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Naseeruddin Shah Blames Rajesh Khanna For Making Cinema Mediocre; Then Apologises

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In a recent Hindustan Times interview, actor Naseeruddin Shah controversially called Bollywood legend Rajesh Khanna a ‘poor actor’. Khanna’s daughter and actress Twinkle Khanna strongly criticised Shah for his remarks. Subsequently, Naseeruddin Shah apologised and said it had not been his intention to hurt anyone.

Shah had said, “It was the ’70s when mediocrity came in Hindi films. That’s when the actor called Rajesh Khanna joined the industry. For all his success, I think Mr Khanna was a very limited actor. In fact, he was a poor actor. Intellectually, he wasn’t the most alert person I have ever met. His taste ruled the industry.”

Blaming Khanna for introducing mediocrity into cinema, he added, “The quality of script, acting, music and lyrics deteriorated. Colour came in. You could make a heroine wear a purple dress and hero a red shirt, go to Kashmir and make a movie. You didn’t need a story. This trend continued and I certainly think Mr Khanna had something to do with it because he was God in those days.”

Rajesh Khanna’s memorable films include Anand (1971), Amar Prem (1971), Ittefaq (1969), Aradhana (1969), Kati Patang (1971), Bawarchi (1972), and Namak Haram (1973). The actor was posthumously awarded the Padma Bhushan. In 2005, he was given the title ‘The First Superstar of Indian Cinema’ at the Dadasaheb Phalke Academy Awards.

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In response to Shah’s comments, Twinkle Khanna tweeted:

Soon after, Shah apologised for his remarks. “I apologise to those who were personally offended, my intention was not to attack him”

In a seemingly conciliatory response, Twinkle Khanna tweeted:

Other film stalwarts were also critical of Naseeruddin Shah’s comments. Director Karan Johar called them “unbecoming”.

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Shah had not confined his remarks to Khanna though. He criticised the new generation of actors over their ‘insecure’ film choices. He said, “They claim they love cinema, but what do they create? People who just snap their fingers and choose any project they want are insecure. The guys who are financially secure for the coming ten generations are mostly insecure and they will not dare step out of line.”

Shah also said that most acting schools in the country were “frauds and shams” and many “fine actors” had never received training. “I believe that anyone who is passionate about acting can learn on his own. Dilip Kumar never went to an acting school, Amitabh Bachchan never went to an acting school, Kamal Haasan never did yet all of them are such fine actors.”

This is not the first time Naseeruddin Shah has courted controversy. Earlier this year, he had made oblique references to actor Anupam Kher’s stand on Kashmiri Pandits and their rehabilitation. Shah had gone on to blame ‘misreporting’ for his gaffe. But the damage had already been done. Director Madhur Bhandarkar and even Anupam Kher himself, called Shah out over his remarks.

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