He was born in 1952 to the first family of Hindi
cinema, the Kapoor clan. But if there is one actor who has truly
vindicated his claim to fame, it is Rishi Kapoor,
writes DINESH RAHEJA.
Rishi won a National
Award when he was barely 18 for his sensitive portrayal of a
teenager’s first crush in father Raj Kapoor’s
semi-autobiographical opus, Mera Naam Joker.
The young actor
became catnip to college girls at 21, when his dad next helmed
him in that perennially popular l’amour tale, Bobby.
In an interview in
2012, he stated: “There was a misconception that the film was
made to launch me as an actor. The film was actually made to pay
the debts of Mera Naam Joker. Dad wanted to make a teenage love
story and he did not have money to cast Rajesh Khanna in the
Bobby was one of the
decade’s biggest hits in India.
Kapoor had an
exuberant charm, bewildering eyes and the chocolate boy kind of
looks which made his Bollywood eve smoother.
Rishi then provided
a launch pad to a legion of fledgling heroines: Dimple (Bobby),
Kajal Kiron (Hum Kisise Kum Nahin), Shoma Anand (Barood), Bhavna
(Naya Daur), Jaya Prada (Sargam), Naseem (Kabhi Kabhie), Sonam
(Vijay) and Divya Bharti (Deewana).
He has a huge cache
of hit songs to his credit and thrived as a top star for 25
But the actor, who
has given us memorable songs like Khullam khulla pyar karenge,
Dafli wale and others confessed that he never liked his songs!
Rishi Kapoor with debutant Dimple Kapadia in popular l’amour
“I must admit that I
was often hopelessly wrong in my initial reactions to some of
these chartbusters. I remember Boney Kapoor coming to meet me,
brimming with excitement, with a recording of Om shanti om in
“I gave Boney an
earful, saying what a lousy number it was and wondering how
Laxmikant–Pyarelal could come up with such a number for me.”
But Rishi’s biggest
claim to fame is that unmistakable, inherent talent: his ability
to fuse seamlessly with his character.
Even if he
unapologetically worked in commercial films, believability was
his calling card and he worked hard to achieve it.
In Amar Akbar
Anthony, Rishi wore a double-knit fabric trouser, a netted
see-through shirt and chewed paan to get a feel of his
To lend throb to the
dafliwala in Sargam, Rishi shrugged his shoulders before playing
the dafli, a trait he picked up from a father-son duo of dafli
It led to an
impressed Amitabh Bachchan complimenting Rishi on his ability to
dance, sing and play the dafli simultaneously.
Chintu, as Rishi is
fondly addressed, was always passionate about acting. His
bedroom mirror was his earliest confidante and he would try out
various expressions in front of it.
When elder brother
Randhir grew too old to play the role, a chubby Chintu stepped
into the hallowed portals of RK Studios to play the young joker
in his dad’s mega movie, Mera Naam Joker.
Amitabh, Shashi and Rishi Kapoor during the shoot for Yash
Chopra’s Kabhi Kabhie.
as a plump adolescent Raju, whose senses are stirred by his
attractive teacher Mary (Simi Garewal), and who struggles to
come to terms with his ensuing guilt, was so mature, it belied
Thrilled by the
adulation, a barely-out-of-his-teens Chintu hankered for the
lead role in his father’s next production, Bobby.
But he knew he stood
a slim chance to bag it if he did not shed the extra kilos.
A determined Chintu
stayed away from steak (his favourite dish) and cut himself down
to half his size.
landed the role and won heady stardom playing Raja, a
disenchanted, affection-deprived teenager who falls headlong for
the beauteous and well-endowed Bobby (Dimple Kapadia), the
daughter of a fun-loving fisherman (Premnath).
If Dimple in the
title role of Bobby sent hearts spiralling out of control,
Chintu with his freshly sprouted moustache and lovelorn eyes did
not lag far behind.
He may have lost
Dimple to reigning superstar Rajesh Khanna, but Khanna lost a
sizeable chunk of his young fans to Rishi.
When Dimple quit the
industry, Rishi found new heroines.
entertainers like Rafoo Chakkar, Khel Khel Mein and Amar Akbar
Anthony, the nattily dressed Neetu Singh complemented him
Soon after they
played a couple whose marriage is coming apart at the seams in
the underrated Doosra Aadmi.
coincided with Amitabh’s ascent and the prince of romance had a
difficult time stepping out of the tall shadow cast by the angry
director Yash Chopra, Amitabh Bachchan, Rishi Kapoor, Neetu
Singh, Shashi Kapoor, Rakhee, Waheeda Rehman during the
premiere of a multi-starrer Kabhi Kabhie.
Talking about the
cold war between Amitabh Bachchan and him during the filming of
their movie Kabhi Kabhie, Rishi says that maybe it was because
he had won an award which Amitabh wanted.
Rishi writes, “I think that Amitabh was sulking because I had
won the best actor award for Bobby. I am sure he felt the award
was rightfully his for Zanjeer, which released the same year.
“I am ashamed to say
it, but I actually ‘bought’ that award. I was so naïve. There
was this PRO, Taraknath Gandhi, who said to me, ‘Sir, tees
hazaar de do, toh aap ko main award dila doonga.’ (Sir, I’ll
ensure you get the award if you give me thirty thousand.) I am
not the manipulative sort but I admit that I gave him the money
made valiant attempts to conform to the trend and star in
vitriolic dramas like Zehreela Insaan and Gunehgar, but the
audience shunned them, preferring to patronise his romances like
Laila Majnu and Hum Kisise Kum Nahin.
In the 80s and 90s
the stars worked upon their character on their own- be it
deciding the costume, the make-up or figuring out an iconic
During one such
shoot, Rishi Kapoor confesses that he once ended up wearing
women’s trouser for the shoot!
“Today, I admit that
my second film Zehreela Insaan was a mistake. After the bubbly
Bobby, I should have stuck to something similar and not gone for
a film so drastically different... The one enduring memory of
the Zehreela Insaan shoot was the black trouser I had bought
“I was in the habit
of shopping for my costumes and this tight-fitting beauty with
flares caught my fancy. It was only later, when I wore it in the
song O hansini that the dress man pointed out that its zip was
to the side and not in front. I had made a fashion boo-boo,
picking up a ladies’ trouser,” he writes.
Generally in the
multi-hero films Rishi did in the late 70s and throughout the
80s and early 90s, his other co-star’s character and performance
over-shadowed his, and was more appreciated, such as in the case
of the films like Naseeb, Katilon Ke Kaatil, Coolie, Duniya,
Sitamgar, Zamana, Ghar Parivar and Amar Akbar Anthony.
Rishi Kapoor with wife and actress Neetu Singh.
In his memoir Rishi
Kapoor says that during his era, roles were specifically written
for Amitabh Bachchan and he was credited for the success of all
his films, despite the fact that the secondary characters were
also superb actors in their own rights.
Putting across his
point, Rishi writes, “To go back to Amitabh, I must confess here
is still a lingering issue I have with Amitabh Bachchan.
“A big disadvantage
of working in an all-star movie in those days was that everybody
only wanted to make action films, which automatically meant that
the star who could carry off action with the most flair would
get the meatiest part.
“That’s how, with
the exception of Kabhi Kabhie, which was a romantic film, none
of the multi-starrers I featured in had an author-backed role
for me. Shashi Kapoor, Shatrughan Sinha, Dharmendra, Vinod
Khanna faced it too”.
He further added
saying, “Although we may have been smaller stars, we were not
lesser actors. But this is something that Amitabh has never ever
admitted to, in any interview or book. He has never given due
credit to the actors who have worked with him.”
The deft dafliwala
of Sargam (1979), the pop singer who wants to avenge his own
murder in Karz (1980), the love-obsessed rebel who proposes to a
widow in Prem Rog (1982) reinforced one’s belief in Rishi Kapoor
as a sensitive actor with golden toes.
His films fuelled
his lover boy-for-all-seasons image and Rishi became its
Besides, his early
marriage seemed to disappoint his female fans.
actress Neetu Singh his 15 time co-star on 22 January 1980.
The couple has two
children - actor Ranbir Kapoor and designer Riddhima Kapoor
While Rishi Kapoor’s
film Kabhi Kabhi was a huge hit, the veteran actor says that he
had almost rejected the film as his wife Neetu had a more
prominent role in the movie.
“I was reluctant to
do Kabhi Kabhie in the beginning because I had been warned
against working with Amitabh Bachchan. “
Rishi Kapoor and Sridevi’s on screen chemistry in Yash
Chopra’s Chandni garnered immense adulation during the 80’s.
“The second reason
was that I felt Neetu had a more prominent role than I did.
That’s why I had said to Yash Chopra, if you want me to do the
film, give me Neetu’s role. Naturally, Yashji was confused,”
But he later agreed
to work in the film only after his uncle Shashi Kapoor
In the mid-1980s,
Rishi’s penchant for his evening quota of drinks manifested in a
well-rounded physique. A seen-there-done-that lassitude set in.
Élan gave way to ennui.
Still, Rishi acted
his way back with Sridevi in Nagin. The hitherto choosy star
signed a spate of films.
One of them was Yash
Chopra’s Chandni. Rishi played a man who shuns his love when he
is crippled in an accident. The star delivered a perceptive
performance capturing the anger, cynicism, self-loathing and the
desire for sacrifice that stems from his helplessness.
The success of his
home-production Henna, directed by brother Randhir, and the
cacophonous David Dhawan comedy, Bol Radha Bol, delayed Rishi’s
fade-out but his widening girth resulted in a thinning out of
He then attempted
his hand at direction, but Aa Ab Laut Chalen, starring Akshaye
Khanna and Aishwarya Rai, made under the RK banner, flopped at
the box office.
His last film as a
romantic lead was the delayed Karobaar: The Business of Love
In the early 2000s
Rishi occasionally lend sparkle to lacklustre fare like Raju
Chacha and Kucch To Hai; but a youth-centric industry can offer
few roles that do not waste this fine actor’s talents.
He moved on to
supporting roles in the 2000s. He has since appeared in films
such as Yeh Hai Jalwa (2002), Hum Tum (2004), Fanaa (2006),
Namastey London (2007), Love Aaj Kal (2009) and Patiala House
(2010). He also appeared in the British films Don’t Stop
Dreaming (2007) and Sambar Salsa (2008). He reunited onscreen
with Neetu Singh in the film Do Dooni Chaar (2010).
He also acted in the
movie Chintu Ji in which he played himself.
In 2012 he appeared
in a villainous role in Agneepath and in the multi-starrer
Housefull 2 where he appeared with brother Randhir Kapoor for
the first time after Khazana in the mid-1980s.
He made a cameo
appearance in Yash Chopra’s Jab Tak Hai Jaan along with his
Coastweek -- Rishi
Kapoor and Taapsee Pannu in the August 2018 release Mulk.
The film tackles Islamophobia by arguing against the common
His latest film 102
Not Out is a comedy-drama film directed by Umesh Shukla.
It brought Amitabh
Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor together for the first time after 27
The film is adpated
from a Gujarati play also titled ‘102 Not Out’ written by Saumya
Joshi. The film received mixed reviews.
Rishi Kapoor has
been in controversies for his comments on social media.
autobiography Khullam Khulla: Rishi Kapoor Uncensored, was
released on 15 Jan 2017.
Here are some
Khullam Khulla facts by Rishi Kapoor, taken from his memoir:
Rishi Kapoor writes
in his memoir that his first steady and serious girlfriend was a
Parsi girl, Yasmin Mehta, whom he dated much before Bobby was
“By the time Bobby
was released in 1973, Stardust, which was the most popular
magazine of its time, published a story about a budding romance
between Dimple and me.
“Dimple, who by this
time was already married to Rajesh Khanna, was not greatly
affected by it. But it put an end to my relationship with Yasmin,
I tried hard to get her back in my life, but she did not agree”
He played leading
roles as the romantic lead in 92 films between 1973 and 2000, 41
of which were multi-starrer films. Only 11 of his 51 solo hero
films were successful.
For his performance
in Do Dooni Chaar, he won the Filmfare Critics Award for Best
Actor in 2011, and for his role in Kapoor & Sons, he won the
Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actor in 2017.
He was honoured with
the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.