The late actor Rajesh Khanna, often called “the first superstar” of Indian cinema, is considered one of the greatest and most successful actors of Bollywood. At the peak of his acting career, he enjoyed a huge fan following. However, Naseeruddin Shah had a different opinion, which once angered Twinkle Khanna.
For the uninitiated, Naseeruddin is widely considered to be one of the finest actors in the Hindi film industry. He has been involved in both mainstream and parallel cinema, and has been praised for his versatility and nuanced portrayal. He is also known for his talkative nature.
As reported by India Today, Naseeruddin Shah famously said, “It was in the 1970s that mediocrity came in Hindi films. That’s when the actor known as Rajesh Khanna entered the industry. For all his success, I think that Mr. Khanna was a very limited actor. In fact, he was a poor actor. Intellectually, he was not the smartest person I have ever met. His taste ruled the industry.”
As Naseeruddin Shah explores the dynamics of that era, the poised actor expresses his critique of the film industry’s shift away from content-driven narratives in the 1970s. According to him, it seemed that the writing, acting, music and lyrics had fallen below the expected standards, with films doing better with superficial elements over substantial storytelling. Shah specifically highlighted the introduction of color in films, suggesting that a continuing pattern emerged in the emphasis on aesthetics over substance. While suggesting that Rajesh Khanna’s influence was dominant at that time, Shah suggested a possible role in shaping this trend.
Naseeruddin Shah’s comments sparked a substantial response, as the entire Bollywood community came together to defend the late Rajesh Khanna. Rajesh Khanna’s wife Dimple Kapadia gave a befitting reply to Shah’s criticism, highlighting her husband’s extraordinary career and lasting legacy. She highlighted Khanna’s significant contribution to Hindi cinema, urging everyone to honor his memory.
Twinkle Khanna also expressed her displeasure on Twitter, expressing her displeasure with the National Award-winning actress’ unauthorized remarks about her father. She wrote, “Sir, if you don’t respect the living, respect the dead – mediocrity is attacking a man who can’t answer Naseeruddin Shah.”
— Twinkle Khanna (@mrsfunnybones) July 23, 2016
After the controversy, Naseeruddin Shah issued an apology for his comments, clarifying that he did not mean to disparage the late actor’s legacy. Despite apologizing, his out-of-touch behavior and comments continue to ignite debates and discussions within the industry, highlighting the diverse perspectives in Bollywood.
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