Rajesh Khanna, Bollywood’s Most Famous Actor Dies

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/ July 18, 2012

EW DELHI (AP) — Rajesh Khanna, whose success as a romantic lead in scores of Indian movies made him Bollywood’s first superstar, died Wednesday after a brief illness. He was 69.

His wife, actress Dimple Kapadia, and two daughters were at his bedside when he died at his home in Mumbai, said his son-in-law, actor Akshay Kumar.

Khanna began his career in the mid-1960s in romantic films that were hugely popular. He played the lead role in some 120 of the 170 movies in which he appeared and won scores of awards.

His enormous success was a new phenomenon in India. Screaming fans surrounded him whenever he appeared in public. Women married his photograph and wrote him letters in their blood proposing marriage.

He was born Jatin Khanna on Dec. 29, 1942, in the northern Indian town of Amritsar. He took to acting while in school and adopted the name Rajesh Khanna when he began his career in films.

After his early success he became a favorite with film directors wanting a sure box-office winner. During the 1970s, he had 15 consecutive movies that set new sales records. He was feted as the king of romance and mobbed by hysterical fans, who kissed his car when they couldn’t get near him.

“Khanna witnessed unbelievable popularity, such that no one had ever seen or imagined. In fact from 1969 to 1973, it was a one-horse race,” said Javed Akhtar, a screenwriter and poet.

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