Vinod Khanna – The sexy sanyasi of Bollywood

The year was 1989. Of the pre cable TV era when the government run television channel #Doordarshan ruled the roost on the small screen and the Khan triumvirate had yet to make their appearance on the big screen. The makers of the three decade old soap, #Cinthol came up with an advertisement that had actor Vinod Khanna dressed in all denims running alongside a black stallion on the sea shore before mounting it, with his characteristic elan & effortless charm. Needless to say the advertisement was a resounding success so much so that the soap which had thus far been positioned as an unisex product became a firm favorite with men. But obviously. When the actor with Greek God looks asked you in his typical deadpan style “I use Cinthol. Do you?” you felt obliged to. It also proved that his five year long sabbatical from films had not affected his popularity in the least. The #SexySanyasi was back.

Yet when #VinodKhanna embraced spirituality under the tutelage of controversial guru, #OshoRajneesh thereby kissing a very successful career goodbye just about everyone felt it was a blunderous move. Qurbani,a swashbuckling film helmed by flamboyant filmmaker Feroz Khan had just turned out to be biggest hit of the year and it was neither the hero (the one who gets the girl in the end is always the hero) Khan nor the sultry actress #ZeenatAman but Vinod Khanna who had walked away with all the plaudits. He was one of the highest paid actors at the time and his fan following rivalled that of the reigning superstar, #AmitabhBachchan. Any actor would have given his right arm to be in the enviable position that Vinod Khanna was. But Vinod Khanna who never let the trappings of fame and adulation get to him couldn’t care less. He gave it all up. Just like that.

It was the same nonchalant attitude of this actor that held him in good stead in over 45 multi starrer films with the biggest marquee stars like Amitabh Bachchan, #Dharmendra, #ShashiKapoor and #RishiKapoor without once worrying about the length of his own role. It perhaps had to do with the fact that he belonged to an affluent business family that hailed from Peshawar (in what is now Pakistan) and after the Partition in 1947 they had to leave all their ancestral property and move to India. In that sense, Vinod Khanna did not really have to go through the rigmarole of a struggler to make it big in Hindi films. Said to have been bit by the acting bug after watching K.Asif’s magnum opus #Mughal-e-Azam, he started his career playing roles with negative shades. Soon enough filmmaker #Gulzar cast Vinod Khanna in the lead role in his directorial debut Mere Apne.

Over the next decade Vinod Khanna did all kind of roles in films with consummate ease. From serious films like #Achanak and #Lekin which were both directed by his mentor Gulzar to out and out commercial ventures like Amar Akbar Anthony & Muqaddar ka Sikandar he did it all with great panache. Though it must be said that not too many films that he acted in, after his comeback were memorable. To add to this, the three Khans (#Aamir, #Salman and Shahrukh) had become the darling of the nation and the roles befitting Vinod Khanna’s stature as a veteran actor simply dried up. By the late 1990s Vinod Khanna made his foray into politics and to nobody’s surprise he did exceedingly well in this field too. After a long fruitful innings in films and politics when the actor passed away last week after a long battle with cancer, Hindi cinema lost it’s very own Sexy Sanyasi.