Film: 'Wafaa'; Director: Rakesh Sawant; Cast: Rajesh Khanna, Laila Khan; Rating: none
As I watched Rajesh Khanna wooing Laila Khan in 'Wafaa', images from all the old films of the erstwhile superstar I grew up watching were crowding and colliding in my mind.
Surely this old, henna-haired man with a jaded face could not be the ultimate superstar who serenaded legendary beauties like Sharmila Tagore, Mumtaz, Zeenat Aman, Raakhee and Asha Parekh with songs that R.D. Burman composed and Kishore Kumar sang to infinite immortality.
Nope, this was an imposter....This was a fumbling out-of-sync man on the screen, who could do with regular visits to the gym rather than this romp in the bed with a starlet.
Many years ago, Rajesh Khanna had done a generation-challenged love story called 'Anokha Rishta'. A real-life scandal had reportedly occurred on the sets when the starlet playing the superstar's Lolita accused her co-star of unbecoming behaviour.
Not much was heard of poor Sabia thereafter, except when she re-surfaced some years later as Akshay Kumar's co-star in Abbas-Mustan's 'Khiladi'.
Back then Akshay wasn't the Khanna's son-in-law. And back then 'Wafaa' would've shamed less people around the once-was-superstar than today.
It's not the content of 'Wafaa' that shocks so much as the lurid treatment of the theme that leaves no room to doubt the film's makers intentions.
Films about ambitious women gold-diggers who marry into money, have come and gone. Bindu tried to do Dilip Kumar out of his millions in B.R. Chopra's 'Dastaan'. Bobby Deol was quietly cuckolded by Amisha Patel in Abbas-Mustan's 'Humraaz'.
But these were predominantly suspense thrillers meant to contour the dark, evil side of femininity. 'Wafaa' finds Rajesh Khanna's performance shockingly laboured.
It isn't his fault, really. It's the presentation and packaging. They clearly indicate an embarrassing absence of positive intentions.
Tragically, the plot in 'Wafaa' kills not the tycoon in the film, but the career of the actor who plays the cuckolded tycoon.
The character lusting for Lolita in 'Wafaa' is more like Shakti Kapoor from the South Indian remakes in the 1980s than any of the smooth-and-sensitive lover-boy roles Rajesh Khanna played in earlier decades.
Yes, this has got to be an imposter. Rajesh Khanna once lived in our cinema. RIP.