Rajesh Khanna, Bollywood's "first superstar," is dead


Veteran Indian Bollywood actor Rajesh Khanna (C), flanked by his wife Dimple Kapadia (R) and son in-law Akshay Kumar (L), wave to well-wishers gathered outside his Ashirwad bungalow in Mumbai on June 21, 2012.



Big-time Bollywood actor Rajesh Khanna "is no more," lamented India's Hindustan Times today, citing relatives who said the 69-year-old iconic Indian actor had passed away in the hospital after a protracted fight with illness. 

Khanna, popularly known as "Kaka," won wide appeal with his performances in the late 1960s and 1970s, earning him a reputation as Bollywood's first big superstar, said The Press Trust of India (PTI).

Throngs of adoring female fans would cover the actor's car with lipstick marks, swooning over his "romantic persona," PTI went on, listing acting and singing performances that "made many a young woman's heart skip a beat." (Some of the wilder ones even "sent him letters written in blood," claimed PTI.)

They're all in mourning today, and a funeral is to be held shortly. Khanna's daughters Dimple and Rinki were at the hospital when he died, said the Hindustan Times. (The girls are from two different marriages, Khanna's "enigmatic personality" having "led to him into relationships with three Bollywood actresses in their heydays," explained a forgiving PTI.)

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The actor, born Jatin Khanna, was adopted and raised by foster parents and starting acting as a kid in school. He won first place in an nationwide talent contest organized by United Producers and Filmfare when he was only 22 years old, an event that launched a decades-long film career with his debut performance in the 1965 Bollywood flick "Aakhri Khat," according to PTI

In later years, Khanna took a break from acting and even held a seat in congress from 1992 to 1996, said PTI.

But the old heartthrob recently returned to the screen with a new television ad. 

"Shooting after a gap of so many years has definitely brought back fond memories and I feel that not a lot has changed at all," Khanna said then, according to The Hindustan Times.

"It's good to be back," he adding, little knowing it would be his farewell performance. 

The ad can be seen here: