Think of Mukesh Khanna and the image of ‘Shaktimaan’ springs to mind. Or is it ‘Bheeshma Pitamaha’. He is one of those rare actors who lives out two screen characters. As Mukesh Khanna says: ‘I totally believe in destiny and I was destined to give ‘Aashirwad’ (rewind to Bheeshma in BR Chopra’s Mahabharat). But there is more to the making of Mukesh Khanna so lets go back a little and get some lowdown on the real ‘Shaktimaan’.
Graduating from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, Khanna wanted to join a plastic engineering college in Kanpur but fell short by 0.5 per cent. That avenue closed off, he went ahead and did his ‘LLB’ from the Government Law College.
From science to law. The last thing on this tall, broad and handsome man’s mind was ‘acting’. For Khanna, it was his brother who was behind his move to acting. His brother (who has since died) believed he had what it took to be a star and goaded him on to try his hand at it.
And as the clich? goes there was no looking back. So he went and joined the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune where he realised that his dialogue delivery was above average. “I feel all my mugging in Law College came handy and I reel off page after page without any difficulty,” he says.
His first ‘break’ came when he was signed by the theatre director Nariender Bedi for a movie called ‘Khooni’. The film unfortunately was never released as Bedi “expired in the middle of shooting.”
For Khanna the 80s constituted his ‘film era’ and he signed 10 to 15 films. ‘Ruhi, Capt. Bari, and Dard e Dil, to name a few, were box office disasters. The film industry closed its doors to him and he was labelled a flop hero.
Khanna has not forgiven Bollywood for that rejection: “I have a grudge against the film industry because they want to take stars only if they have a hit behind them even if they don’t fit the role. No one wants to take a risk with a talented star just because he has flop films to his name. Talent does not count here.”
The 90s was when he finally struck gold and it was television which gave him the recognition he craved. The serial ‘Mahabharat’ happened and Khanna got his due break. He became the ‘Bheeshma Pitamaha’, a role that was so strong that he still plays it at times in real life, more often than not during election campaigns for the BJP.
His home production ‘Shaktimaan’ gave him his second big shot at superstardom. The international fame that he has garnered from the two serials is something he treasures. Still an eligible bachelor, he is fully involved with his merchandise company of the brand Shaktimaan and his production company Bheeshm.
All things considered, this ‘flop’ Bollywood actor, hasn’t had such a bad innings.