Maybe I'm imagining this, but there seems to be something unusually poignant about Bollywood's reaction to Vinod Khanna's death. I can't help but contrast the softness of the eulogies that have followed the actor's passing to the usual rancour and sniping we are so used to seeing in Bollywood. It's almost as though, for a few days, the industry decided to press "pause" on its regular fault-finding and decided, instead, to focus on that which was good and human in one of its sons.
I wanted to find out more about the actor-sanyasi-politician and reached out to his old friend of many years, Col. Raj Kapoor (an ex-army man and moviemaker who gave Shah Rukh Khan his first major role in the TV series Fauji). I had met both Vinod Khanna and Col. Kapoor a few years ago at a book launch. "Colonel", as he is referred to in the film fraternity, had written a book and Vinod Kumar had agreed to launch it. I found out that day that, despite a substantial age difference between the two, the Colonel and the actor shared an enduring friendship that had spanned decades.
The Colonel began recounting his old friendship with Vinod Khanna, starting with their time together at the Osho Ashram in Pune.
Col. Kapoor agreed to my request for an interview and a couple of days later, on a traffic-free Sunday morning, I found myself climbing two flights of stairs to his home office in South Delhi. His office walls were covered with photos of movie actors, family members, cartoons, sketches, jokes and script ideas. The Colonel, I noticed, had a substantial collection of hats and an equally substantial collection of pens, diaries and notebooks. I asked him what was in those diaries and notebooks.
"Scripts," he replied in a deep and slightly gravelly baritone. "Scripts, stories, ideas for documentaries and poetry." Age has obviously dimmed none of his creative faculties. A prolific writer and gifted storyteller, the Colonel began recounting his old friendship with Vinod Khanna, starting with their time together at the Osho Ashram in Pune. It was a short interview but a fun, freewheeling and moving one. The Colonel only had enough time to share three incidents from Vinod Khanna's life but they were enough to answer my question about the wellspring of unexpected poignancy that his passing had opened up.
Here is the interview in 3 parts.