Pune: Whenever actor Rajesh Khanna died on screen his mother used to curse the directors for the scenes as she could not bear to watch her son`s onscreen death.
"What is it they are showing in these movies? I cannot watch it," she used to tell her close friends.
Reminiscing his family`s close association with the Khannas, Ramesh Bhatlekar said, "His mother Leelavati used to give vent to her feelings while talking to my mother, after he rose to become a star. His screen deaths annoyed her."
Khanna had spent a few months at Bhatlekar`s home during his two-year-long stint as a college student in the city.
The Bollywood icon became a heartthrob of millions in 1960s and the 70s with his portrayal of a romantic hero and also a tragic one in `Anand`, `Safar` and `Baharon Ke Sapne`.
The Khannas and the Bhatlekar family stayed in the same building `Sarsaswati Nivas` at Thakurdwar in Girgaum in Mumbai.
"My father was a family doctor of Chunnilal Khanna, (Rajesh`s father) and we grew together. Later, after passing the matriculation board exam, I moved to Pune, where my father had built a house on Apte Road in Deccan Gymkhana area," the 70-year-old Bhatlekar recalled talking to PTI.
"I took admission in Fergusson college for what was called `pre-degree` (first year) in science stream. Rajesh`s family also decided to send him to Pune for the Arts course. He however, landed late and could not get admission to the same college. Finally, he enrolled in the Wadia College in the city`s camp area," he continued.
Rajesh was just 16-year-old when he came to Pune for
college education and stayed with the Bhatlekars for a few months in their bungalow, before arranging for an alternative accommodation in the vicinity of Wadia college, in Camp area, where he studied from 1959 to 1961 for his BA. That time, the name enrolled was Jatinder Chunnilal Khanna.
Asked about Khanna`s stay with the Bhatlekar family, Ramesh said, "We had a close association with the Khanna family since our Mumbai days and therefore he was comfortable with my mother and liked the Maharashtrian food at our home."
Rajesh went back to Mumbai after his first two years of Bachelor of Arts at Wadia and completed his graduation there.
"We used to play together in Girgaum in Mumbai. Even as a young boy, Rajesh, who had good looks with a pink complexion, always aspired to be an actor. Once he showed me a photograph of his and told me with an innocent pride that he had sent it to Raj Kapoor asking him for a role in films," Bhatlekar said.
"He and his family were always very gracious and maintained relations with us even after he became a star. When he married Dimple in 1973, Rajesh and his family invited us for the wedding in Mumbai.
"Among the large assembly of guest celebrities, when he noticed my parents, he sent Premnath (the late actor) to take us to the stage, where the newly-wed couple was seated accepting greetings...His mother- Leelavati- gifted a traditional saree to my mother on the occasion," Bhatlekar said.