My first Hindi Film 101 series was on the Kapoors which took FOREVER. So I am doing a nice little refreshing change and doing a simple 2 generation family (so far) with only 2 major stars in it (so far). The Khanna-Kapadia-Kumars!
First, my usual disclaimer so no one gets mad at me: Everything I am about to say may be true, or it may not be true. I don’t know these people personally, I am just telling you what is the generally accepted “truth” about them, in case you are new to the films and hadn’t heard it before.
In my last post, I covered Rajesh’s sudden leap to SuparStardom, followed by a surprise marriage to 15 year old Dimple Kapadia, followed by two kids (the first born either 9 or 8 months after the wedding, depending on how you add), followed by Dimple finally having enough of his infidelities and leaving him, followed by Dimple’s career taking off like it should have all along and Dimple’s own affair with Sunny Deol which either ended within a few years or has lasted through to today, depending on who you ask.
So that’s Dimple post-separation, what about Rajesh? Did he take this as a wake-up call and use the time to focus on being a better actor and father? HAhahahahahahahaha! NO! Of course not!
Rajesh by this point was seriously on the downward trend. He still had a large number of hits coming out, he still charged huge fees, but he had never quite made the leap to producer, and he hadn’t turned in any performance to rival those in his first few films. Or worked in any film to rival those in his early days.
Really, as I see it, it was a problem of personality and professionalism. Not of talent. Rajesh was just as talented as ever, he could have easily turned in the kind of performance he delivered in Amar-Prem or Aradhana or Anand in the 80s as well as in the 60-70s. But the directors and writers who worked on movies that high quality no longer wanted to work with him. Not because he was less talented than other actors, but because he was less professional. So instead, he did a string of light-weight forgettable rom-coms that still made money just because of the Rajesh Khanna name.
And who was his co-star in a fair number of these rom-coms, especially after his wife had left him? TINA MUNIM!!!! Or, as you may know her now, TINA AMBANI!!!!! Wife of one of the richest men in India. Or the richest man? It varies every year, but he is certainly up there.
If you aren’t familiar with the Ambanis, here is a film related anecdote to help you understand how big they are. In 2013, as an interesting party entertainment, they flew in Steven Spielberg to be interviewed by Amitabh Bachchan at one of their exclusive parties. And how did they get Spielberg to come? They bought his production studio. Maybe it’s not related, but from the timing of it, it really feels like Tina was sitting around the house going “what shall we offer our guests for entertainment at our next party? Oh I know! Why don’t you buy that little studio in Hollywood and then make that Spielberg man fly in to talk to us at my next dinner?”
Anyway, Tina Munim, before she was Tina Ambani, was well-known to be Rajesh Khanna’s new girlfriend. And then Anil Ambani came back from studying abroad and convinced his family to accept a film actress as their daughter-in-law and she never looked back. Which left Rajesh alone and sad for, oh, maybe a week?
(alternative version: Tina wanted to get married, Rajesh didn’t think it would be fair to his daughters to remarry because of the publicity. This could be true, he seemed like a loving father, but it also seems like a really convenient excuse for someone who doesn’t want to get married, right?)
Rajesh is just not a guy to be alone! He always had his little flings, but he also always had his faithful love waiting for him at home. First his girlfriend Anju, then Dimple, then Tina, and after Tina, Anita Advani. Anita Advani was definitely the lessor of all these options. Anju was kind of his “starter” girlfriend, not quite famous yet but more famous than he when they got together. And then Dimple was awesome and a fantastic and classy wife. And Tina was pretty awesome too, young and pretty and devoted and a successful actress in her own right. And then there’s Anita Advani. Who was in a few small roles in smaller films, but is mostly known as “Rajesh Khanna’s mistress” and nothing else. About 30 years younger than him, which is impressive for an older guy. And devoted. But not exactly a “trophy”.
(Now I feel mean! Don’t worry, as I go on you will see why Anita isn’t my favorite person)
Meanwhile, back in Dimple’s household, she may or may not have continued her affair with Sunny Deol, but her primary focus was always on her daughters. And, when her oldest Twinkle turned 21, it was time to start thinking about her career.
Twinkle is delightfully frank about how she just sort of fell into acting because it seemed like the thing to do. Most of these star kids feel obligated to give us a whole big story about how they always wanted to act, they were driven to it, blah blah blah. But Twinkle’s straight up about “I figured, why not? Everyone else does it!” in her attitude.
Interestingly, Twinkle was “launched” opposite Bobby Deol in a film produced by Dharmendra, Bobby’s father. If we follow the “Sunny and Dimple will always love each other and be in each other’s lives” theory, then that would mean Dharmendra was essentially launching his very youngest son, opposite his oldest son’s stepdaughter. Which sounds a bit incestuous, but if you set that aside, it’s kind of sweet! That the Deol family was taking responsibility for Dimple’s kids in this way.
The film, Barsaat, was a minor hit and Twinkle immediately signed two more films. It’s kind of amazing watching these films, because Twinkle really is not a good actress (as, again, she is the first person to admit!). But she is so amazing onscreen, you can’t look away from her face. Or her midriff. A lot of these directors seem to have decided that if the audience is coming to see Dimple Kapadia’s daughter, and if Dimple is famous for wearing bikini’s and crop-tops, then they must put Dimple’s daughter’s midriff in the frame at all times so we can compare.
Twinkle’s younger sister Rinke launched a few years later, when she turned 21. I suspect Dimple had a rule about that, otherwise it is an odd coincidence (by the time Dimple was 21, she had already been in a hit film, been married, and was the mother of two). Rinke, I think, is a better actress than Twinkle (she was in one of my all time favorite films). But her face is less magnetic, and she looks less like their mother. Her career did not last long, she married at 26 and moved to England with her businessman husband.
(Rinke’s wedding photo)
Are you wondering about the names? Yes, those are their legal names! Twinkle was named “Twinkle” on her birth certificate because they wanted a name that would sound similar to her mother’s legal name of “Dimple” and her aunt’s legal name of “Simple”. Also, you know, her mother was 16 and 16 year old girls are cute like that. And then by the time Rinke came along, Dimple was a little less silly and Rinke got something that sounded a little more like a “real” name.
Anyway, Twinkle! So far as I know of, no real scandals (please correct me in the comments if I am missing something!). At least, until she started dating Akshay. If you look at their relationship in a vacuum (which is how it was presented in their Koffee appearance), if is pretty simple and straight-forward. They had known each other from around but really started dating when they were co-starring in International Khiladi in 1999 when she was 26 and he was 32. They dated seriously for a while, told her mother they wanted to get married, she said they should live together first and be sure (again, remember that by the time Dimple was 27, she had been a movie star, been married, had two kids, and left her lousy husband). They lived together for a year and then got married, with both Dimple and Rajesh in attendance. Nice, simple, fairly respectable. That is, if you look at it in a vacuum.
But what about if you have some context? Let’s start with Akshay. Akshay is a legitimate outsider in the film industry. Well, “outsider”. He is from Bombay, from one of the good neighborhoods. He got his big break by wandering into the right party and having someone say “Hey, you should be in movies” (essentially). It wasn’t exactly the “burning desire to act, traveled thousands of miles from his home, did everything to achieve his destiny” kind of experience that you hear about from the rare true “outsiders”.
On the other hand, Akshay actually did do all that, only not for acting. He did all that to study martial arts. Like I said, Akshay was raised in a “good” family in a “good” neighborhood. His family was originally from Delhi, his father was a military officer, and then they landed up in Juhu (I think), which is one of the really nice areas of the Bombay suburbs. He went to a decent high school and started studying at a decent college.
I mention this not to say “he had it easy!”, but to point out the kind of invisible advantages that Bombay kids enjoy when they want to break into film. Akshay’s family wasn’t rich, and he didn’t go to the top schools. But he still would have known people who knew people, just from his classes and the neighborhood parks and so on. It’s not nepotism, and it’s not even unfair, it’s just life, people tend to look to people they know before they look outside.
And so, if Akshay’s career had been a straight line from college to modeling and then film, it wouldn’t really have been that impressive. But it wasn’t a straight line! First, Akshay decided he wanted to get really serious about his martial arts studies. So he moved to Bangkok, where he knew nobody and had nothing, and worked in restaurants (also learning how to cook) to support himself. He returned to Bombay planning to continue his Martial Arts career as a teacher. Until one of his students suggested he try modeling.
Even modeling wasn’t easy, he worked without pay for a photographer to pay for his portfolio. He struggled to get shoots, and picked up extra work as a back-up dancer as well. Finally, he decided to really commit to this life and started signing films. His 3rd film was his major breakthrough, Khiladi, which perfected the action-comedy mix he is still doing today.
He was only 25, unattached, and suddenly a star. Can we really blame him for dating EVERYONE IN SIGHT? His two serious relationships, everyone agrees, were with Shilpa Shetty and Raveena Tandon. Everyone also agrees that these relationships overlapped a bit. And then overlapped again with Twinkle.
Raveena supposedly claimed that Akshay and she were secretly engaged, that he told her they couldn’t announce it because it would harm his popularity with his female fans. According to some reports, Akshay told the same thing to Shilpa. Which is almost as good as Rajesh with his “I can’t get married, it would hurt my daughters!” argument. Raveena at one point claimed that she later found out he was engaged “secretly” not just to her, but to two other girls!
(Here’s him and Raveena in a very unflattering photo shoot)
And at the same time that Akshay had both Raveena and Shilpa firmly committed to him, he was still going around with other women! Most interestingly, Rekha! Yes, Rekha, over a decade older than him. She was playing the evil older seductress onscreen and, supposedly, was also a bit of the older seductress offscreen too.
(You MUST watch this song!)
And then there’s Twinkle! The “worst” version of this story is that she was Shilpa’s best friend and stole her boyfriend. But I don’t necessarily believe that version, just because I haven’t seen a lot of confirmation that Twinkle and Shilpa were “best friends”. I certainly believe they were friendly, but “best friends” seems a bit strong.
(However it happened, Shilpa and Akshay certainly seem to get along okay now, over ten years later and post-marriages to other people)
Plus, I mean, look at the guy! This is not a man who you can really say “hands off, he’s mine!” He was splitting his time between Shilpa and Raveena, and if the fan magazines knew it, surely the women themselves knew it too? And then there’s Rekha and occasional rumors about other co-stars. To me, he sounds like a guy who was just not ready to settle down. And then he met Twinkle and either felt differently about her and therefore got serious, or was just ready to get serious at that moment in his life and therefore married her. Either way, I’m not seeing the “stole him” exactly. More like “won him”? Which sounds horribly regressive, but what I am getting at is that there were always multiple girls in the running, and Twinkle just happened to be the one who got to the finish line.
(reminder: this is what they were winning. Tall, handsome, legitimate deadly martial arts skills, and he can cook!)
And gosh darn it, I’ve gone on too long now to really give enough time to Rajesh’s funeral and Twinkle’s post-marriage career, which really does deserve some time. So, one more post! Just to finish them all off.