Ritesh K Srivastava
Nothing comes free in life - success comes with a huge cost.
This is absolutely true in maverick actor Raj Kiran’s case as he faded into the oblivion some ten years back and was assumed to be dead by many. However, the sudden discovery of this handsome moustache-bearing actor in the US, following a decade-long search by some of his closest peers is indeed great news for all cine-lovers.
Reports about his being alive, albeit living in a deplorable state in a US mental asylum, have evoked a huge response from the film fraternity and social circles, which are now showering praise on his acting skills and have vowed to help the actor in his difficult times.
However, Raj Kiran’s story is also reminiscent of life’s unexpected turns and twists, the enormous pain and the hardship which one has to face till one’s last breath.
The new revelations about his breakup with his wife and son (leading to his mental breakdown) and his eventual landing in a mental asylum in the USA, is a grim reminder of the fact that life is not a bed of roses even for the most affluent and successful people.
The heart-wrenching news about this soft-spoken and suave actor is yet another indicator of the fact that behind every success story from the tinsel town, there are millions of untold and sad stories.
I would not say that I was a big fan of Raj Kiran or a great admirer of his acting prowess, but I surely loved watching his flicks, especially family dramas, with my extended family members in Allahabad.
No one would deny that this good-looking actor with intense eyes had a good screen presence through which he left an indelible impression on the viewers.
Raj Kiran entered Hindi film industry in the mid-1970s and worked in about 100 films, but mostly in character roles. Despite being talented and cast in blockbusters like ‘Karz’, ‘Arth’, ‘Kaagaz Ki Nao’, ‘Ghar Ho To Aisa’, Ghar Ka Sukh’, ‘Ilzaam’, ‘Faasle’, ‘Aaj Ka Daur’, ‘Teri Meherbaniyan’, ‘Ghar Ek Mandir’ and ‘Yeh Kaisa Insaf?,’ he couldn`t attain the pinnacle of success and stardom.
His biggest hit till date remains Subhash Ghai’s ‘Karz’, in which Raj Kiran essayed the role of Rishi Kapoor’s pre-incarnation. The film was a huge commercial success and Raj Kiran was everywhere.
But, as it was destined to be, Raj Kiran’s golden days were numbered. The actor failed to strike a balance in his professional and personal life and his relationship with his wife turned sour.
Raj Kiran continued to play character roles in the late 80s but was alongside failing on the domestic front. Although, it is still not amply clear, it is said that his strained relationship with his family led to his mental breakdown. Consequently, the actor, who appeared to be having a golden heart onscreen, was abandoned by his wife and son. His brothers then intervened and took him to an institution in Mumbai, which specialised in treating those suffering from mental disorders. He was later believed to have been flown to a mental institution in Atlanta for further treatment by his brother Govind Mehtani.
Slowly, Raj Kiran, who was at the peak of his career in 1970s and 80s, vanished from everyone’s memory and was finally assumed dead. Thanks to the relentless efforts by his fellow actors like Rishi Kapoor and Deepti Naval that he was finally traced, and more importantly found ‘alive’.
This engaging, polite and cultured actor has been lucky to have friends like Rishi Kapoor and Deepti Naval, who are determined to bring him back to India, but there is an endless list of actors, actresses, scriptwriters, film makers, directors etc. who had no one to help and died in penury despite their highly successful careers.
Many known faces of Bollywood who once had fame, money and good luck by their side, faced extreme hardship in their last days or were left abandoned by their immediate family members.
These Bollywood figures lost their celebrity status either because of their failed decisions, family disturbances or by falling prey to social evils like gambling, liquor, betting etc.
Very recently, Hindi film industry’s grand old man (the veteran actor and Padma Bhushan awardee) AK Hangal went public asking for monetary help as he had no money to meet his medical expenses bill and sought donations to stay alive.
It’s shocking to hear that Hangal, who appeared in over 125 movies and worked on stage for more than 20 years, is in such a terrible condition.
Many other artists like Khan Mastana, Mohammed Rafi’s co-singer in the famous patriotic numbers ‘Watan ki raah mein watan ke naujawan shaheed ho’, Meena Kumari (winner of five Filmfare awards), Lalita Pawar, Pradeep Kumar, Keshto Mukherjee, Mukri, KN Singh, Shetty, Nadira, Pinchoo Kapoor, Satyen Kappu etc. were all forgotten in their bad times.
It is not that no help came from their beloved Hindi film industry, but whatever came was ‘too less’ or ‘too late’ to change their fate.
However, it feels good to hear that many bigwigs of Bollywood have now shown keenness in helping Raj Kiran in whatever ways possible, but I wish the same sense of belongingness prevails with other lesser known artists, and the government and various cine artists associations continue to take note of them when they need it most.
Raj Kiran surely needs help, but his case also calls for one to look beyond the glitz and glitterati, where a death-like pall is waiting to usurp those, who slip into a living hell of poverty and misery as soon as the arch lights fade away from them.