Rajesh Khanna, one of the most revered actors in Bollywood cinema, has died aged 69, according to his family.
He was in and out of hospital in recent weeks, before passing away at his home in Mumbai. His wife, actress Dimple Kapadia, and two daughters were at his bedside. The cause of his death is unclear.
Khanna was the first and perhaps greatest megastar in Indian film after shooting to fame in the 1960s.
He starred in more than 160 films during an award-laden career, and at the height of his fame was mobbed by hysterical fans whenever he appeared in public.
Women married his photograph, kissed his car when they couldn’t get near him and even wrote him letters in blood proposing marriage. This kind of superstar adulation was a new phenomenon in India.
The actor’s career read like the script of a Bollywood movie. In the early 1960s the then-unknown Khanna won an ‘All India Talent Contest’, beating over 10,000 contestants. It led to a starring role in Chetan Anand's 'Aakhri Khat' but it wasn’t until 1969, when he starred opposite Sharmila Tagore in 'Aradhana' that he became a superstar.
He was known for playing sophisticated and suave leading men who excelled at wooing the ladies and had a string of huge hits through the 1970s included 'Kati Patang', 'Safar', 'Ittefaq', 'Aan Milo Sajna' and 'Haathi Mere Saathi'. During this period he married Kapadia, but they separated 11 years later. She did return to take care of Khanna when he fell ill two months ago.
His popularity waned in the late 1980s, when younger action-orientated stars stole the limelight. He moved into supporting, character roles and still enjoyed success in the likes of ‘Avatar’ and ‘Swarg’.
He also moved into politics and was elected to Parliament in 1992, serving until 1996.
Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh expressed his sympathy to Khanna’s fans and family, tweeting: “I convey my heartfelt condolences to the members of the bereaved family and countless fans and admirers of Shri Rajesh Khanna.”