By Aasawari Shenolikar :
“S abhi insaan ek jaise hi toh hote hain, wahi do haath, do paun, aankhen, kaan, chehra- phir koi kyun ek, sirf ek aisa hota hai jo itna pyara lagne lagta hai ke uske liye jaan bhi de de toh koi gham nahin” - this dialogue from Prem Rog flashed through my mind as soon as I heard the tragic news about Rishi Kapoor, one of the finest actors from the first family of Bollywood, passing away at a young age of 67. This was doubly saddening for the film buffs, who were yet to get over the shock of another supremely talented actor Irrfan Khan passing away on Wednesday, at a very young age as well. Rishi Kapoor, the eternal romantic, was that ‘pyara insaan’ and more for a generation of girls who swooned over him after Bobby released and would rush to watch his films - first day, first show.
I, belong to that generation. Our gang of girls would stand in long queues days before his movie was due for release so that the tickets could be booked in advance. Such was the Rishi mania that the tickets would be rationed - only two tickets per person. Over a period of time, things changed, but the feelings of his fans didn’t. Once a die-hard fan of Rishi, always a die-hard fan of Rishinever mind his quirkiness, his eccentricities or his arrogance. If girls swore by Rajesh Khanna in the 70s, it was Rishi Kapoor who ruled the hearts in the 80s and 90s. Chintu, as he was popularly known was born in a family of gifted actors, and it was but natural that in due course of time he would end up in front of a camera. That due course of time, in Rishi’s life, came too soon - when he was just a toddler. Of course, he didn’t get to face the camera then, it only panned him and his siblings when they walked hand in hand on a bridge as Nargis and Raj Kapoor crooned in Shree 420.
That moment set the tone for his acting career and over a span of fifty years, since 1973 when Bobby released and became a cult, till 2019 when The Body with Emraan Hashmi released, Rishi Kapoor has scored an average of four films till 1995- and this, by any standard, is not a mean feat for any actor. From the gawky adolescent Raju in Mera Naam Joker, swooning over his ultra suave teacher Mary (Simi Garewal) to the dour Babulal Vakharia who has forgotten how to enjoy life in 102 Not Out, Rishi Kapoor’s repertoire is, for an actor, stuff that dreams are made of. Be it a multi-starrer with celebrated names like Amitabh Bachchan or Shashi Kapoor, or be it him as solo hero carrying the film on his shoulders, Rishi Kapoor, more often than not, left an indelible impression with his histrionics and has the rare distinction of having an entire generation of women - young and old - pine for him. So when he charmed his way into our hearts as he wooed Neetu Singh crooning Parda Hai Parda in Amar Akbar Anthony, he was the impish lover boyVicky Khanna in Kabhi Kabhi who bowled his fans over.
While his passionate ditty Jaane Do Na (Saagar) with Dimple clad in a sexy red sari with the duo cavorting sensuously in the swimming pool is the stuff romance is made of, his staid romance with Sridevi in Chandni warmed the cockles of our hearts. Whatever he did, and with whomever, he was enchanting, sheer delight to watch on the screen. The credit of being tagged as a ‘loverboy’, to a large extent goes to his wife Neetu Singh, with whom he gave many a hit.
Humne Tumko Dekha, Khullam Khulla Pyaar Karenge are but two of the many evergreen songs that still rule the chartbusters. He was spontaneous, he wove magic with his dance steps, he emoted well, he serenaded all his heroines with tenderness and great passion and he made his way deeper and deeper into the heart of his fans. If we were to measure Rishi Kapoor with the standard set by the present day actors - all beef and brawn - Rishi Kapoor would have failed miserably. But in his heydays, even when he had put on a whole lot of weight, he continued to charm his way into our hearts, as he danced nimbly and frolicked with heroines half his age. He not only ruled the marquee in the 80s and 90s, he also has enviable privilege of launching the career of innumerable actresses. Rekha, Hema Malini, Jaya Prada, Dimple Kapadia, Rakhee, Shabana Azmi, Sridevi, Padmini Kolhapure,Tina Munim, Ranjeeta, Divya Bharti, Juhi Chawla, Poonam Dhillion - you name them and Rishi has worked with them.
The actor in him wanted to grow and he turned to direction with Aa Ab Laut Chalen, which unfortunately didn’t do well, thus putting a halt to any further dreams of wielding the director’s baton. Not many are also aware that he also did a stint in Hollywood in 2007. From the romantic lover boy, Rishi Kapoor easily slipped into the image of a suave older person, thus marking his second innings in Bollywood - an innings where even when he wasn’t the main lead, he still played characters that were hard to forget. The kohl-eyed pimp Rauf Lala in Agneepath, the suave Arjun Kapoor in HumTum to the ninety-year-old mischievous grandfather in Kapoor & Sons, Rishi Kapoor delved into a number of characters that were as different as chalk and cheese and each time he came up trumps with his histrionic ability. From a young and brash actor, to a mature and arrogant star, to an older and slightly mellowed person, Rishi Kapoor led a life that was a roller coaster ride and at the same time fulfilling.
On screen he was the magnetic charmer, in real life, he was haughty, and very straight forward. Not the one to mince words, he, on numerous occasions, got into a spat with the media. He, clearly, wasn’t a journalist’s delight, and he made it very clear that he didn’t care if he didn’t make a politically correct copy for a journo. His lineage gave him that boost, and he let his work speak for him. Bold, he didn’t worry that he would be ruffling quite a few feathers when he spoke bluntly about Amitabh Bachchan and the grudges that he carried when they were working together. Rishi Kapoor candidly states in his biography Khullam Khulla that even though filmmakers wove stories keeping Amitabh Bachchan in mind, the other characters in the film were equally important but Amitabh never acknowledged it. However, as a true actor, he did not let his grudges affect the choice of his films, and both of them, over the years have done a number of great films.
He also admits to being a male chauvinist, ruling firmly over wife Neetu and dictating that she leave acting - “After children come, one of us will be an earner, the other a nurturer.” And we know, who the earner in the Kapoor family was! He didn’t shy away from confessing that he bought the Filmfare Award for Best Actor for Bobby. He wanted to spite Amitabh Bachchan, who was in the running with Zanjeer for the same award. He riled Subhash Ghai during the making of Karz, stating that Om Shanti Om was a horrendous song. That it went on to become a cult song is a different thing. That was his way of telling of one and all - Hum Kisi Se Kam Nahin. As for us - his die-hard fans - we’d continue to croon -Tu Tu Hai Wahi Dil Ne Jise …. Main na rahoongi, tum na rahoge, phir bhi rahengi nishaniyaan…. RIP Rishi Kapoor, you have left your nishaniyaan in the world of marquee and you will forever remain in our hearts.