Bashir Manzar

Me and Vinod Khanna

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A tribute to a veteran actor

We were three friends – Khursheed, Shabir and me. Young, carefree, full of energy and ideas (the ideas not necessarily very creative or productive). All the time roaming in the lanes and by-lanes of Batamaloo. This Srinagar outskirt area was our den.

I was Amar (friends thought I was look alike of Vinod Khanna), Khursheed was Anthony (tall with Amitabh like hairstyle) and Shabir was Akbar (no visible resemblance with Rishi Kapoor but was shortest of the three).

These were the pre-1987 days. We had no burdens of Kashmir dispute, India, Pakistan (though some of our friends like Shakeel Bakshi were always dying to discuss these issues). We were happy in our own world and I, particularly in mine, because most of the friends would say that I had some resemblance with Vinod Khanna.

Vinod Khanna was not Amitabh Bachan but he was he. He had his own recognition. He was not THE STAR but he also was not a nobody. He had looks better than Amitabh and if someone would tell you that you have some resemblance with him, cloud nine was the destination.

And I was on cloud nine. I would do everything to copy him. Hairstyle, dress and even the style of smoking (smoking wasn’t a taboo those days, even Ma’s and Grand Ma’s would smoke Hukka). I would watch all of his moves and try to copy.

We were the regular movie goers. I was such a movie freak (even before I was told that I look like Vinod – I mean, in my childhood) that I would, like other kids, put my ear to the huge gate of Palladium Cinema, on the third class end, and try to listen to the sound track of the movie that would have been running there. (Those days my Srinagar connection was Maisuma).

But Amar, Akbar Anthony changed everything. I had grown up. Shifted from Maisuma to Batamaloo and declared AMAR by friends there. Now, we had a competition.

Our Anthony would be praising every movie of Amitabh, flop or hit. Akbar would be on hunt for Rishi’s movies and I, Amar, wouldn’t compromise on anything about Vinod.

For me, Vinod was ultimate.

And friends would tell, ‘see how Amitabh is rising.’ My response would be, ‘awaz ka jadoo hai bhai, acting nahi.’

I knew I was wrong. Amitabh was a great actor. But at the same time, I firmly believed that Vinod was no lesser.

I loved him in Mera Gaon Mera Desh. Whether anyone from Bollywood likes it or not, I think, the iconic character of Gabbar Singh in super-duper hit Sholay, had some inspiration from Jabbar Singh of Mera Gaon Mera Desh.

And this Jabbar Singh was none other than Vinod Khanna.

I don’t know why but I loved him in Parvarish paired with Shabana Azmi. As a young boy, I always though Vinod and Shabana are making a perfect Jodi.

I still remember delivering his dialogues in the company of my friends - Jabbar Singh ne sirf do hi baatein seekhi hai. Ek mauke ka fayda uthana, aur apne dushman ka naam-u-nishaan mitta dena.

A few weeks back, when I saw a picture of ailing Vinod Khanna, that went viral on the social networking sites, I barely could hold my tears. Now 57, I still idolize this most handsome man of Bollywood, the way I used to when I was in teens.

When Vinod Khanna joined BJP, I didn’t like his decision because I had never been comfortable with BJP, but my love for him never receded.

And last time I saw my favourite on screen was Dilwale and I, despite being uncomfortable with him for joining BJP, adored him. He was same Vinod, Vinod of my teenage.

Mumbai is sort of my second home. I don’t know why I never thought to try and meet him. But after his demise, I am really regretting. I should have.

Coming back to my teenage days, I would love to be acknowledged by my friends as a ‘copy-cat’ of Vinod Khanna. Though I knew I was not as handsome as Vinod, but our noses and chins were bit identical.

I would work on my hair, day and night, to look more like him. Would copy his every move and watch his every movie. (It was this fascination that I auditioned at DDK Srinagar and even got a few trial shots in some plays).

And then one day, in my village, a friend of mine, who had just joined Army, said: You look like Vinod Mehra (another Bollywood star). I was shattered. Not that I didn’t like Vinod Mehra, but I had lived all these years as Vinod Khanna and it was too difficult to find any resemblance between the too actors!

Tail Piece: Vinod Khanna, you had your own share of fans all over. You were loved and adored. Be happy wherever you have gone and never ever abandon your killer smile!

bmanzar@gmail.com

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