Rajesh Khanna Was Accused Of Harassing a Starlet – Blast From the Past
Long before the #metoomovement, superstar Rajesh Khanna was accused of heckling a young starlet
This was much before the #MeToo movement kicked in. The year was 1985 and Rajesh Khanna’s spectacular superstardom had ended. Everyone knew it. Except Khanna himself. He was no more the King of all that he Surveyed (top directors used to massage is feet, along with the ego, on the sets). But the arrogant, self-destructive ex-superstar continued to behave as if the sun rose and set from his house.
The chamchas still hung around and laughed at all his lewd jokes. On the sets of IV Sasi’s Anokha Rishta, the brunt of Khanna’s comments was 15-year-old Sabiha, daughter of yesteryears’ leading lady Ameeta (of Tumsa Nahin Dekha fame). As was the norm in the Khanna durbar, a victim (female) was selected and then targeted. But this 15-year proved to be a hard nut to crack.
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Sabeeha, all of 15, and a little younger than Rajesh Khanna’s child-bride, Dimple Kapadia was, when they wed, fought back the heckling and jeering. Director Sasi also joined in. After all, he had a movie to complete and the hero must be kept happy. However Sabeeha made the cardinal error of not biting the bait. This did not go down well with Khanna and his coterie (which included the director IV Sasi). The more Sabeeha and her plucky mom resisted, the more the Khanna’s barbs got nasty. The comments quickly turned sexual in nature. And before anyone knew it Khanna was shouting to his director across the set, “Nariyal phod doon kya?” (Should I break the coconut?)
Now, coconuts are considered very auspicious fruits in India. And perhaps the Khanna had some religious thoughts in mind. But most people on the set that evening felt the Superstar was making a crude comment on Sabeeha that had nothing to do with holy thoughts. Sabeeha and her mother protested vehemently against Khanna’s harassment. No one heard them. Sabeeha was shooed out of the Hindi film industry, just like Tanushree Dutta two decades later. But that’s another story.