July 2012), there were a flurry of nostalgic tributes. Amitabh Bachchan wrote in his blog, ‘… The frenzy and the following he garnered was a sight to behold. In the 1970 era, his fans came from Spain to meet him - a most unheard of occurrence then. In his trade mark Rajesh Khanna kurta pyjama, he almost always looked the boy next door, one that girls would want to take home to mother…’
Cut to Arvind Kejriwal. Does one still remember the marquee names who volunteered for Aam Admi Party? Kiran Bedi, Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan, Capt.Gopinath, Mallika Sarabhai, Admiral L.Ramdas(Retd.), Meera Sanyal(RBS), Ashutosh(IBN 7), V.Balakrishnan(Infosys), Adarsh Shastri(Apple), Kumar Vishwas…and many more.
So what happened to this ‘Bandhan’ of idealist go-getters? How come the ‘Baharon key Sapney’ that they aspired got shattered? What happened to millions of Indians who imagined that they were on the threshold of creating their very own ‘Apna Desh’?
How is it that the press who lionized Arvind Kejriwal, started commenting, over the years, that he was behaving like any other political ‘Shehazada’, and sliding into a potential ‘Namak Haram’?
It was in Feb 2015, that AAP won a stunning 67 out of the 70 seats in the Delhi Legislative Assembly. Earlier in Dec 2013, he had routed three-time Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit in his maiden election stint.
People recall that when AK first started blazing a trail, he announced a Who’s Who list of corrupt Indian politicians whom he considered were his ‘Dushman’. But soon the voters saw a shocking degeneration; by 2019, he was sharing the stage with them willing to treat them as ‘Mere Jeevan Saathi’-- not to forget ‘Haathi Mere Saathi’! As a result, in the 2019 General Elections, the Delhi voters perceived him as a ‘Bundalbaz’, rejecting all the AAP candidates.
Both Rajesh Khanna and Arvind Kejriwal had shown great initial promise as superstars. How come these enigmas ended up as shooting stars? Probably a few lines from one of the immortal melodies from Rajesh Khanna’s ‘Amar Prem’, serves as a pointer:
‘…Humne jo dekha tha, sunaa tha
Kya batayen woh kya tha
Sapna salona tha
Khatam to hona tha, hua
Yeh kya hua, kaise hua, kab hua
kyon hua, jab hua, tab hua
Oh chhodo, yeh na socho
Yeh kya hua…’
Sushil Kumar is currently Co-Founder, Grochange Global & Chief Mentor, Mansions. Earlier roles include Dean, Amrita School of Business, Global Head (M&C) Amrita TV, CEO, Popular Vehicles.