Why Did Vinod Khanna Leave Bollywood? The Monk Who Sold His Mercedes



“Everybody has to travel alone. You come alone. You go alone”

Why would an actor, who is at the peak of his career, winning titles, glories and the hearts of people, decide to leave it all behind for one man, for one motive, for one word…. freedom?

Vinod Khanna left his fans and colleagues stunned when he took a life-changing decision to quit Bollywood. While the people of India were oblivious to what made him take this decision especially at the peak of his acting career, his colleagues were beginning to join the dots of his future plans.

Vinod Khanna Career

Khanna began his career in the film industry in 1968 with his debut film, Mere Apne and since then has had back to back films released where he mostly played the role of a villain but won hearts of the audience. He soon began working alongside popular film stars including Rajesh Khanna in Saccha Jootha, Amitabh Bachchan in Amar Akbar Anthony and with Dharmendra in Mera Gaon Mera Desh to name a few.

During the release of his popular blockbuster films in the late 70’s he was already beginning to take a different path than his fellow co-actors. He would shoot for his films on weekdays and drive to Pune to spend the weekend with his guru, Rajneesh Osho.

The philosopher had a huge impact on Khanna’s mannerisms too. He would often be seen on the movie sets dressed in an orange kaftan and a beaded mala. With each passing day his beliefs in the philosopher grew so strong that he would often quote Osho during his interviews.

When and Why Did Vinod Khanna Leave Bollywood?

By 1980, Vinod Khanna had become one of the most successful actors of his generation when his behaviour began to concern the people around him. His disinterest in films became more apparent to his co-workers and just then he took the step to quit Bollywood.

He was in the midst of shooting Mahesh Bhatt’s film, Shatru when Osho’s Pune aashram had to shut down and overnight the philosopher moved to the United States. Khanna, already attached to Osho, decided to follow him to Rajneeshpuram in Central Oregon, United States.

Vinod Khanna shot 75% of the film and left the country confusing the directors and co-actors. He did not answer their calls and was not convinced to return back to India even after Mahesh Bhatt personally visited him in Oregon.

The news was a surprise to the entire film industry and the people were in denial until there were reports of Khanna returning huge sums of signing amounts. This was when it was confirmed that the rumours were true and the actor quit Bollywood.

On the advice of his secretary, to address the rumours, Vinod Khanna held a press conference which during the 80’s was unique. The media was shocked to see a composed Khanna announcing that he was quitting the film industry with no elaborate speech or explanation. The star said that he was moving on with his life.

Vinod Khanna and Osho

Soon there were rumours around the legality of Osho’s Pune aashram and due to lack of funds, the philosopher moved to the United States. With Vinod Khanna following his footsteps, it only gave the media more news to spread about the aashram and Osho.

The actor then moved to the United States giving up everything, his family, friends, career and materialistic possessions to follow Osho and his path of sanyaas. He became the monk who sold his Mercedes. He was named Swami Vinod Bharti by Osho and continued to live a mundane, simple life in the United States.

He was a gardener in Rajneeshpuram which included his responsibilities of watering, trimming, pruning and planting trees etc. As described by his friends at the aashram, he was a good-natured man and a deep meditator.

When asked why would a man, who is at the peak of his life, leave it all behind for sanyaas, he replied that his mind made him take that decision. He said, “My mind was hyper, my thoughts were all over the place. I was very angry as I had reached a saturation point… When I would meditate, I realised I could master my mind”

As per media reports, Khanna was drawn towards Osho after the death of his cousin in a car accident and his mother passing away. He joined Osho and the path of sanyaas to find his inner self. Besides, he also communicated during several interviews that speaking to Osho made him realise of life’s eternal truth: Death.

Vinod Khanna’s Return to Bollywood

The actor was out of touch with the media until 1985 when he announced his divorce along with Osho’s aashram being shut down and the philosopher deported from the United States. Several rumours emerged about the closure of the aashram which was most probably due to lack of funds.

After his long hiatus, Vinod Khanna was back to Bollywood when he was spotted on a magazine cover with a white beard. The monk who sold his Mercedes was back on the radar of the producers as the country celebrated his return with Insaaf, Dayavan and Chandni and many more movies.

The 90’s were a rollercoaster for the actor. His career began to decline but on the other hand in 1997, he announced his marriage to Kavita Daftary. During the same year, he joined the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) and now balanced Bollywood and Politics. Vinod Khanna’s last movie before his death was Ek Thi Rani Aisi Bhi before he breathed his last on 27th April, 2017.

Like the legend himself said, “Dost marte hai, dosti nahi marti”. His fans continue to support and immortalise him through his movies. His children, Akshaye Khanna, Rahul Khanna from his first marriage and Sakshi and Shraddha Khanna from his second marriage continue to carry on his legacy.

Written by Jerusha Patel

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