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The dreaded ‘C’ word

A C Tuli | New Delhi |

Longevity is the new buzz word all over the world today. The average age of human beings in almost every part of the world has increased significantly over the past few decades. People are now living to advanced old age, thanks to phenomenal progress made by medical science. Naturally, the list of centenarians all over the world is now growing apace. In the light of these facts, 70 would seem to most of us a little too early for the matinee idol Vinod Khanna to leave the world. He battled bladder cancer for a number of years but ultimately succumbed to this dreaded disease over which medical science has still to win a complete victory.

Cancer is a wasting disease. A photograph of Vinod Khanna with his wife Kavita and son Sakshi went viral on social media only a few days before his death. This photograph shocked Khanna’s countless fans. Cancer had ravaged the star’s once strong, athletic-looking physique almost beyond recognition. His thin, pain-marred face in the photograph showed how acute must have been his suffering.

No actor had ever before known the kind of public adulation that Rajesh Khanna commanded in his superstardom days. When he was at the peak of his popularity, he was literally idolised by his countless millions of fans. There was a long list of superhits to his name. But, alas, stardom is not everlasting. So, when his palmy days were over, Rajesh Khanna retreated into a brooding solitariness. His health started deteriorating. Sometime perhaps around 2011, he was diagnosed with cancer. It is said that he went through many sessions of chemotherapy but his condition kept worsening. Ultimately the dreaded disease claimed him. In his last days, the frail and emaciated looking Rajesh Khanna could barely stand on his feet. He was only 69 when he breathed his last in Mumbai on July 18, 2012.

Nargis was another big star of our film industry whohad acted in landmark films like Ranjit Movietone’s “Jogan”, Mehboob Khan’s “Andaaz” and “Mother India”. In as many as sixteen films made under different banners, Nargis’s leading man was Raj Kapoor. She succumbed to cancer when she was only 51. She suffered from pancreatic cancer for a number of years, was treated for it first in Bombay (Mumbai) and then in New York, but there was little improvement in her condition. She expired on May 3, 1981, barely a week before the release of her son Sanjay Dutt’s debut film “Rocky’.

Rajkumar was an actor of substance who acquitted himself brilliantly in many films of 1960s and 1970s. Pitted against tragedy king Dilip Kumar in films like “Paigaam” (1958) and “Saudagar” (1991), Rajkumar gave formidable performances. He had a deep resonant voice and an expressive face. Powerful dialogue delivery was his forte. But when his popularity started declining as an actor, Raj Kumar also receded into isolated privacy. A heavy smoker from his youth onward, he was diagnosed with throat cancer. The last two years of his life, according to his son Puru Rajkumar, were very painful for him as a sufferer of throat cancer. He passed away on July 3, 1996 when he was only 69.

As an actor Feroze Khan was known for his flamboyance and flourish. He had had quite a long film career. Made his debut in films in 1960 and his last film was ‘Welcome” (2007). His wellknown films are “Khotey Sikkay”, “Dharmatma”, and “Qurbani”. Besides, he acted in and also directed films like “Jaanbaaz”, “Dayavan”, and “Yalgaar”. Feroze Khan suffered from throat cancer for a long time and expired on April 27, 2009 at the age of 69.

Pakistani singer Nazia Hassan had sung one song for the Indian film “Qurbaani’ (1982) and shot to fame overnight with it, “Aap jaisa koi meri zindagi mein aaye, to baat ban jaaye, baat ban jaaye…” It was a chartbuster of 1981. But Nazia Hassan was afflicted with lung cancer when still in her youth. She passed away in London on April 13, 2000 when she was only 35.

Simple Kapadia, younger sister of Dimple Kapadia, made her acting debut in the 1979 film “Anurodh”, in which she was paired with Rajesh Khanna, her brother-in-law. It was a fairly successful film with some sweet songs. But Simple Kapadia’s film career was short-lived. She suffered from cancer for three years and passed away in November, 2009 when she was 51.

Rehman was a handsome young man when he started his film career. The most productive period of his career was 1940s and 1950s, during which he appeared as leading man in a number of films like “ Na r g i s”, “Pyar Ki Jeet”, “Badi B e h n ” , “ P a r a s ”, “ Pa r d e s”, and several others. His leading ladies were the topmost heroines of that time – Nargis, Suraiya, Munawwar Sultana, Madhubala, Bina Rai, etc. In the 1960s and 1970s, Rehman was seen in films in mostly supporting roles. He also excelled in negative roles. His well-known films of this phase of his career are, “Pyasa”, “Chaudvin Ka Chand”, “Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam” and several others. A heavy smoker, Rehman suffered a few heart attacks. Then he contracted throat cancer. He expired in Mumbai on November 5, 1984 at the age of 62.

However, cancer detected in its early stage is curable. There are quite a few instances of Bollywood stars bravely combating cancer and surviving.

They now lead normal lives. Among them is yesteryear actress Mumtaz, Manisha Koirala, Lisa Ray, South Indian actress Gautami Tadimalla, and TV reality show judge, director, and actor Anurag Basu.