Shatrughan Sinha recalls fallout with Rajesh Khanna during their Delhi elections: ‘I wanted to apologize but…’

It was a moment that not only shaped the political paths of two Bollywood heavyweights but also tested the resilience of their personal relationship. The late Rajesh Khanna and Shatrughan Sinha, screen icons who had once shared a close bond, found themselves in an unforeseen conflict during a pivotal by-election in Delhi. In a candid conversation with Zoom, Shatrughan Sinha expressed his deep remorse over the events that led to a rift with his former friend and colleague.

The story takes us back to a time when these two legends were not just co-stars in films like ‘Muqabla’ (1979), ‘Dushman Dost’ (1981), and ‘Dil-e-Nadaan’ (1982), but also good friends. Their camaraderie was well-known in both cinematic and social circles, and they shared screen space leading to box office successes that are remembered to this day. Behind the scenes, however, political ambitions were brewing that would strain their friendship to the breaking point.

As Shatrughan Sinha ventured into the political arena, a compelling offer came from his party to contest a by-election in Delhi—an offer he felt unable to refuse, primarily out of respect for senior party leader LK Advani. His opponent in this political battle? None other than Rajesh Khanna. The decision to run against each other proved to be a turning point; what was once a robust friendship quickly deteriorated into mutual animosity.

Sinha revealed, “When I stood against him, Rajesh Khanna was deeply troubled. I tried to explain that politics is beyond personal relations and that it was a party decision, but this explanation didn’t resonate with him. Our friendship suffered, and we went without speaking for a long time.” It would take years before the two would tentatively begin to bridge the gap that the election had created.

The ‘Gola Barud’ actor shared the poignant regret he felt when his attempts to reconnect and reconcile fully with Khanna were thwarted by fate. “I frequently told my daughter Sonakshi that I intended to meet him and apologize once I was discharged from the hospital. Unfortunately, he passed away before I could make that visit,” Sinha lamented. This missed opportunity to make amends with Khanna continues to weigh heavily on Sinha’s conscience.

Amidst their strained relationship, both stars faced health challenges that led to parallel hospital stays. It was during this period that Sinha felt the absence of his old friend most acutely. The desire to mend fences was strong, but destiny had other plans. Rajesh Khanna’s untimely demise left Sinha grappling with unresolved sentiments of remorse. Reflecting on this period of his life, Sinha poignantly noted, “When I lost my first election, I realized that I hadn’t only lost a political battle but had also lost a friend.”

Through the years, Shatrughan Sinha’s accomplishments in politics grew, but he still clings to the memory of his fallen friendship with the man once known as the ‘Superstar’ of Indian cinema. Their storied careers and shared screen adventures in films such as ‘Maqsad’ (1984) and ‘Aaj Kaa MLA Ram Avtar’ (1984) serve as reminders of a time when their personal and professional lives were inextricably linked.

Today, as Sinha looks back on that defining moment, he does so with a mixture of fondness for the past and regret for what was lost. The story he shared is both a cautionary tale about the costs of political life and a tribute to the enduring legacies of two of Bollywood’s most illustrious stars. It is a stark reminder that sometimes, the hardest battles we fight are against friends turned rivals, and the impacts of those battles can last a lifetime.

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