Rajesh Khanna’s career as matinee idol lasted over two decades. Along the way, he acquired a reputation for eccentricity, and also for being a loyal friend. His closest friends in Bollywood were singer Kishore Kumar and music director RD Burman. Their camaraderie began on set, and they maintained a successful professional relationship all through their friendship.
Rajesh Khanna and Kishore Kumar met while shooting Aradhana, the film that made Mr Khanna famous. Two songs from the film contributed in no small measure to his ascent to stardom – Mere Sapnon K Rani and Roop Tera Mastana which was Bollywood’s first single take shot. Both were sung by Kishore Kumar and also helped revive his somewhat flagging career. A partnership was formed, and Kishore Kumar became Rajesh Khanna’s “official voice.”
Rajesh Khanna was introduced to RD Burman even earlier. Their first movie together was Baharon Ke Sapne in 1967. Both men were just starting out in their chosen careers. Mr Khanna’s songs in this film were sung by Mohammad Rafi.
Three years later, in 1970, the trio would deliver their first film together – the superhit Kati Patang. The soundtrack became as beloved as the film itself, with songs that were to take their place among the classics: Yeh Jo Mohabbat Hai, Yeh Shaam Mastani, Pyar Deewana Hota Hai and Aaj Na Chorenge Bas Humjoli.
Together, the friends continued to make beautiful music. In Amar Prem, Kishore Kumar crooned Chingari Koi Bhadke as Rajesh Khanna took Sharmila Tagore for a boatride down the river, passing under Howrah Bridge – a scene that could not be shot at the real Howrah Bridge because authorities feared the weight of the gather Rajesh Khanna fans would bring the bridge down. Mere Jeevan Saathi, also starring Tanuja, contained the soulful O Mere Dil Ke Chailn and carefree Chala Jaata Hoon Kisi Ki Dhun Main. Mumtaz and Lata Mangeshkar kept Khanna-Kumar-Burman company in Aap Ki Kasam’s quirky Jai Jai Shiv Shankar and mellow Zindagi Ke Safar Mein Guzar Jaate Hain. Namak Haraam reunited Rajesh Khanna with his Anand co-star Amitabh Bachchan, and, as it was in the previous film, the biggest hit song fell to Mr Khanna – Nadiya Se Dariya. Other film-musical collaborations included Hum Dono, Apna Desh, Agar Tum Na Hote, Awaaz and Alag Alag.
And off screen, the three men – all at the top of their game – remained firm friends.