As told to Hiren Kotwani, Rachana Dubey, Lasyapriya Sundaram and Renuka Vyavahare (BOMBAY TIMES; April 28, 2017)

O Raahi O Raahi is all that remains of the song Rukh Jaana Nahin with the demise of Bollywood's most dashing hero, Vinod Khanna. The hospital, where the veteran actor had been hospitalised since March 31, issued a statement that read: “Mr Vinod Khanna breathed his last at 11.20 am due to advanced bladder carcinoma.“

Concerns about his health sparked off when pictures of a frail-looking Khanna went viral earlier this month.
The actor, who was married twice, to Geetanjali (1971) and Kavita Khanna (1990), has four children - Rahul and Akshaye from his first marriage, and Sakshi and Shraddha, from the second one.

For a gorgeous young man from Peshawar (pre-Partition), Khanna, who reportedly did his schooling in Delhi till Class IX before coming to Mumbai, began his acting career playing supporting and villainous roles in movies like Man Ka Meet (1969), Purab Aur Paschim (1970), Sachaa Jhutha (1970) and Mera Gaon Mera Desh (1971). He got his big break as a solo lead hero in Hum Tum Aur Woh and Gulzar's Mere Apne (both in 1971). Two years later, he once again wowed audiences and critics with his performance in Achanak, inspired by the famous Nanavati case of 1959-60, where he played Major Ranjeet Khanna. A string of hits followed, but one day, he gave it all up to follow Osho Rajneesh. “I have always been a seeker. In the film industry, I had money, glamour and fame, but I wondered, 'Now what?',“ he said in an interview in the past.

It is around this time that he earned the moniker, Sexy Sanyasi. After five years with Osho, where he went by the name Swami Vinod Bharti and was also a gardener, Khanna returned to Mumbai. By then, he was divorced from Geetanjali. The actor made a successful comeback with films like Insaaf, Satyamev Jayate (both in 1987) and Chandni (1989). “Returning to the movies was the easy part. It was leaving my guru in America, which was an almost-impossible decision, so attached was I to Osho. He asked me to run the Pune ashram, but I said 'No'. That is the most difficult 'No' I have ever said in my life. I wanted to return to my work, family and friends. Fortunately, when I came back to the movies, I was accepted once again,“ he had said in an interview.

Khanna made his foray into politics when he joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in 1997. He was made the Union Minister for Culture and Tourism in July 2002 and six months later, was moved to the Ministry of External Affairs as a Minister of State. Though he lost in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, he won his seat again in 2014.

He turned producer when he launched his son Akshaye in Himalay Putra (1997). After that, as an actor, he did few films in character roles, the notable ones being Salman Khan's Dabangg (2010), Dabangg 2 (2012) and Shah Rukh Khan's Dilwale (2015). He had just completed shooting for his last film, Guns Of Banaras.

From films to politics, we've shared our journey almost together in time: Shatrughan Sinha
Three people have been my favourites - Dharmendra, Kabir Bedi and Vinod. I say Vinod last because you always save the best for the last. He was a towering personality. I admired him the most in the industry. From films to politics, we've shared our journey almost together in time. In films, we both became stars overnight with Gulzar saab's Mere Apne. Since then, Vinod was my 'mere apne' in the real sense. After that, we also did Do Yaar and Bombay 405 Miles. A few days ago, I visited him. We couldn't meet but his brother Pramod told me that he was tired and sleeping.

The way he explored his life was amazing: Irrfan
I was a huge fan. He was the most handsome guy in the industry and had a style of his own. I never met him, but he carried off even a villainous role elegantly. It's not just about being a star, but the way he explored his life was amazing. His whole trip to Osho Ashram was his effort to understand life, which was a real quest. I wish wherever he is, he is happy.

He was very kind to me: Juhi Chawla
I had just a two-day role in Chandni and was very nervous working alongside such a huge star. I just remember the little that we interacted, he was very kind to me. Kavitaji would always invite me over to their house every Friday when they had satsang and Vinodji would also be a part of it. I think he used to sit with the harmonium and sing bhajans. I'm so sad that I somehow never managed to go to their home.

Vinod lived many lives in one: Kabir Bedi
I have had the longest friendship with Vinod, about 40 years. He was my contemporary. We did Kucche Dhaage together. At this moment, I'm thinking of all the times we have spent together, all the stuff we discussed together about life. A part of my life is gone forever. He was great fun to be with. We last worked together on Dilwale. We had seen so many phases of life together and dealt with situations which were good and bad. He lived many lives in one.

I've spent many evenings chatting with him and those will always remain with me: Ramesh Sippy
It's a small world. We initially met up socially. Then I had the opportunity to do a film with him. It was unfortunately shelved because the producer ran into a financial mess. Vinod was one of the warmest people to work with. He had all the makings of a superstar and he became one. He had his small problems from time to time. He needed spiritual solace and went about trying to gain that. When he went to Pune, he found peace there. That took away years of his life, but he made a solid comeback. The industry has lost a valuable human and a great actor. We will miss him. I have spent many evenings chatting with him and those will always remain with me as memories. Wish it didn't happen to people who had so much give.

He spread a lot of positivity: Arbaaz Khan
Vinod Khanna sir has been an amazing human being, a great actor who inspired generations of people. He was a part of Dabangg and Dabangg 2 and during the shoot of both films, it was great to have him around. He was always in good spirits and spread a lot of positivity. I will surely miss him a lot.

If he hadn't touched my life, I wouldn't have seen the dizzy heights of success: Mahesh Bhatt
Behind the larger-than-life personality was a tender heart that thirsted for answers to questions that have plagued mankind for eternity. Those questions gnawed him inside and became the glue that held us together. In a way, I was instrumental in taking him to Osho Ashram. If Vinod hadn't touched my life, I wouldn't have seen the dizzy heights of success. He backed me wholeheartedly. He was a great friend and that was a defining attribute of the man. Our paths moved apart when he entered politics. His son was expected to work on Aashiqui 2, but somehow, it didn't materialise. That was our last professional exchange. I did hear from him when he was diagnosed with cancer. I asked him if he was okay; he laughed on the other side concealing the answers that I was seeking.

The first time we shot together, he was very nervous: Asha Parekh
Vinod Khanna was such a He-Man. He was so handsome. I remember when we first shot together, he had just started out in the movies. He was very nervous about our first scene. Over the years, we worked on films like Aan Milo Sajna and we had a great time. He was a friend and we often spoke to each other. I met him sparsely in the last few years. We met in Kashmirs once two years ago and he didn't look frail or unwell. Even recently, about six months ago when I met him, he didn't seem like he was suffering. With Vinod, we've lost a friend and a dear colleague.

Whenever he came home for family functions, girls would swoon over him: Saira Banu
I am terribly upset. I was told that he was reacting well to the medicines and I was hoping that he would be fine. I am in a state of shock.We have worked together a lot. He was doing smaller character roles when he first worked with me. Like the part he did in Purab Aur Paschim. Eventually, he was cast as my hero in Aarop and Nehle Pe Dehla. We spent a lot of time training for motorbiking and karate. We were supposed to do stunts together and he was very patient with me. After working together for so many years, I really didn't have the courage to see him in that state. His wife Geetanjali and his sons would accompany him to the outdoors. He was one of the most good-looking men around. And whenever he came home for family functions, girls would swoon over him. We used to tease him when he told us that he enjoyed gardening at Osho Ashram. We really didn't want him to leave his career and go to America. I wish this day didn't come.

As a human being, he was selfless, sensitive and couldn't say no to anyone: Mukesh Bhatt
In the late 70s, I was Vinod Khanna's business manager for four-and-a-half years before becoming a producer. He was at the peak of his career then. If it wasn't for his quest for spirituality, nothing would have stopped him from achieving superstardom. He had a massive fan following. As a human being, he was selfless, sensitive and couldn't say no to anyone. He treated me like his younger brother. When he decided to take sanyaas, I opposed the decision as he was doing well as an actor but he hugged me tight and said, it didn't interest him anymore.

I'll miss him for the wonderful person he was: Sonu Sood
It was an honour sharing the screen with Vinod sir in Dabangg and Ramaiya Vastavaiya. He was one of the most grounded actors I've come across, very humble and very genuine. When we would talk about Punjab, he would tell us about his political experiences, as he was an MP from Gurdaspur. During Dabangg and Ramaiya Vastavaiya, we would all get together for lunch and dinner, and if he was not shooting that day, we would ask about him. I'll miss him for the wonderful person he was.

I knew Vinod from much before he entered films: Rishi Kapoor
It's sad news. Along with my brother Dabboo (Randhir Kapoor), I had gone to meet him about three weeks ago. While we couldn't meet him, his wife Kavita told us about his health. She also said that he was reading my autobiography during the day. I was very touched by that. Being five years older than me, he was my senior in the industry, but I shared some very good memories with him. Amar Akbar Anthony, Chandni and Tell Me O Kkhuda were some of the films we did together. I knew Vinod from much before he entered films. He was a great looker, a true-blue Punjabi and a friend in the true sense of the word. During the shoot of Eena Meena Deeka, he would get food for the whole unit. He was fond of eating, drinking and had the typical traits of a Punjabi. Though I don't take political sides, I campaigned for him in Gurdaspur. I told people that I was there for him because he's a good colleague and friend. A good guy gone. I'll miss both the Khannas, Vinod and Rajesh.