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 the first two parts, we went over Rajesh Khanna’s rise to be India’s first superstar, his surprise marriage to an untried teenager Dimple, Dimple’s leaving him and taking her kids and restarting her career, their respective post-marriage relationships (Rajesh with Tina Munim-going-to-be-Ambani, Dimple with Sunny Deol), and then the launch of their daughters, Twinkle and Rinke resulting in average careers and retirement and marriage for both daughters. Twinkle married one of the top actors, and top playboys, in the industry, Akshay Kumar. And she was the making of him, guiding him towards profitable and critically acclaimed roles, improving his career enormously post-marriage. Which Akshay acknowledges. Which makes him seem like a really great husband, even if he was a terrible boyfriend (secretly engaged to 3 woman at once and cheating on all of them with Rekha).
Post-marriage, Twinkle retired almost immediately and had their son and became a housewife/interior designer/writer. “Interior design” is one of those things star wives like to do, Suzanne and Gauri are “interior designers” too. I’m putting it in quotes not because I don’t believe they take it seriously, or even have made a success of it (with Gauri’s branching out into real estate development and everything else), but it’s definitely a kind of job you can only have if you are that kind of wife. With the start up funds and the connections and the free time to focus on it.
What really impresses me about Twinkle is that she is all 3 of these things, and does all 3 of them well. She is very very good at being a star wife/house wife. She knows what to wear and where to go and who to be friends with. And she makes it look easy and natural, not like she is trying to suck up to anyone. And she is also a good interior designer. She may not have the huge success that Gauri is enjoying right now, but she has her store and has had it for several years. And finally, as a writer, she has had a column for several years and kept it up regularly. Her first book, a collection of columns, was released a little bit ago. And her second book, a collection of sort of human interest sketches, just came out. I haven’t read the new one yet, but I read her first book and highly highly recommend it! It’s a fun and easy read, she has a charming voice in it, and it’s a really fun inner look at life in a superstar’s house. I am sure she wouldn’t have been offered the original column if she hadn’t been Akshay’s wife/Rajesh’s daughter/Dimple’s daughter, but after being given that first chance, she has succeeded on her own merit as a writer.
Oh, and she also made Akshay’s career! He credits her with helping him focus and work better, and it’s certainly true that the years after their marriage were very very good for him. And more recently, he credits her with reviving his artistic merit, because she straight up told him she wouldn’t have a second child unless he stopped making rubbish movies. I believe that it is good for Akshay to have someone who tells him the truth and is upfront with him in general, this is a big advantage of having a wife. And I also believe that Twinkle is very smart and insightful just on her own (like I said, I really liked her book). But I can’t help thinking about Twinkle growing up watching her father make those producers wait, watching her mother successfully get her second innings in the industry, even watching her “Chote Papa” navigate his launch. She’s got way more knowledge and training in how to build a career that lasts than Akshay ever could have. That’s the difference between a sort of insider-outsider like Akshay (right schools, right neighborhood, right friends), and a real insider like Twinkle (grew up with 90% of the people working in the industry today).
(Love her and Karan together. That’s why Rani’s character was named “Tina” in KKHH, it was supposed to be played by Twinkle)
My favorite thing about the Twinkle and Akshay relationship is how AWESOME Akshay is as a son-in-law! This all female family had been struggling along for years, and now suddenly there he is! Escorting Dimple at every event, joking with her, taking care of her, and seeming to sincerely enjoy all of it! I also, by the way, love the little glimpses we get of how Twinkle and Dimple get along in her writings. While Akshay is enthusiastic and interested in everything, Twinkle is a bit more sarcastic and irritated with Dimple’s sudden impulses and constant optimism. Kind of reminds me of the stories that are coming out about Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. I would love it if someday Twinkle writes her own Postcards From the Edge book!
(here’s Akshay joking with Dimple while Twinkle laughs at them. And Aamir is there too for some reason. It’s Twinkle’s book launch, maybe she pulled on those “I’ve known you since we were in diapers” connections)
Akshay, supposedly, also settled down. Likes to avoid location work, to be at the studio at 9 and out by 5, to be home and in his own bed before ten and up to have breakfast with his kids. But there are, very occasionally, still rumors about his little flings with his co-stars. Priyanka, Katrina, Sonakshi.
When rumors are this consistent, I either don’t believe any of them or believe all of them. With Akshay, I’m not sure which way to go. It could just be that he is a supportive and friendly co-star, and so it appears that he is having an affair with everyone he works with, but really he is just being nice. Or he could actually be having an affair with every co-star he works with. However, if he is, I think it would be with Dimple’s awareness/permission. Maybe it’s just the afterglow of their fabulous Koffee appearance, but really, all their public appearances feel the same way. Not touchy and respectful and putting on a show for the media, but just kind of casual and natural and unrehearsed. And, if nothing else, I’ve seen Twinkle’s old films! She just isn’t that good of an actor! So they must be happy in their marriage for real.
Before leaving Twinkle and Akshay, I want to take a moment for their kids. They are very protective parents, there are few photos available of their son and almost none of their daughter. But as their son gets older, they are slowly bringing him out more and more. And I have to say, he looks EXACTLY like his grandfather! Or maybe I’m imagining it, what do you think?
Since I mentioned Rajesh, yaaay! I finally get to talk about his funeral! And, I guess, the slow decline that lead to it. Rajesh’s film career was essentially over by the 90s. He switched to politics at this point, and Dimple even campaigned for him. Again, I am fascinated by how the lifelong marriage works! Sure, they had been separated for years, and still were living separately, but he was also her husband and always in her life, and so she would campaign with him and appear together on his victory parade. And, from the other side of things, sure Rajesh had had at least one other serious relationship post-marriage, but when it came time to appear in public, the only woman who would want by his side is his wife, forever.
That “forever” was true at the end as well. It came fast, his end, the rumors started going around that he was sick, and suddenly Dimple had moved back into Aashirwad to take care of him, Twinkle and Rinke were in and out of the house too, we all got daily updates, and then he was gone. But not before making a few final appearances to greet the crowds who were once again, after years away, massed outside his gates.
Now, look at the timeline of these photos. Akshay helps him out. Akshay explains what is happening. Akshay shows him how to wave. Rajesh waves. Akshay starts waving too, and Dimple backs up and tries not to cry.
You see why I love Akshay for this? He is SUCH A GOOD SON-IN-LAW!!!! And it’s not just that he showed up to help take care of his ailing father-in-law, anyone would do that. It’s that he took charge of the public face of it too, used his own stardom powers and experience to give dignity to Rajesh and take some of the public scrutiny off of Dimple.
He couldn’t protect them from everything though. Remember Anita Advani who I was a little mean about in the last section? Yeah, there was a reason for that. She had lived with and taken care of Rajesh for years. But at the very end, he asked for his wife and daughters. Dimple dropped everything and moved back into that house (which must have been all kinds of painful for her), and eventually so did Twinkle and Rinke. Even Anju, his very first girlfriend (who never married after they broke up), came too, because he wanted her. But Anita was quietly shut out. And, after Rajesh died, she learned that he hadn’t even left her the house, the one thing he promised her. He left everything to his daughters, and they did not want her there.
Okay, all of that kind of makes me sympathize with Anita. But what kills all of that sympathy is that instead of trying to find some way of gently conveying her situation, homeless and having wasted 20 years of her life on a man who never really cared for her (sample memory: “When I would ask him if he slept with other women while he was on location, he would say ‘what does it matter, I come back to you, don’t I?'”), she went straight to the media. And I mean STRAIGHT to the media! Like within days of Rajesh’s death, while the family was no doubt still in shock with grief, suddenly there are stories everywhere about “Rajesh Khanna’s last love”. And how Dimple was so cruel and heartless to her, how the whole family didn’t appreciate her feelings, how Rajesh really really loved her, not his horrible old wife. I’m sure poor Dimple, having just lost her husband who, no matter what problems they had, was also the father of her two children and the man she married at age 15, having had this emotional rollercoaster of moving in and taking care of him, only to see him fade away, was not in any state to read a bunch of articles about how she was the villain in a soap opera, getting into a catfight and heartlessly throwing out the poor innocent heroine. Anita even filed a lawsuit against them, including the random detail that she claimed her relationship with Rajesh started when she was only 13, and threatening to release photos and videos of “intimate moments”. I just googled a little, and it looks like the lawsuit is still dragging on in various ways, and Anita is still popping up to offer quotes criticizing the family at the drop of a hat.
Let’s see, is that it for the Twinkle-Dimple-Akshay-Rajesh story? I think so! YAAAAY! My reward! I get to write about Rajesh’s funeral!
Rajesh supposedly left detailed specific instructions for how he wanted his last journey to go. But really all he had to say was “I want to go out like freaking Snow White!” The end result was, a funeral train the wound through Bombay, featuring Rajesh’s corpse in a glass coffin for all to see.
And they did! “All” that is. Thousands upon thousands of people turned out, whole streets had to be shut down. In the end, the trip was cut short because the crowds were so large it was becoming a civic problem. Let’s see if I can do this like it’s a crane shot pull back thing in a movie. First, the close up on the front of the crowd, which is being driven back by policeman.
Then slightly farther back, so you can start to grasp the size of it.
And a little bit further
And a little bit further. This is immediately outside the crematorium where Rajesh’s body was being taken.
And, in case you thought I was exaggerating about the Snow White effect, here’s a close-up of his float, complete with the closest members of his family riding along.
(Notice the glass coffin that Dimple is trying to balance)
And again, by the way, I love Akshay! He was right there, front and center the whole time, organizing this incredibly complicated send-off and taking the emotional weight so his wife and sister and mother-in-law could just focus on their grief. Even handling the kids! That’s Aarav next to him on the float.
But you know what the biggest honor was for Rajesh? Not all of this send-off and the pomp and the thousands who gathered. No, it was the honor given him by possibly the only living person who could really understand what his life was like back in the day when he was king of films.
Amitabh goes to almost every funeral. He seems to consider it part of his responsibility as the Biggest Superstar. And, of course, he had to come for Rajesh’s funeral. Not just the funeral, but the cremation as well, which was more of a family affair.
The photos I showed above of the parade, that was on the way to the crematorium. Amitabh had to get there as well, with Abhishek to support him. Only their car got caught in the crowd. Here, have another group of photos.
The crowd realized who was arriving and swarmed the car:
The car couldn’t move and the crowd wouldn’t be beaten back. In any other situation, the police would have forced an exit route and Amitabh would have been whisked away. But in this case, it was Rajesh Khanna’s funeral. So instead, Amitabh and Abhishek exited the car and walked.
All the way through this wild crowd scene the last 300 feet to the crematorium. Because it’s Rajesh Khanna, the one man that even Amitabh Bachchan will lower himself to the human level to honor.
Oh, I’m all emotional! Okay, to recover, time to think about who I am covering next! I’m gonna make this simple, you only have 3 choices:
- Meena Kumari
- The Chopras