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End of an era as Kaka’s Aashirwad bites the dust

Murali Gopalan Mumbai | Updated on January 20, 2018

File photo of Rajesh Khanna.

When I moved to Mumbai more than two decades ago, among my top priorities was to have a look at Rajesh Khanna’s famous bungalow, Aashirwad. After all, this was the abode of my all-time favourite star who had had the nation hypnotised, like nobody before or after, for a good part of the 1970s.

Well, I got to see Aashirwad still standing tall on Bandra’s famous Carter Road at that point in time. There was, of course, no opportunity to meet its famous resident who was spending more time in Delhi in his new role as a politician. Yet, as I stood there and gazed at the bungalow, it almost seemed surreal. To think this was the same spot where huge crowds had once gathered years ago and waited for hours on end to get a peek of their beloved Kaka, as Rajesh Khanna was popularly known.

Today, Aashirwad is almost reduced to rubble as its present owner has decided to demolish it and build a new structure instead. No longer will it be pointed out to tourists as the home of Hindi cinema’s first superstar who died in 2012.

Kaka was passionate about his beloved bungalow and breathed his last here. It was from Aashirwad that he took his last journey even as the same crowds who had thronged Carter Road during his heydays gathered again by the thousands to bid him a tearful adieu.

As an unabashed Rajesh Khanna fan, I do feel a sense of tremendous sadness with Aashirwad’s bowing out. Till it was around, there was a reminder of its iconic status as the home of the man who had ruled Hindi cinema like nobody had till then. Visitors to Mumbai would seldom leave without making a stopover at this famous address. As they would stand there and gawk, it was a reminder of an era gone by. With the fall of Aashirwad, even those memories will gradually be obliterated which is a pity.

I remember a friend telling me that it is important to preserve landmarks that have the potential to attract tourists while being a useful reminder of an era gone by. “It is sad that something like Rajesh Khanna’s bungalow should so easily slip into oblivion,’ she had remarked.

While this was music to my ears, the harsh truth was that Kaka was long forgotten even while he was alive. Barring a handful of diehard loyalists like yours truly, the crowds at his once famous address had virtually deserted him even as he gradually slipped out of the limelight. The man who had once blazed the screens with one hit after another was almost forgotten in his last few years except for the occasional appearance at award functions.

Yet, Kaka’s link with Aashirwad almost seemed inseparable during these moments of self-imposed isolation. That is why it was gut-wrenching to see him almost lost it to the Income-Tax Department which had briefly attached the bungalow many years ago. And fans like me celebrated when he got it back: after all, what was Aashirwad without Rajesh Khanna or even the other way around?

It was from its balcony that he waved out for the last time to people gathered outside and assured them that he was well contrary to reports floating around. This was a month before he passed away and it was way too apparent even then that Kaka was not in good health. The man who greeted the crowds seemed so frail and worn out that, watching him on our television screens, we could only keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.

Sadly, the inevitable happened and it was on a rainy day in July that TV journalists gathered outside his bungalow to broadcast the news even as the crowds literally multiplied by the hour. Rajesh Khanna was the first to go and his beloved Aashirwad follows him now. Perhaps, they are happily united in a better place now.

Published on February 28, 2016

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