Hindi Film 101: The Khanna-Kapadia-Kumars Part 2

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.

Image result for tina ambani

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”.

Image result for rajesh khanna anita advani

(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.

Image result for rinke khanna marriage photos

(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.

Image result for rajesh khanna twinkle wedding

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!

Image result for akshay kumar raveena tandon

(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.

Image result for akshay kumar shilpa shetty

(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.

Image result for akshay kumar young

(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.

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19 thoughts on “Hindi Film 101: The Khanna-Kapadia-Kumars Part 2

  1. Several comments: One: 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.” Well if it was all so hard, why didn’t he go back to the original thought of martial arts. He got the bug in some way: either the actual acting or the potential money or fame.
    NOW I understand the swimming pool/drunk/non-seduction in DDLJ. The dance with Rekha is the opposite of that. Kajol tries to seduce in an amateur way and SRK not only doesn’t succumb, he protects her. While these two films came out within a year of each other, it must have been a trope so that the audience might expect Rahul to seduce then ‘oh look’ he doesn’t.

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    • According to what I have seen, it was the money. That Akshay, always with his eye on the main point! He said he discovered he could make more in one day of modeling then he could in a week of teaching. So I guess he decided that, even if it was a struggle to get regular work, it was a gamble worth taking. I bet if someone had offered him a job selling cars and he’d discovered he could make more money at that, he would have switched.

      I just don’t understand Rekha’s house! Who has a swimming pool, a mudbath, and a two person shower? Is this like a routine for her character, to take a young man back at night, go swimming, go mudding, eat, and shower off together? At least in DDLJ it was supposed to be a whole town they were running through.

      On Thu, Jan 19, 2017 at 1:01 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. I love Tuesdays and Thursdays! “In the Night No Control” is the best thing I’ve watched all day (except the erotic food play, that really grosses me out. I mean, he’s just shoving that apple at her mouth. And the chocolate sauce, or whatever it is, all over his hand and a piece of cheese? Yuck!) That is a great song, I love that warm, synthy, Italo-disco style of music.

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    • I just watched it with no sound, and I don’t know if it is better or worse that way, but I couldn’t look away. Also, for context, Rekha, plays a criminal Don who is running an illegal underground wrestling ring (featuring “Crush” and “The Undertaker”). Akshay has to seduce her to gain her trust, but is really in love with her younger sister/ward Raveena Tandon.

      For further context (and I promise, someday Rekha will get her very own Hindi Film 101 series, but this will have to hold you for now), Rekha was 42 at the time while Akshay was 29. She was also already known as the “bad woman” of Hindi film, besides the whole Amitabh thing which you got to see play out in Silsila, she had a string of other lessor affairs culminating in a surprise marriage to a Delhi millionaire, which ended when he committed suicide (supposedly hung himself with her dupatta) less than a year after the wedding. So that’s all the baggage that is coming along with this seduction song.

      On Thu, Jan 19, 2017 at 1:27 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I think I may have to track down that movie! Also, I’ve noticed you mentioned Rekha’s book on a few posts. Do you think that would be worth reading for someone like me, at this point (not really familiar with her work at all)? Or, would it be a better read down the road, when I know more of the context, and the beats, of her story?

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        • Hmm. Not so much about knowing the beats of her story, more about having a sense for all the other names that are dropped in it. The author does a very good job orienting you to Rekha’s life, but can’t give background on everybody who provided a quote or is mentioned in passing. It would still be very fun to read (if you enjoy purple prose and gossip), but you might enjoy it even more if you re-read it a few years from now (assuming you stay in the films) with a sense for who everyone is.

          On the other hand, now that I think about it, some of the biggest stories are about Shashi Kapoor, Jeetendra, and of course Amitabh and Jaya. And thanks to my Hindi Film 101 and Silsila, you do already have kind of a sense for them!

          On Thu, Jan 19, 2017 at 2:33 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Very true. I’ve learned more in the last month or so than my entire year of watching Hindi movies in a bubble!

            It is kind of neat to have little measuring sticks that you can revisit every so often to see how far you’ve come. There is a documentary the BBC did called “Bollywood and Beyond” that I watched just as I was getting into the movies. I only recognized Aamir Khan, from a talk show that he had done in Canada years earlier. I watched it again a couple months ago and I knew everyone!

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          • I mostly have measuring sticks of remembering past moments in my life in which I now realize I was incredibly crass and ignorant and insulting to others. True for Hindi movies (since I first got into them when I had a lot of desi friends) but also, you know, life.

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    • Yes! I have never gotten what is supposed to be sexy about muddy people. Just makes their hair look stringy and their eyes look like raccoons.

      On Thu, Jan 19, 2017 at 4:42 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. The reason Rajesh Khanna couldn’t remarry is that Dimple refused to divorce him, even though he asked he several times. Rumor is that she didn’t want a divorce because she wanted to maintain her legal claim to his money as his wife. Then I suppose he got the last laugh, because when he died, his will left everything to be divided equally between his daughters, and nothing for Dimple. I don’t like to deal in gossip, but Rajesh asking for a divorce and Dimple refusing, over many years and on several occasions, has been pretty well established fact, while the terms of his will were a matter of public record.

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    • I’m assuming that Rajesh could have gotten around Dimple’s refusal (if nothing else, by converting to Islam), but the methods who would have had to use and the publicity around it is what might have hurt his daughters. If that was his thinking, I kind of admire him for it, putting the public scandal and the pain it would cause his family above his personal desires.

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  4. Pingback: Hindi Film 101: Khanna-Kapadia-Kumar, the Final Chapter! Unto Death – dontcallitbollywood

  5. So could it be said that Dimple’s character in Luck By Chance is similar to how she was in real life in launching her daughters? And Farhan in the movie is not fully an outsider similar to Akshay since he has friends in the industry and is able to attend industry parties and stuff like that.

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