Naseeruddin Shah, actor and a key figure in Indian parallel cinema. Shah has won numerous awards in his career, including three National Film Awards, six Filmfare Awards and an award at the Venice Film Festival. The Government of India honoured him with the Padma Shri and the Padma Bhushan awards for his contributions to Indian cinema.  He made his debut in Lollywood, the Pakistani Film Industry, by a cameo in the famous and critically acclaimed movie “Khuda kay liye”. Later, he played a main role in the Lollywood movie “Zinda bhaag”. The movie was again a hit. He is a great actor par excellence. A different class of an actor.

On the other hand Rajesh khanna was nominated many times for Filmfare award for his roles in Aradhana, Ittefaq, won Filmfare award in 1970 for Sahha Jhootha then again Filmfare award and Bengal Film Journalists’ Association Awards (BFJA) in 1971 for Anand…Won All-India Critics Association (AICA) Best Actor Award for Ajnabee in 1974,Filmfare Award for Avishkaar. Won All-India Critics Association (AICA) Best Actor Award 1984 for Aaj Ka M.L.A. Ram Avtaar,  in 1986   for Amrit   he won All-India Critics Association (AICA) Best Actor Award and BFJA Best Actor award in Calcutta.

Both the actors carved their own unique niche, one did roles of substance, his target audience was intellectuals and lovers of good meaningful art house cinema whywhile the other’s target audience was the masses, he was the popular messiah, first superstar of Indian cinema. He starred in 15 consecutive solo hit films in the period 1969 to 1971, a record still unbroken. No wonder, Khanna is still called the “First Superstar” of Indian cinema. According to industry veterans who witnessed Khanna’s journey of stardom, he was undoubtedly the first Indian star to generate such mass hysteria among the post- Independence Indian youth.

Whenever he shot on location, word would spread rapidly and crowds would gather in no time. Once during the shooting of Amar Prem, a love story between a Bengali gentleman and a prostitute played by Sharmila Tagore, authorities had to prevent a scene from being shot on the Howrah Bridge in then Calcutta. They feared a stampede and foresaw a possible scenario of a bridge collapse under the weight of an unprecedented number of crowds. This was in a city as far removed from Hindi cinema as possible…

And at the fag-end of his career Rajesh Khanna still won awards and nominations.  In 1994 he won the Best Actor Award at Russian Film Festival in Uzbekistan for Khudai. He was also awarded in 2005 with the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award.
During the same period award winning, critically acclaimed actor, Naseeruddin Shah started appearing as comic character in populist front-bencher favourites like Tridev in 1989 and many minor roles in other mainstream films. He perhaps desperately wanted to be part of commercial cinema somehow even if he had to make compromises. On many occasions Shah lamented not being part of commercial Bollywood he admitted once that he didn’t join the film industry to just do art movies, he too wanted to be a mainstream star but he felt his unconventional looks perhaps became a hurdle.

Every actor goes through many ups and downs, Rajesh Khanna also did when post Emergency period people were in search for an actor who could voice their anger, they slowly started getting attracted to the ‘Angry Young Man’ Amitabh Bachchan who fitted the bill and started moving away from the chocolate boy romantic hero Rajesh Khanna because life for the nation was slowly ceasing to be romantic…strife, dissatisfaction and anger was in the air. And we all know that an actor who can mirror the times succeeds. And on top of it success went into kaka’s head which is a sure recipe for imminent downfall.

However, all this does not give anyone license to criticize anyone in the media out of the blue. For doing critical analysis there are other forums. This action may seem, to many, as an attempt to grab media attention by the three times national award winning actor.

Fridaybrands.com feels that one does no good running down the other when one reaches a stature in society. It serves no purpose. Rajesh Khanna was a mainstream star and Naseeruddin Shah is a parallel cinema star who has and is also doing commendable roles in commercial films today. So, it is in bad taste to criticize a man who is loved, especially when he can’t respond as in this case. Rajesh Khanna never made any such comment about Naseeruddin’s looks or his not becoming a glamorous superstar even after so many years in the industry when many so-called ‘non-chocolaty bad looking’ stars became superstars like Shahrukh and others.  So it’s best to stop judging and live and let live or let one’s memory live. That’s what mature and sensitive people of stature should do…


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