Veteran Bollywood actor, politician and former union minister Vinod Khanna died here on Thursday morning following prolonged illness, a family friend said. He was 70. Khanna was hospitalised over a month ago for cancer but the family then remained tight-lipped about his condition.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Pranab Mukherjee condoled the demise of Khanna, who is survived by his former wife Geetanjali and their sons Akshaye and Rahul, who are now actors, and his present wife Kavita and son Sakshi and daughter Shraddha.
The senior Khanna was admitted to Sir H.N. Reliance Foundation Hospital in the first week of April. In a brief statement, the hospital said Khanna breathed his last at 11.20 a.m. due to advanced bladder carcinoma. Khanna’s funeral will be held at a crematorium in Worli here this evening.
“Saddened to know about the demise of one of the greatest legends of Indian cinema,” Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said. “We have lost an eminent personality who played a variety of roles in his film career and later in his social-political life. His contribution, both in films and as a minister, will always be remembered,” Fadnavis added.
The actor was Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member of the Lok Sabha from Gurdaspur in Punjab. He was into his fourth term as MP from the seat.
Khanna debuted in Bollywood in 1968 with “Man Ka Meet” as a villain. After playing various supporting roles in movies like “Purab Aur Paschim”, “Sachaa Jhutha” and “Mastana”, he got his first big break as a lead in 1971 with “Hum Tum Aur Woh”. He featured in some of the biggest Bollywood hits like “Mere Apne”, “Insaaf”, “Parvarish”, “Muqaddar Ka Siqandar”, “Qurbani”, “Dayavaan”, “Mera Gaon Mera Desh”, “The Burning Train” and “Amar Akbar Anthony”.
Filmmaker Subhash Ghai called Vinod Khanna a “real handsome man” both on and off screen. “He celebrated his life with love and dignity and compassion for others and in service to his nation as MP,” Ghai said.
Born in Peshawar (now in Pakistan) in a business family, he attended St. Mary’s School in Mumbai and St. Xaviers High School and Delhi Public School in Delhi and later the Barnes School, Nashik. He graduated in B.Com from Mumbai’s Sydenham College.
The Bollywood bug bit the young Khanna after watching the Dilip Kumar-Madhubala epic “Mughal-E-Azam” and the Dev Anand-Waheeda Rehman-starrer “Solva Saal”. Initially, he started with small roles and grew to playing mostly villains opposite some of the biggest names of that era before seamlessly graduating to lead characters.
At the height of his career, Khanna suddenly took ‘sanyas’ in 1982 to become a disciple of Bhagwan Rajneesh, the founder of Osho, and lived in Pune for five years. He returned to Bollywood in 1987 and simultaneously got into electoral politics. He was appointed Minister of State for Culture and Tourism in July 2002 and later Minister of State for External Affairs in the government of then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Khanna was first elected from Gurdaspur in 1998. He was re-elected in 1999 and 2004. He lost narrowly in 2009 to Pratap Singh Bajwa (Congress). He avenged his defeat in 2014 by winning from Gurdaspur for the fourth time. Khanna remained popular in the constituency despite accusations that he remained absent from the area most of the time.
Various celebrities from the entertainments industry and politicians like Vasundhara Raje, Mamata Banerjee, Lata Mangeshkar, Rajinikanth, Shatrughan Sinha, Anil Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor, Hema Malini, Mahesh Bhatt, S.S. Rajamouli, Anupam Kher, Akshay Kumar and Madhuri Dixit-Nene paid tributes to Vinod Khanna over Twitter.