Today would have been the 70th birth anniversary of Bollywood legend Rajesh Khanna who passed away on July 18 this year.
Fans worldwide must be fondly humming "Aradhana", "Kati Patang", "Roti", "Amar Prem" and hundreds of his on screen romantic songs. It is not coincidental that most of the tunes were rendered by music icon, the late "Pancham" R D Burman with whom he had a long enduring personal friendship.
R D Burman underwent bypass surgery in 1989 at London's top Princess Grace Hospital by team of renowned cardiac surgeons Dr Mukesh Hariawala and Dr John Wright. On the 6th day post operation, Dr Hariawala was dressing his chest incision when there was a soft knock on the door to which he quipped "Hold on - Busy ".
On opening the door, much to Dr Hariawala's delight was his favourite bollywood star "Kaka" flashing his signature mesmerizing smile and displaying a humble demeanor accompanied by Shakti Samanta. He immediately rushed to embrace RD complaining "Did not even inform me ... I came to know only today at Filmistan studios in Mumbai that you have undergone open heart surgery," Toh Pehli Flight Lee aur Seedha Yaha Chala Aaya ".
The genuineness of their friendship was visibly apparent and it was hardly evident that this meeting was of two super stars of their time. This visual impression of two humble human beings has been deeply imprinted in my memory, said Boston-based Dr Hariawala, who has treated many big personalities including PM Manmohan Singh.
Rajesh Khanna inquired with Dr Hariawala all the details of surgery including any potential complications, time required for full recovery and the time they could start partying again. He jokingly asked, "What did Pancham's heart look like during surgery?" to which Dr Hariawala candidly replied, "Large Heart".
This response amused Kaka and he rhetorically replied, "Is Mein Koi Shak, Puri Duniya Jantee Hain ki Pancham Bade Dilwala Hain aur Hamesha Rahegaa". He was in a rush to celebrate success of surgery and inquired if he could take Pancham to the local "Duke of Wellington" pub but was flatly denied permission by Dr Hariawala.
Kaka in a serious tone inquired, "Are you an expensive surgeon, I may need your services some day" to which Dr Hariawala responded, "I have an intuition that you are unlikely to need heart surgery in this lifetime". Kaka happily acknowledged and turned to "Aradhana" director Shaktida saying, "Why don't we offer a cameo role to this young doctor in a future movie". This suggestion was seconded by Pancham who spoke very highly of Dr Hariawala and had taken a strong liking for his work ethic, sincerity and showered him many gifts.
After Rajesh Khanna left the hospital, Pancham let out a closely guarded secret to Dr Hariawala "I have always reserved the best music tunes for Kaka and I dont feel guilty about it, as he deserves it. He also believed that" although Amitabh Bachchan was a fine actor, it will be Kaka who would be remembered forever and stay immortal".