Fitting goodbye: Rajesh Khanna’s last journey matches the fan-frenzy of his heydays

Rajesh Khanna's funeral

Rains and crowds poured incessantly all through the last journey of Rajesh Khanna, the first superstar of Hindi cinema. The funeral procession made its way from his residence ‘Aashirwad’ in Bandra to the Pawan Hans crematorium in Vile Parle on Thursday afternoon.

Fan-frenzy remained right till the end around the actor, whose last rites were performed by elder son-in-law Akshay Kumar and grandson Aarav.

Thousands of people gathered on the roads and blocked the skywalks along the route, braving the rains, to catch their last glimpse of Khanna as the family — estranged wife Dimple Kapadia, son-in-law and actor Akshay Kumar with son Aarav, as well as younger daughter Rinki with her husband Sameer Saran — remained devotedly beside his transparent glass coffin on the open hearse, decorated with fresh white flowers.

A huge black and white portrait of the actor adorned both sides of the hearse.

Khanna’s elder daughter, Twinkle, did not accompany the procession as she is expecting her second child.

The film fraternity turned up in huge numbers to bid final adieu to the actor who redefined the romantic genre of Hindi cinema in the 1970s. How much mass adulation the superstar enjoyed during his heydays was evident from the number of the “older generation” fans who had come out to say their final goodbye to the actor.

For the time that Khanna’s hearse travelled through Mumbai’s streets, traffic came to a virtual standstill. More than 700 paramilitary personnel were deployed along the 10-kilometre stretch to ensure a peaceful procession. However, even that wasn’t enough to avert a stampede that occurred when emotional fans tried to reach out to touch the actor’s coffin.

The police had to resort to lathicharge near the crematorium to disperse the crowds even as Khanna’s grandson Aarav, along with father Akshay, lit the pyre. The funeral was attended by several film personalities, including Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan, Manoj Kumar, Rani Mukherjee, Goldie Behl, Prem Chopra and Karan Johar.

Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan were caught amidst a mob and had to be brought out by policemen on duty. Most film personalities had to walk the distance to the crematorium as the mass gathering left no room for vehicular movement.

So much was the adulation for the actor, who was long-forgotten until his recent illness made news, that die-hard fans waited in hope of a glimpse of him, even after the family had left the crematorium.

The 1970s film icon had passed away at his residence ‘Aashirwad’ on Wednesday after a prolonged battle with cancer, according to close sources.

Khanna was the only actor to deliver 15 consecutive hits between 1969 and 1972, which made him one of the most iconic stars of Hindi cinema. He had earned the tag of a romantic hero and married Dimple Kapadia, 16 years his junior, in 1973. While they separated in 1984, they never divorced.

According to people close to him, Khanna had told Dimple Kapadia just a few days before his death that it was “time to pack up”.

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