When Aradhana blazed the screens 50 years ago

Murali Gopalan Mumbai | Updated on November 06, 2019

Aradhan film poster

In its golden jubilee year, memories of this iconic film are still strong


It was an eventful year for sure. It was in 1969 when man walked on the moon for the first time. It was also the release of the Beatles’ album, Abbey Road, which was in a way the last lap before the Fab Four split a year later. Woodstock, the music festival in New York, was again one of the big moments of 1969.

To some, including a Hindi film in this hallowed list of ’69 may not be quite appropriate, but then Aradhana was just not another run-of-the-mill offering. When it hit the screens almost to this day 50 years ago, not many people would have been prepared for the frenzy that followed.

Not only was Aradhana the biggest hit of the year that ran to packed houses for many, many weeks but it also signalled the dawn of a new era for Hindi cinema. Its leading man, Rajesh Khanna, became an overnight sensation and was christened the first superstar.

His Do Raaste that was released some weeks after Aradhana was another smash hit at the box office and cemented his position as the numero uno of the Hindi screen. It was a position he would occupy for the next four to five years as Khanna virtually became a one-man industry and unleashed the kind of mass hysteria that was never seen before.

Aradhana also saw Kishore Kumar rise to the top as the leading playback singer of Hindi cinema. His talent was never in doubt but the film established him as the voice of Rajesh Khanna, especially after the audience’s response to numbers such as Roop Tera Mastana, Kora Kagaz Tha and Mere Sapnon Ki Rani.

Sure, Mohammed Rafi had two songs for Khanna in the film (Gun Guna Rahe Hai and Baghon Mein Baahar Hai) but the electrifying impact of Roop Tera Mastana, in particular, pretty much put Kishore on the pedestal. Romance had acquired a new meaning with this number and the sensuous scene played out by Khanna and his leading lady, Sharmila Tagore, still remains a benchmark in Hindi cinema.

With Aradhana, RD Burman came into his own as a music composer who assisted his father, SD Burman, for the film. Even SD got the screen credits, the contribution of RD was doubtless critical.

The younger Burman was to forge a longer partnership with Khanna and Kishore Kumar in subsequent films like Kati Patang, Amar Prem, Mere Jeevan Saathi and Aap Ki Kasam whose songs are remembered to this day.

Aradhana was largely a woman-centric theme and Tagore delivered a memorable performance as a young woman in love and, subsequently, a mother who sacrifices everyone for her son. It got the audience completely involved but it was Khanna who had them virtually hypnotised in his dual role as the father and son air force pilots.

Hindi cinema had its share of big stars till then in a list comprising Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Shammi Kapoor, but Khanna came in as a breath of fresh air to the young generation of 1969. He redefined romance and the Roop Tera Mastana number, in particular, drove home the message that love and passion were not dirty words.

Aradhana turned out to be such a super duper success that even the anti-Hindi agitation in Tamil Nadu was of little consequence to its box office status in cities like (the then) Madras, Madurai or Coimbatore. The songs became a craze and people queued up at movie hall ticket counters by the hundreds to savour the Aradhana experience.

Khanna and Tagore teamed up in other memorable films like Safar, Amar Prem, Daag and Aavishkar, but Aradhana still remains special. It does not seem remotely dated even today which is testimony to its strong theme. After all, it showcased woman power where a young unwed mother chooses to have her child and is equally determined to fulfil her dead lover’s wish of raising him to be an air force pilot.

Tagore was absolutely brilliant in her portrayal in Aradhana where her onscreen character of Vandana goes through a series of upheavals. She is up against a conservative society which does not take kindly to a single mother but Tagore as Vandana grows into her role as someone determined to get the best for her son.

Aradhana is a remarkable film and brings back fond memories of an era when Hindi cinema was truly riding high with top-class talent in acting, singing, lyrics and content. Almost all the key people involved with its success are no longer around, right from its director, Shakti Samanta to Rajesh Khanna, Kishore Kumar and RD Burman. Yet, Aradhana lives on and remains one of Hindi cinema’s iconic offerings which blazed a trail in 1969.

Published on November 06, 2019

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