Rishi Kapoor: Straight from the heart

Debarati Palit Singh
Saturday, 2 May 2020

Romance, music, tweets and trolls — there are many things that Rishi Kapoor will be remembered for. Sakal Times looks at his journey.

Our dear Rishi Kapoor passed away peacefully on Thursday at 8.45 am IST in hospital today after a two-year battle with Leukemia. The doctors and medical staff at the hospital said he kept them entertained to the last,” read a statement shared by the family of the veteran actor. It’s hard to believe the romantic hero who made women go weak at their knees is no more.

The news of his death comes a day later after the country lost another powerhouse performer – Irrfan Khan.

Rishi, who was suffering from Leukemia, was admitted at HN Reliance Foundation Hospital on Wednesday night. The news of his death on Thursday morning left the industry and his fans heartbroken. Amitabh Bachchan first shared it on Twitter. The actor was battling with cancer for two years. He was in the United States for a year for his treatment and had returned to the country early this year. He had signed his next film, the Hindi adaptation of the Hollywood film – The Intern along with Deepika Padukone.

Before the coronavirus lockdown, he was shooting for Sharmaji Namkeen along with Juhi Chawla. Excel Entertainment was producing the film. According to sources close to the production house, a few portions were still left to shoot.

Rishi started his career as a child artist with his father’s directorial Mera Naam Joker in 1970. He even received the National Award for Best Child Artist for the film. Three years later, he made his debut as a hero opposite Dimple Kapadia with Bobby. The film established him as the romantic hero in Hindi cinema.

He went on to play the romantic hero in close to 100 films and romanced close to 50 actresses on the screen including Neetu Singh, Tina Munim, Padmini Kolhapure, Sridevi, Madhuri Dixit, Juhi Chawla and Divya Bharti.

He created his own style amidst his contemporaries. He last played a romantic hero in 2000 in Karobaar: The Business of Love, which also starred Anil Kapoor and Juhi Chawla.

In several of his interviews, Rishi had said that for 25 years of his career, he sang songs, wore jerseys and romanced heroines in the valleys. He got slotted into the quintessential chocolate boy image.

The best thing about him was that his chemistry with each of the actresses was superb, though, in real life, he romanced Neetu Singh with whom he got married in 1980. The two had worked together in around 15 films from Khel Khel Mein, Rafoo Chakkar, Kabhi Kabhi, Doosra Aadmi among others.

Romance has to be accompanied by good music in Hindi films, and it played a massive role in Rishi’s success too. The songs picturised on the actor – Khullam Khulla Pyar Karenge, Ek Main Aur Ek Tu, Hum Tum Ek Kamre Mein Band Ho, Chandni, Oh Meri Chandni remain evergreen, the credit for which goes to veteran music directors like RD Burman and Laxmikant-Pyarelal too. 

In 2018, when a fan of his had tweeted that he would be performing songs from the films that Rishi had featured in, he had tweeted back saying, “Good luck! Hope the audience remembers the songs. Always indebted to my music directors for a major contribution towards my career.”

Not to forget the playback singers — Kishore Kumar, Mohd Rafi, Shailendra Singh — who rendered the songs beautifully.

Unlike many other actors his age, Rishi never really took a break from cinema. He continued to shoot for films but post 2000, he dropped the romantic hero image, and we saw him experimenting with roles. He went on to play character roles in films like Kuch Khatti Kuch Meethi, Yeh Hai Jalwa, Hum Tum, Fanaa, Namastey London, Housefull 2, Chashme Buddoor among others.

He had mentioned his love for acting in his autobiography Khullam Khulla. “Acting was in my blood, and there was simply no escaping it,” Rishi had written in the memoir, which was co-written by Meena Iyer.

But when he played the antagonist in Aurangzeb, Agneepath, Kanchi and D-Day, that surprised many. No one had thought that the chocolate boy could play grey characters with such ease. In an interview to an online portal, he had said, “I’m not interested in playing the villain as a loud caricatural uni-dimensional creature. I can’t do that. I am trying to humanise evil. If you see my character in Aurangzeb, I am not trying to ACT evil. My character’s thinking is evil. He is willing to go to any lengths to achieve his ambitions and greed for wealth. I try to enter the thought-processes of my grey characters.”

Later, during the promotions of D-Day, he had also mentioned that he wanted to take a break from playing grey characters as he was being offered similar kind of roles, and he did take a break.

In recent years, his performances in Kapoor & Sons, 102 Not Out and Mulk remain memorable. His last film —The Body, in which he was playing a police officer investigating a murder, however, disappeared without a trace. It’s remarkable how Rishi beautifully changed as per the demands of the script, storytelling and his age.

In 2017, when Rishi launched his autobiography Khullam Khulla, it was considered controversial because of the revelations he had made in it. He had spoken about his actor-filmmaker father Raj Kapoor’s affairs. “I was very young when my father had an affair with Nargis ji, and so was not affected by it. I don’t remember feeling anything was amiss at home either. But I do remember moving into the Natraj Hotel on Marine Drive with my mom during the time Papa was involved with Vyjayanthimala. My mother had decided to put her foot down this time. From the hotel, we shifted for two months into an apartment in Chitrakoot. My father had bought the apartment for mom and us. He did all he could to woo her back, but my mother wouldn’t give in until he had ended that chapter of his life.”

In the book, Rishi had rubbished the rumours about his affair with Dimple Kapadia and had, in fact, said that he was then in love with another girl – Yasmin Mehta.

He had also spoken about his wife Neetu and said that he had blamed her for his failure. He had even refused to do a film because his wife’s role was more prominent in it. “Neetu was pregnant with Riddhima and had to endure my breakdown in that fragile condition. I finally came through it with the help of supportive colleagues, family and friends, but I can only imagine how agonising the experience must have been for her,” he had said.

He had also admitted not liking the songs of his own films and had shared an incident. “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 Karz. I gave Boney an earful, saying what a lousy number it was and wondered how Laxmikant–Pyarelal could come up with such a number for me.”

If there’s one thing we will always remember Rishi for, it’s his straightforwardness and honesty. Very few stars have shown these qualities so far.

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