When Amitabh Bachchan was struggling to be noticed, Rajesh Khanna was already a superstar. But later, in a way, he replaced Rajesh Khanna. In an interview, however, Bachchan confessed that he had never expected to play lead roles. He always thought he was not conventionally good-looking and felt that he would never look as good as Rajesh Khanna. He revealed that once when he had seen a photograph of Rajesh Khanna in Filmfare, he had thought, 'Yaar, ye aadmi kya khaata hai? Iske gaal itne lal kaise hain?'
(What does this man eat? How are his cheeks so red?)
In a rare interview, Amitabh Bachchan clarified that whether it was on the sets of Anand
or Namak Haraam
, Rajesh Khanna and him never bickered, argued or tried to upstage one another in any manner. On the contrary, when he was working in Calcutta and was keen to join films, his inspiration was Mr Khanna. He recalled how happy he had been when Hrishikesh Mukherjee asked him to work with Rajesh Khanna in Anand
. It was a dream come true for him. He mentioned modestly that he got famous purely because he was working with Khanna. People came and asked him questions like 'How does he look?' and 'What does he do?' He has always had the greatest respect for Rajesh Khanna.
Accepting the same, Rajesh Khanna admitted that when he saw Namak Haraam
at a trial at Liberty cinema, he knew his time was up. 'Here is the superstar of tomorrow,' he had told Hrishikesh Mukherjee.
Rajnikanth and Big B started their careers in 1970 but Amitabh has been extremely appreciative of Rajnikanth as well. In a recent interview, he was quoted praising him. He said that Rajnikanth was phenomenal - the largest, the best and truly the boss of Indian cinema. He added that he was terrific company on the sets and a fine gentleman. He admitted that they were friends and even made an exception for him by labelling him with an epithet - a practice he usually abhors. He praised Rajnikanth's hard work, talent and belief and admired his determination that had raised him to this stature. Despite his extraordinary career and incomparable adulation, he was a simple and down-to-earth person and that is something Big B appreciates a lot. He even revealed that a Fiat car Rajnikanth had bought when he had attained his early success remained with him till recently, providing an evidence of his simplicity.Excerpted with permission of Rupa Publications India from Excellence: The Amitabh Bachchan Way by Virender Kapoor. Order your copy here.