In a throwback interview with Stardust magazine in the 70s, Amitabh Bachchan had opened up about his much-speculated rivalry with Rajesh Khanna and also admitted that the criticism by Rajesh Khanna hurt him personally.
It is a well-known fact to all that Rajesh Khanna was indeed the first superstar of Indian cinema. The stardom attained by Rajesh Khanna back in those days is still unmatched even today. But, unfortunately, the super-stardom of Rajesh Khanna was short-lived as another youngster named Amitabh Bachchan, his co-star is superhit movies such as Anand, NamakHaraam, took over Hindi cinema and soon his career skyrocketed. He soon became a huge box-office success and he is still going strong even after spending so many years in the Hindi film industry.
In the early 70s, the news of a supposed rivalry between the two iconic stars was all over the news channels and newspapers. During that time, Amitabh Bachchan had spoken about his rivalry with Rajesh Khanna to a magazine in an interview, probably for the first and last time. When Bachchan was asked why he states that he is in cordial terms with Rajesh Khanna when things are not actually well between the two, Amitabh Bachchan had told Stardust magazine,
“I’m glad I’ve been asked this because I do want to talk in great detail about it. I’ve not said that relations between me and Mr Rajesh Khanna are cordial. I’ve never been to his house, he’s never been to mine. Like for instance, it’s different from Sanjeev (Kumar), Shashi (Kapoor), Dharmendra – we meet outside the sets, we get together occasionally. It’s never happened that way with Rajesh. We have no communication between us which makes things, in general, all the more confusing. I have been keen to meet him outside the studio, but somehow or the other it’s never come about. I think he is basically not interested. It dates back to earlier days. After the release of Anand, there was an occasion when we happened to be in Madras at the same time. I rang him up. We talked a bit about the Anand success after which he suggested we meet the next evening. He told me he’d call me up the next day and confirm. I waited for his call. It never came. The same thing has happened many times. Even during Namak Haraam shooting, he’d be very brotherly. He’d advise me not to make the same mistakes he made, to take on a few movies only. Beyond that, it did not mature.
I’ve heard that Rajesh is under the impression that I’ve been talking ill of him. That the night before NamakHaraam was released I was supposed to have stood drunk at Flora Fountain and shouted to the people that I’d kicked the pants off Rajesh in the film, and things like that. I too have heard things – that he calls industry people to his house, gets them drunk, and then abuses me and says that I show no gratitude after all the coaching he’d given me for Anand. How far these stories are true, neither of us can say until we meet. And at the moment neither of us has time, he further added.
When Bachchan was asked if he is ready to work with Rajesh Khanna again, he said,
“Why not? I’m prepared. If you’re referring to Rajesh’s criticism of me as an “underdog” (Stardust, May 1974) – frankly speaking, these are all impractical things. Maybe it did hurt me personally but then if one goes around paying attention to these things they are liable to confuse one. He is my senior and it is my duty as a junior to respect his criticism. And then if you go to see, what he said wasn’t entirely wrong. The louder role always gets more attention, like he says, “the underdog always wins”.