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Son of the great actor Vinod Khanna. Brother of the budding star Akshaye Khanna.
Making his debut into Music television as a veejay hosts shows like Most Wanted
and Mtv Fresh
While in New York, Rahul also hosted two television shows, Saturday Live and
Bombay Glitter, on New York's ITV/ ASIANET cable channel. And it was also
while he was in New York, that Rahul was offered the position as
a VJ for MTV Asia.
Rahul is based in Singapore and is excited to be in the position to help bring Asian
talent into the international arena. "Asia has one of the most vast yet untapped talent,"
he says. "It's about time we are given more recognition worldwide."
With his Indian background and American experience behind him,
Rahul is definitely moving in the right direction.
Why is it that, everywhere I look these days, I see Rahul Khanna?
I switch on MTV and there he is. I open the newspaper and find his face staring
backat me. And now, he's even haunting the movie magazines... I mean,
what is it with this guy? So what if he's actor Vinod Khanna's son, so what if he's an
MTV VJ... he can't be that great.
Rahul was probably born with a silver spoon in his mouth. It doesn't show,though.
He's probably the most down-to-earth guy I've met -- a total contrast to what I
had pegged him to be. Blue jeans, white shirt... his dress conveyed a lot about who
he really was. For that was Rahul in a nut shell... casual and
Born to Vinod Khanna, a popular actor in the Hindi film industry, and his first wife,
former model Geetanjali Taleyarkhan, Rahul has always been in the limelight.
"That's how it is with a celebrity's kids," he says in a tone that seemed convey the message
-- 'no big deal'. "I never felt any different from the other kids, I went to a school where
there were loads of kids whose had celebrity parents." And, say his teachers, he was
talented. I guess it was this talent that convinced him he was good enough for theatre.
So, off flies our hero to the Lee Strasberg Institute for Method Acting, New York.
Was it parental pressure? "There was absolutely no pressure from my parents,"
Rahul was indignant. "I guess, you could say it's in my blood. I knew I wanted to get
into the entertainment industry and that was enough for me to
join Lee Strasberg."
But isn't theatre tough, isn't there racial discrimination like the rumour goes?
"That's fictitious, it's quite the opposite. While the American kids were freshers
to the whole acting business, I was already exposed to it. I had a better sense of
what I was getting into. I spent a year there and it was
fun," says Rahul.
What was this guy like in college, I start to wonder! It's almost as if he's too
down-to-earth, too cultured... "All I can remember about him was that he wasn't too
friendly. In fact, he was known to be a snob," says someone who was with Rahul
at St Xavier's College, where he studied for two years. "He had this select group
of friends, he stuck to them and all they ever did was sit around." But whether
the States transformed the snob in Rahul or he decided it wasn't him is something
one can never be too sure about -- after all, he seemed friendly enough.
After Lee Strasberg, he joined the School of Visual Arts, training in direction,
production, editing and writing scripts. Writing? "I
lovewriting," he grins.
Obviously, there's more to Rahul than meets the eye. He claims to enjoy reading
and has quite an eclectic taste in books. His favourite, however, are well-written
erotic books. "Not pornography," he hastens to clarify, "but tasteful stuff.
At the moment, though, I am reading Salman Rushdie's Midnight's
It a let's get-the-record-straight-at-this-point spiel. Rahul Khanna, who used
to be snob, is now a really nice guy who's interested method acting, veejaying,
reading, writing, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
But what's still more interesting is that Rahul has gone beyond the isolated
existence most celebrity kids lead. I mean, how many celebrity kids spend a
large part of their teenage lives doing summer jobs? And here I was, under
the impression that he had everything handed to him on a platter.
"I've done several jobs," says Rahul. "One summer, I heard Disney were
looking for volunteers to publicise animation. Now, New York summers are
really intense and, when I took the job, I had to wear this seven foot
costume designed to look like Tom (of Tom and Jerry fame). It was no joke,
but it was fun."
So why does a method actor or to-be-actor become a video jockey?
"MTV wasn't a conscious career decision," says Rahul and, looking to
put my doubts to rest, adds, "it wasn't through influence either.
I just heard that they were looking for an Indian VJ who was based in
New York and I sent in my application with a picture."
Rahul joined MTV in August, 1994. Today, three years later, he's hosting shows --
India Hitlist, MTV Most Wanted, MTV Hanging Out and MTV Fresh.
And he hasn't had enough of MTV. Not yet. "I love my job, it's a young, creative,
exuberant line, it's excellent." His enthusiasm is evident; Rahul was meant to
be on your TV screen.
But he plans to move ahead... sometime. Someday, he wants to be on the big screen.
"I really don't have any definite plans," says Rahul. "I do know I want to get into
the movies, but I never make plans. I don't even know what I am going to do
But, for a guy who doesn't think or plan for the future, Rahul seems pretty
sure of the type of films he wants to do. "I know I don't want to get into the
commercial film industry. I'd really like to work with Mira Nair -- I love
Salaam Bombay -- or someone like the Merchant-Ivory team." He's also
pretty sure about the type of people he wants to work with, "Actually, I'd
prefer to work with people who go with my work ethic." That maybe hard to
find, but Rahul remains unfazed.
It doesn't bother Rahul that his younger brother, Akshaye, has already a
pretty strong impression on the Hindi film industry. And he is not worried
about the fact that the public will always associate him with his father and brother.
"That's okay by me," he shrugs. "My movies will be very different from theirs;
I'm pretty sure I can create an identity of my own. Once you get your foot through
the door, it's your talent really counts."
Rahul claims to have a great relationship with his parents and brother. It makes me restless
. Is this guy too good to be true? No ups-and-downs in his relationships?
No healthy sibling rivalry? I persist with my questions. " I have a great relationship with
my brother," insists Rahul. A statement refuted by Rahul's schoolteacher,
"Akshaye doted on his big brother, but Rahul did not even
give him the time of day."
What about his parents' divorce, I probe, determined to find a flaw that would lend a touch
of reality to the perfect picture my interviewee was creating.
"I never talk about things like that. It's too personal." I had hit a brick wall. Maybe, things
weren't so perfect after all.
I didn't have to grill Rahul to find out that he's widely travelled. He seems to
enjoy moving from place to place, meeting people and he easily adjusts to
different environments. "Life in any big city is very much the same, it's fast.
New York is one of my favourite cities, but Bombay is my home."
He narrates how he took a trip down the coast of Florida and got an
opportunity to swim with the dolphins. "I have also been to several places in
India, but I still have to visit Rajasthan. India is really
beautiful, but we don't take care of it."
When it comes to movie idols, though, there's no room for doubt. "My dad
was absolutely the best," he says, with a hint of pride in his voice. "He's done
a lot for the Hindi film industry."
Does he want to be like his dad? "It will be a tough act to follow," Rahul
admits. Besides, theatre is one of his favourite forms of art. "But," he says,
"theatre is unrewarding in India and that stops a lot of
people from opting for this line."
Despite my skepticism, interviewing Rahul Khanna is more like having a
good chat with a friend. It's the kind of conversation you look back on
week, maybe months later, and say to yourself, "Actually, he
was a quite cool guy."