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Posted at: Oct 6, 2017, 12:39 AM; last updated: Oct 6, 2017, 12:39 AM (IST)

The missing picture & Raaj Kumar

The missing picture & Raaj Kumar

Rakesh Chopra

IT was May 1985 and we, class X students of a boarding school in Himachal, were attending an NCC camp at Khrew, a cantonment in Pulwama, some 20 km from Srinagar.

Insurgency in the Valley was in its infancy and we were advised against venturing into Srinagar. But we had a day off at the 10-day camp and were taken for sightseeing to Pahalgam, a journey of 75 km. On our way to the tourist destination we visited the Martand Sun Temple, 8 km from Anantnag.

The scenic hill station at a height of 2,740 metres, arguably considered one of the most beautiful places on earth, knocked us off our feet. Once a humble shepherds’ village, it offers breathtaking views. We took in the sights and sat in the garden of Pahalgam Club. There were flowers of all hues and the Lidder river flowing nearby added to the majesty of the mountains in the distance.

Pahalgam is a hot favourite with Hindi filmmakers, who have canned the beauty of the place in film after film. Even those days, Subhash Ghai’s Karma and Rajesh Khanna’s Alag Alag were being shot there. We missed the likes of Dilip Kumar, Jackie Shroff, Anil Kapoor and Sridevi by a whisker as they were busy on the locales nearby.

Suddenly one of us got wind that actor Raaj Kumar, who was holidaying at the hill station, was playing table tennis at the very club where we were standing! The prospect of meeting one of the most stylish actors in Hindi cinema with a unique dialogue delivery was exciting.

We had recently been shown his Karamyogi, where he plays the double role of father and son. There is a scene in the film where he is about to be hanged and consoles his son in his inimitable style saying, ‘Beta Mohan, tumhari ankhon mein ansoo achche nahin lagte.’ Soon the word spread and some of us reached outside the window of the room where the actor was playing and started mimicking him leaving the others embarrassed.

Presently Raaj Kumar came out of the room along with a chubby youngster. He was sporting a pullover and his trademark muffler. One of us had a camera, so we requested him for a photograph. We were thrilled as he enquired in his rich baritone, “Has it got flash?” We replied in the affirmative and quickly took a picture before he hurriedly left the place.

Later, when the photograph arrived, I was disappointed as I stood on one side of the group and the camera had captured me only partly. Thirty years on, I have lost the photograph, but it seems only yesterday when a bunch of star-struck boys had run into the maverick film star in Kashmir that May afternoon.


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