Superstar Rajesh Khanna who passed away on Wednesday might have nothing do with Coimbatore except that parts of his film ‘Haathi Mere Saathi’ was shot here and was produced by a Coimbatorean M.M.A. Chinnappa Devar under the banner Devar Films.
But, the hero of the evergreen song ‘Mere Sapnon Ki Rani’ sure did become the ‘Sapno Ka Raja’ of many yesteryear dames out here as is obvious by the fact that the name ‘Rajesh’ became so popular in textile town during the late 60s and early 70s, when Rajesh Khanna was at his peak.
City-based heritage lover and a member of INTACH Mr. Rajesh Govindarajulu points out that several 40-year-olds in the city share his first name mainly out to the city’s love for Rajesh Khanna. “Atleast three prominent families here have males whose first name is Rajesh including mine and all of them are in their early 40s,” says Mr. Govindarajulu, whose great grandfather Raju Chettiar was a popular jeweler here back then.
Until the 70s, most south Indian families, including their family named their sons as Raju or Rajendran or Rajagopal etc. usually after their grandparents or great grandparents. “But the name became ‘Rajesh’ became popular only after Rajesh Khanna stole our hearts,” he says.
Businessman Arvind Shah, an old timer and a family friend of the Khanna’s points out that actor was extremely popular in the city and a casual perusal of the telephone directory would reveal the Coimbatore’s adoration for Rajesh Khanna. “So many Gujrathis and even other community members have named their sons Rajesh as is evident in the city directory. Until then, ‘Rajesh’s and ‘Rajiv’s (named after Rajiv Gandhi) were not so common here,” says Mr. Shah.
The deceased superstar’s popular speech at an IIFA award ceremony that is being beamed on TV channels now when he repeated Sahir Ludhianvi’s words ‘Aaj Mein Hooh, Kal Koi Aur Tha’ to a grand applause, rings so true for the Rajesh’s out here.