Inner Peace, Vinod Khanna Stressed To Me On The Campaign Trail

Most people know Vinodji as a big star-turned-sanyaasi-turned politician, but my first memory of him goes back to 2004. I was brand new in the BJP and he was the star campaigner. I knew him as an actor, but this was the first time I had conversed with him. Over the very many years that we spent as colleagues together during campaign schedules and election travails, we had long conversations. 

The one thing that I always wanted to ask him, and which I finally did, was how was it that at the peak of his success, he left all the stardom and went away from films. And what he said always stayed with me. He said "My inner peace at that time was more important". That probably described the man Vinod Khanna was. He was completely detached from the hold of glamour, stardom.

I also visited his constituency, Gurdaspur, and realised how quietly he had made great change in a remote town of Punjab, where development was few and far between for many years. He just kept working for the people there. 

In 2014, I was part of the traditional campaign committee and was looking after street plays. Vinodji and his wife Kavita also called me up. When my team came back after performing lots of street plays in Gurdaspur, the first thing they said to me was "Yes, he's a big star, but people love him for who he is."

Also, in the years when he was chairman of the FTII (I used to work with students there), I realised that this great compassion, generosity, his connect with young people, young students of cinema, was just great.

There were so many facets to the man. One of course looked at him as a very handsome star from the 60s and the 70s. Many also felt he was overshadowed by the great legend of Amitabh Bachchan of the same time. But Vinod Khanna was much more than a star. He was a great human being, had great compassion for fellow colleagues. He had great love for the people who elected him time and again.

I once had a long conversation where I asked him. "What is it that brought you to politics?" And he said it was almost an extension of the love that people had given to him for so many years. 

I am very saddened by this loss. There are so many memories of Vinodji. I was a young actor myself when I started work in the BJP and whenever I would sit with him, I would find great words of wisdom. A lot of people did not have that kind of privilege to have interacted with him so closely. But I did and I feel deeply privileged.

I also feel that it's a deep void for the film industry because till very recently, he continued to work, he did so many roles. People of a certain age who become character actors get left out in the background, but I remember that in the recent films that he did, he stood out still with his persona.

It's a very, very deep loss for the party, for the people of Gurdaspur and Punjab because he was so deeply attached to them. And it's a deep loss for youngsters like me who had the privilege to spend so much time with him and to get to know him better. He has left behind a legacy. For somebody at the pinnacle of his stardom to leave everything and become an Oshoite and go into sanyaas, and then come back and start serving the people. What a fantastic journey it's been. Vinodji will always be remembered for the great human being he was.

(Vani Tripathi Tikoo is a member of the BJP and the Central Board of Film Certification)

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