Rajesh Khanna was India's first superstar. He was so popular among the masses that media specially coined the term superstar to describe his popularity. But not many people know that his first three films Aakhri Khat, Raaz and Baharon Ke Sapne film flopped badly at the box-office. Not only this many directors rejected him in his struggling days by saying that this pimple faced man has nothing like a hero in him.
No producer wanted to sign Rajesh Khanna after his first three films flopped. After shooting eight reels of Aradhna with Rajesh Khanna, Shakti Samanta wanted to change him with some other hero because no distributor was ready to buy a Rajesh Khanna film. Later, Shakti decided to complete the film with Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore.
It has been said that nobody came to see the first day, first show of the movie. But by evening the theatre was houseful. From then Rajesh Khanna's each and every film was a superhit. There was a time when all the major theatres of Mumbai were screening only Rajesh Khanna's films. Some of his movies even completed 100 weeks. His craze was such that even his bad films were superhit. His one yes was enough for financiers to write out blank cheques for him.
In 1969, apart from Aradhana and Do Raaste, Bandhan was another big Box Office smash. In 1970, Khanna had four superhits: Sachaa jhutha, Aan Milo Sajna, Kati Patang and Safar. The next year he delivering four of the year's five biggest hits: Haathi Mere Saathi, Dushman, Maryada and Andaz.
Producers used to say at that time Rajesh Khanna had a midas touch. Everything he touched turned to Box Office gold. But Khanna's dream run was finally broken with Mehboob Ki Mehndi (1971) which flopped at the Box-Office.
After Mehboob Ki Mehndi, his three more films flopped. He started taking his superstar status for granted. Between 1969 and 1975, he had developed bags under the eyes and had his body become paunchy and toneless from low maintenance. He used to look more than his age. His career started declining, but he did not take it seriously. He started doing B-grade films like Red Rose.
Rajesh Khanna never accepted the reality and told filmmakers to offer him the role that can match his star status. Also, it has been said that his unprofessional attitude, alcohol and his failed marriage with Dimple Kapadia played a major role in his downfall.
However, there is one thing that nobody can snatch from Rajesh Khanna - The title of being first superstar of Indian cinema!