He survived several heart wrecks but succumbed to a heart attack at 45 — Vinod Mehra was indeed too young to die.
He was the sort of guy girls would want to take home to mom. Genteel, chivalrous and soft-spoken… his sex-appeal lay in his easy demeanour.
His chocolate-hero persona suited the screen stereotype as well. Amiable and adjusting, Vinod was a safe bet for filmmakers and co-actors as well. It’s hard to believe that the ever-smiling and congenial Vinod went through a rough time in matters of the heart.
A tempestuous romance with Rekha and three whirlwind marriages document his perennial search for security. After an arranged marriage with Meena Broca gone kaput, a controversial marriage with co-actor Bindiya Goswami meeting an equally sensational end…
Vinod seemed to have finally found some semblance of stability with his marriage to Kiran. The couple was looking forward to their second child when Vinod tragically succumbed to a heart attack… leaving behind a bereaved wife, a two-year-old daughter, an unborn child and an unfinished production Gurudev…
At 45, Vinod had lived through a roller-coaster ride of trials and errors. Three decades later, his daughter Soniya Mehra and Rohan Mehra have had their brush with showbiz, armed with his genes and goodwill…
Vinod Mehra was born in Amritsar on 13 February 1945 to Parameshwaridas Mehra and Kamala Mehra. After the Partition, the family shifted to Bombay. His elder sister, Sharda, appeared in several films.
Young Vinod began as a child actor in the late ’50s.
He played the younger version of Kishore Kumar in Raagni (1958) among other ventures. Vinod completed his graduation from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai.
He was an executive with Goldfield Mercantile Company till he participated in the 1965 All India Talent Contest organised by United Producers and Filmfare. He was a runner-up while Rajesh Khanna was the winner.
The handsome Vinod was spotted by producer Roop K Shorey at Bombay’s Gaylord restaurant. Shorey gave him a break in his comedy Ek Thi Reeta (1971), based on the English play, A Girl Called Rita, opposite with Tanuja.
The same year he appeared in K Shankar’s drama Parday Ke Peechhey opposite Yogeeta Bali followed by the actioner Elaan with Rekha. Lal Patthar, also in 1971, where he played a music teacher and Amar Prem (1972), where he played the genteel youngster, who venerates Sharmila Tagore’s character of Pushpa, made him a recognisable face.
It was Shakti Samanta’s Anuraag (1972) with Moushumi Chatterjee, which inducted him in the club of promising young heroes. As someone, who wants to marry the visually challenged girl, his was an amiable act.
Given his easy-going personality, Vinod formed a great screen partnership with heroes as well. His notable films include Anurodh (1977) and Amar Deep (1979) with Rajesh Khanna. With Amitabh Bachchan, Jurmana (1979), Khud-Daar and Bemisaal (both in 1982) were his successful outings.
His other entertainers include Rajkumar Kohli’s multi-starrers Nagin (1976) and Jaani Dushman (1979), family dramas Swarg Narak and Saajan Bina Suhagan (both in 1978), Mohan Segal’s actioner Kartavya (1979) and drama Ek Hi Raasta (1977) and Ravi Chopra’s thriller The Burning Train (1980). He played the lead in the Punjabi film Maujaan Dubai Diyaan (1985).
ROMANCE WITH REKHA
Newcomers Rekha and Vinod made for an exuberant pair in K. Ramanlal’s sci-fi thriller Elaan (1971). Carefree and innocent, they hit it off in real life too. Soon rumours of their proximity began doing the rounds.
“A gentleman to the fingertips, Vinod seems to have been the first genuine lover to come into Rekha’s life. They were seen together everywhere… driving around in Vinod’s Volkswagen, having dinner in the wee hours… in a cosy corner of the Taj restaurant, Shamiana,” writes Yasser Usman in his biography Rekha – The Untold Story.
“Soon, it was said neither could live without each other,” adds Yasser. An affectionate Rekha addressed Vinod as ‘Vin-Vin’. But it hardly proved to be a ‘win-win’ situation for the alleged lovers.
The romance, it's said, met with stiff resistance from his traditional mother, Kamla Mehra. Rekha those days was known to possess a bohemian spirit and spoke her heart, while Vinod’s mother wanted a compliant bahu.
Feeling emotionally insecure, as stated in the book, Rekha once reportedly consumed cockroach poison. To calm the ensuing mayhem, Rekha and Vinod called a press conference to state it was just ‘food poisoning’.
Rekha’s ‘extreme step’, as the version states, made Vinod agree to marry her.
As stated in the book, the two got married at a temple in Calcutta’s Park Circus area. When the they returned to Mumbai, Rekha touched Vinod’s mother’s feet to seek blessings but she was apparently pushed away. An inconsolable Rekha left the place, with Vinod assuring her that things would eventually settle down. Unfortunately, they didn’t and the relationship petered out.
Admirably, both remained friends and went on to appear in films like Ghar (1978) and Bindiya Chamkegi (1984). However, in Simi Garewal’s TV show, Rendezvous in 2004, Rekha categorically denied being married to Vinod. Though she warmly referred to him as a ‘well-wisher’.
Their no-rancour relationship can be held responsible for their onscreen ease in Manik Chatterjee’s Ghar (1978). As a newly married couple their interface had dollops of romance and passion. They evolved as actors in this bitter-sweet tale of a wife, who deals with the aftershock of rape albeit with the support of her husband.
Aided by Gulzar’s soulful lyrics and R.D.Burman’s notes, the soundtrack of Ghar including tracks like Aaj kal paaon zameen par, Aapki aankhon mein, Tere bin jeeya jaaye na and Phir wohi raat hai is an ode to their chemistry and a hark-back to perhaps what was or could have been.
MARRIAGE WITH MEENA
In 1974, Vinod entered into an arranged marriage with Meena Broca, daughter of a producer. Shortly after, he reportedly suffered a heart-attack.
After sometime, his growing closeness to teenage co-star Bindiya Goswami, his co-star of many films (Khud-Daar, Dada, Sansani – The Sensation, Chor Police, Lalach, Khoon Kharaba… between 1979 - 1983), began doing the rounds. In fact, Bindiya had also attended his wedding with Meena. In 1980, news was leaked to a tabloid that the much-married Vinod and 18-year-old Bindiya had tied the knot.
Naturally, Meena was shattered and her family distraught. There was pressure on Vinod to severe his ties with Bindiya but it was a fait accompli. Meena had no choice but to file for a divorce.
BREAK-UP WITH BINDIYA
Sadly, within a few years, Vinod’s controversial marriage with Bindiya hit rough waters when she entered a relationship with renowned filmmaker J.P.Dutta (of Border, Refugee, LOC Kargil fame).
What made Vinod and Bindiya’s much- publicised romance wither so suddenly remains an unanswered question. Their marriage lasted for four years. At 22, Bindiya divorced Vinod to begin life with Dutta, her senior by 12 years.
Bindiya first met director JP Dutta on the set of Sarhad (1976). The two began courting each other during Ghulami (1985) and got married in the same year. “There was chaos when I got married to him (Dutta). It was not wanted by people around me,” she was quoted saying in Filmfare. “But I have grown up with him. Maine unki aankhon se zindagi dekhi hai, it’s about staying together in sukh and dukh,” said Bindiya in the past interview.
Bindiya holds Vinod in great esteem though. “Vinod was one of the nicest human beings I’ve met. A great soul!... But my mukaam (destination), my destiny was JP (Dutta) saab and my two daughters Nidhi and Siddhi… I am still in touch with Vinod’s sister, Sharda Didi. She’s fond of me. She blesses my children,” Bindiya told Filmfare.
‘KIRAN’ OF JOY
In 1988, a mellow Vinod in search of an anchor, married Kiran, daughter of a Kenya-based transport businessman. Daughter Soniya was born in 1988. Interestingly, the gracious Rekha even extended her wishes to the delighted couple on the addition in their family.
But the happiness was not meant to last. Within two years of his marriage to Kiran, Vinod died of a heart attack on 30 October 1990. He was only 45. Kiran, who was expecting their second baby, was unprepared for this tragedy. Their son, Rohan, was born on 7 May 1992, after his father’s demise. Incidentally, in the same month, on 2 October, Rekha’s businessman husband, Mukesh Aggarwal, had died by suicide.
Those close to Vinod, revealed the actor was under great duress having turned producer with the ambitious Gurudev. Toplining Sridevi, Anil Kapoor and Rishi Kapoor, the mega movie was delayed and had gone over-budget, compounding his woes. The film was released in 1993, three years post Vinod’s demise, after director Raj Sippy completed it. Patthar Ke Phool (1991), Insaniyat (1994) and Aurat Aurat Aurat (1996), which featured Vinod, released after his death.
An aggrieved Kiran moved back to Kenya, to live with her parents. The children were raised in Mombasa and went to the UK for higher education. Both entered the film industry.
Soniya Mehra made her debut in Ananth Mahadevan’s Victoria No 203: Diamonds Are Forever, a remake of Brij Sadanah’s similarly titled 1972 classic.
While Rohan, set to become an investment banker, made his debut in Nikkhil Advani’s Baazaar (2018) playing a shrewd broker. Reportedly, while Soniya now is a yoga instructor in Dubai, Rohan has also written and directed a short film, Afterword.
“I didn’t ever get a chance to know him (father Vinod Mehra). From everything I hear, I realise that he was a lovable guy. My mother was still pregnant with me when dad passed away and she moved away from Mumbai, when I was a toddler,” told Rohan TOI.
The ‘accidental star kid’ often shares memories of his dear father on social media. Like after the release of Baazaar, Rohan juxtaposed his picture with a photo of dad Vinod on Instagram and wrote, “The truth is that we never had the chance to be in the same photo… I am because you were. Sorry, I am because you ARE. Your legacy is carried forward not only by me, but by the thousands you have touched.”