Rajesh Khanna. Cloning. Confusion in Kazhak.

Rajesh Khanna in Kati Patang (1970)

Rajesh Khanna in Kati Patang (1970)

Little did I know till recently that it was  Aradhana (1969) that changed our lives – though we were born 2 years after.We joined school in 1982 and most of us were late 1970 – early 72 born. Aradhana was released in 1969, and was reportedly an instant hit of Shri Khanna, and he was the first superstar. In what could be termed Aradhana effect, there was 6 namesakes of Shri Khanna in our batch. It was as if some one ordered half a dozen of us.

Rajesh Bhanu, MH Rajesh, Rajesh R, Rajesh M Menon and  Rajesh R Nath were the initial five and just as we heaved a breath, in darts Rajesh Nair from Kapurthala on transfer in 8th standard. To add confusion to our lives as Rajeshs, the first three went to same selection centre in 1989. The second two went to same institution/service/squadron/arm/course and even commanded the same units and the first two were together in staff course that too in the same class. Life was indeed fun and it got exponentially confusing. If the Persian poet knew of this today-he would say if there was a confusion on earth-it is this( three times sir! )

One can narrate a series of confusions and comparisons that ensued and that plague us till date. They came in myriad forms! It took an interesting crescendo when conduct and character report of one was rendered to the other prospective -in laws when we were of a marriageable age. Imagine a ride on someone else’s  reputation for life – I bet it isn’t easy! We continue to get erroneously debited and credited on each others accounts, thanks to Shri Khanna.1982 also wasn’t exactly information age at Kazhakootam. We took a lot of time to gather how many Rajeshs actually existed. Quickly we grasped how many were in our House. Just as one thought that was final, came a surprise from another division or house at the other end of the campus.

Gunguna Rahe Hain from Aradhana(1969)

It was also a bit like science we now know . Just when we thought we accounted every Rajesh, like Mr Higg’s Boson, a new Rajesh was suddenly discovered. Some left the orbit gathering escape velocity. However always a floating populace of Rajeshs that remained in the batch. I still can’t put a figure on how many finally remained in the batch and graduated without facing wrath of an affected Rajesh-let.

The collective wisdom of the class quickly figured out a simple way to deal with such confusions. They just ignored the first name. In our entire duration at school none of us were ever, ever addressed as ‘Rajesh’. What a waste of a charming name! We were instead addressed only by surnames and initials. Not a great idea when the surname is your fathers name, you are with your father and a bunch of twelve-year olds go screaming your father’s name devoid of traditional niceties. One had a lot of explaining to do back home.

As a secondary effect, seeing the wave of Rajeshs, our beloved Housemaster, obviously the one with with the largest number of Rajeshs in his kitty, sensed the good karma in the name and followed suit. He promptly named his son Rajesh. Thus yet another Rajesh blossomed in the campus.The man was wise. This Rajesh-of- the- secondary- effect went to win several medals and a sword of honor in his service, graduated from the IIT and is today a star amongst the flock. The name indeed possessed the requisite charm.

I heaved a sigh of relief when some time back I encountered a Rajesh Khanna in-the-full. Was even more relieved later when I came across an Amitabh Bachhan, Saddam Hussein and Kanu Sanyal – all from gods own Kerala! I also learned from TV that there were even triplets named Proton, Electron and Neutron too. I liked art over science. My parents were indeed kind to me. Growing up in the intellectual Kerala of the 80’s, I was also a trifle embarrassed with the filmy origins of my name. An Adoor Gopalakrishnan, a Mani Kaul or a John Abraham (not the current one with that swagger, please !) would’ve been okay. Even a more serious actor such as Satyan would’ve passed muster. Men in floral prints, large collars and bell bottoms who ran around trees or rode Yezdis tied up on flatbed trucks on the Mumbai-Pune highway was a little infra dig to me then. At least that’s what I thought Shri Khanna and his ilk did. Probably, I may be wrong.

Yezdi Classic

The Yezdi Classic

Much later I also went through an intense emotional turmoil whilst writing my daughter’s name in the application for her birth certificate. The dilemma was whether to add my original surname which my father had ceremonially dumped or add ‘Rajesh’ as a surname to her name. Not adept to taking decisions quickly I added Rajesh as her surname with a caveat that I will pass the buck for her to choose some day. True to my word, I recently asked the teenager if that was okay her. Genes indeed skip a generation,she quipped that ‘Menon’ as a surname sounds quite out of fashion and she would stick to her birth certificate.So Rajesh- the -first-name just got promoted instantly as Rajesh- the- surname, thanks to my twelve year old! Even Shri Jatin Arora’s uncle responsible for his change of name wouldn’t ever have imagined such a deal.

The family that I belonged to usually reserved names like Achuthan Kutty or ventured as far as a fashionable ‘Padmanabhan‘ or ‘Unnikrishnanan‘ for boys. For years I kept wondering why I was chosen for that first etymological adventure in the family. That was the easier one to solve with a Hindi movie buff uncle squarely to blame. However the reason for the flood of name sakes in ‘that’ year at school got resolved only recently.The death of our illustrious ‘namesake’ reinforced what I had guessed- It was indeed ‘Aradhana’.

Recently I was asked if the name charmed girls of my time. I wish it did. The fact is that, by then late Shri Khanna was past the prime time of Bollywood and his movies were relegated to prime time Doordarshan. In the era of the Khans it simply couldn’t match up. So the name alone never worked in that department. One had to work hard and add value to the brand! One thing is certain. I knew very little of my namesake and he was indeed a superstar – so super that six children – 10% of our initial batch size were named after him! I observed a similar percentage in the subsequent course I did. 3 out of 30 who graduated from the academy bore that name – 10% again. Now take a minute and imagine the elevation from name to surname- you can see a geometric progression ahead. That’s the power of that stardom.

Roop Tera Mastana from Aradhana (1969)

Any one who was named ‘Rajesh’ before us was done so by a visionary and after us was a tad too late. We remain the ‘asli namesakes‘. The ones who took the tide right ! May Shri Jatin Arora’s soul rest in peace. Our sincere condolences to the family. His name would continue to live on for ever. I wish I saw more of his movies and learned more of him when he was alive.

RIP Kaka.

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