Over the years, Bollywood has seen the rise of many superstars but no one stands out like its first, Rajesh Khanna. To this day, the actor holds the unbroken record of starring in 15 back-to-back hit films. This magnificent run began with Aradhana in 1969, and continued until Haathi Mere Saathi in 1971. Rajesh Khanna’s fan following during this period prompted the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) to make a documentary on him, titled Bombay Superstar, in 1973. On his seventh death anniversary this week, ThePrint takes a look at one of his classics, Do Raaste, which had made the actor, fondly remembered as ‘Kaka’, a household name.
Do Raaste, directed by Raj Khosla, is a typical Bollywood family drama that starred Khanna (Satyen) and Mumtaz (Reena), who meet in college, and fall in love after a series of pranks. But much of the film’s story plays out in the backyard of Satyen’s middle-class household after the marriage of his elder brother Birju, played by Prem Chopra, with Neela, essayed by Bindu. Satyen and Birju’s step-brother Navendu (Balraj Sahni) has been the father-figure in their lives — he had promised their father that he would forever look after his younger siblings and their families.
It is this promise that he is unable to keep as the household disintegrates. Birju and Neela regularly pick fights — Neela is portrayed as the archetypal villain who is forever plotting against the family. The couple refuse to help Satyen with his debt to a money-lender, and ultimately move out of the house. One tragedy after another hits the family.
The troubles build up to a climax, where a fight between Birju and Satyen goes a little too far and the whole family is forced to reconsider its actions.
Also read: Aradhana propelled Rajesh Khanna to his ‘15 hits in a row’ superstardom
Do Raaste depicts how a middle-class Indian family tries to adjust when people with different outlook share the same roof. It lays emphasis on showing respect for elders, and thesacrifices that people end up making to keep a family together.
It’s not difficult to see why Do Raaste was such a big hit. It had a popular theme, a stellar star cast, and some brilliant music by composer-duo Laxmikant-Pyarelal. Some of the most noteworthy numbers that remain popular even today are ‘Bindiya Chamkegi’, ‘Chup Gaye Saare Nazaare’ – sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammed Rafi – and a very special ‘Mere Naseeb Mein Ae Dost’ by Kishore Kumar, who would go on to become the go-to playback singer for Rajesh Khanna songs.
It is also not difficult to see how Rajesh Khanna earned the title of the first superstar. Despite being in a multi-starrer like Do Raaste, he manages to shine through every frame. He had a knack for drawing viewers’ attention, even with five other people sharing the screen-space. Do Raaste was also the film in which Rajesh Khanna honed his trademark gestures, and it is sheer joy to watch him.
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