On the morning 30th April 2020, the Hindi film industry took a big hit on discovering the death of legendary actor Rishi Kapoor. Many were aware of his poor health for the last year and half but it came to a shock when he was hospitalised and declared dead during the early hours of the morning. Rishi Kapoor, an actor who has an acting career of over five decades, seeing fans of at least three generations. Son of superstar, husband of a superstar, uncle to superstars and of course father to a current superstar – Rishi Kapoor despite coming from a large family of numerous actors always made his presence felt – both on screen and off-screen.
He was one of the remaining superstars from the yesteryear generation in the industry that tried to keep the roots of tradition that once the industry had, he served honour for his family and for the fraternity he belonged to. Strong on principals, Rishi Kapoor came from an era of gentleman like his father and uncles, as well an era of the brat age in the mid-70s – Rishi Kapoor was an actor who combined modernity with tradition yet with the sense of adaption but always stuck with idea of respect for the film industry.
For those who didn’t know the star that well – the following will break down the actor’s graph and qualities he maintained over years in the industry. Leaving behind some phenomenal work, the actor sadly at the age of 67 maintained the same energy as he did at 17. The Talented Kapoor will always be remembered.
The Superstar Child
Rishi Kapoor, son of the ‘showman’ Raj Kapoor was the first out of the five children to be launched as an actor. Raj Kapoor was always against the idea of women in his family to act – he gave his children the choice of their careers but as once Rajiv Kapoor once joked ‘what else can we become’. Rishi Kapoor, pet named Chintu by his Grandfather Prithviraj Kapoor, had first faced the camera at the age of 17 where he played the role of young Raju in Mera Naam Joker in which he won his first national award. The first segment of the film which deals with the character’s first love for his teacher and the step into puberty. Mera Naam Joker, sadly after its disastrous fate left the Kapoor family in stress and almost leading to the showman mortgaging his studio and home. In 1973, Raj Kapoor bounced back with coming-of-age romance, with a next-to-nothing budget, Bobby, which launched the now-adult Rishi Kapoor and went on smashing records. Raj Kapoor, saw his middle son as the saving grace bringing back the fortune to the family that they once had and bringing new luck to the R.K Studios. Not only did the family, but the country had gained a new superstar.
The Complete Family Man
Coming from a large family, the Kapoors were always known for their passion of food, outgoings and their alcohol. The Kapoors were famous for their rather large gathering at every festive occasion (this would be at Raj Kapoor’s Pali Hill Bungalow) calling everyone who is someone from the film industry. Raj Kapoor passed on to this attribute to his children, the idea of togetherness, respect and generosity. Rishi Kapoor, was known to be one of them Kapoors who would do anything for his people – coming from a large family of actors, directors and producers many of them took to the opportunity of using his stardom – which was no personal harm for the young Kapoor. His uncles, cousins and his own brothers would cast him in their production or directional ventures – even his father’s and uncle’s friends! Rishi wouldn’t charge them a dime at times, within the family or even the outer close friends as he saw it as a gesture of helping them out.
The Unobstructed Supportive Co-Star
In a current area, where most actors are concerned with the length of the role, the portrayal of their character and character sketch in comparison to their co-stars, Rishi Kapoor did not keep any of these conditions in mind when giving his nod to any filmmaker. These were the days when most filmmakers did not have scripts when signing their lead actor nor contracts – it was all done on the idea of trust. Rishi Kapoor didn’t really follow a specific agenda for his characters – as he once mentioned “work was coming to me. So it must have been somewhat good” with this faith he signed mostly everything as long as if he got a decent brief of the plot of the film. Many overlook, Rishi Kapoor was one of the rare few actors who supported his female co-stars faithfully, at times some of his female co-stars even had took the limelight whether it being Chandni, Nagina, Prem Rog or even Damini where the actresses were the main protagonists. Kapoor just wanted to be a part of good work – he believed in his directors and his co-actors, even with his male friend colleagues like Vinod Khanna, Jeetendra, Sunny Deol or Anil Kapoor he was not hesitate in the smaller role but he somewhere knew, his role would make some impact on the totality of the film.
From Leading Man to Leading the Man
Kapoor played the leading hero from the 70’s right till the late 90s where even most of the actors who were the similar age or even younger than him were playing his parents. Actors like Anupam Kher, Alok Nath or Khulbhushan Khardanada would play the father role to him even though playing roles younger to him or of similar calibre earlier. Kapoor knew by the mid-90s that it was time to hang up his dancing shoes when many discussed his weight on set – especially with the costume department. Films in the mid-90s such as Yaarana, Hum Dono, Daraar, Prem Granth etc didn’t work for his actor’s credibility by that time, he took the decision of doing character roles – Kaun Sachcha Kaun Jhootha and Karobaar (was in the making for a few years before release) being the last of his hero tagged films. He did this starting with Raju Chacha followed by Kuch Khatthi Kuch Meethi playing a father (Karobaar he played father to himself – but here he played a full-fledged father role) which surprised many as he played a father to Kajol despite being opposite of many of her contemporaries such as Juhi Chawla, Pooja Bhatt, Raveena Tandon, Manisha Koirala etc. Years to come, till his final years, Rishi Kapoor roles got meatier and substantial. Be it an Agneepath, D-Day or Shuddh Desi Romance he played roles that left a vast impression.
Donning the Director’s Cap
The death of Raj Kapoor questioned the family about the fate of the studio – the Chembur studio would be rented daily but the now-righteous owners were not using it for their own ventures. The three sons, Randhir, Rishi and Rajiv had mutually agreed on doing a directorial venture each in tribute to their father and to keep the pillars of R.K Studios high. Being unhappy with the fate of his acting recent acting features, Rishi Kapoor had wrote and directed Aa Ab Laut Chalen (1999) which featured his friend’s son Akshaye Khanna, the new beau on the block Aishwarya Rai and bringing back a family friend to the silver screen, Rajesh Khanna. The film did not exactly work wonders, but many argued the film was a topic that was overlooked at the time – dealing with the issue of Indians abroad and their struggle with residency and respect in an alien country. The similar theme was tackled in many films over the years – even inspired the Punjabi blockbuster Jatt & Juliet. Sadly neither did Rishi or any of the other Raj Kapoor sons had not gone back to the director’s seat.
The Ten Roles that Defined Rishi Kapoor’s Career
Mera Naam Joker (1970)
Very rarely in Hindi cinema a child artist’s performance can become the talk of the talkie, despite having a towering starcast – Kapoor as young Raju embarked a somewhat satisfying yet unsettling feeling to the viewer. The narrative which follow the unfortunate circumstances of a clown, the first act lays the foundation of how the protagonist’s ill-fated journey had begun. The boy – being an average school boy being bullied, to living in poverty which his sick mother to the lead of fascination with his school teacher – which is his step to almost manhood. Rishi Kapoor, winning his first national award for best Child artist, secured himself his place here onwards in the film fraternity.
The archie-comic romance that launched the adult Kapoor at a mere age of twenty, this tale of two city bred teenagers attempting to understand the norms of acceptance in society at the same time recognise their strong feelings for another being. Bobby, by far, goes down as one the biggest launches for two newcomers at period of star dominated cinema. Bobby would be a first which took a rage by a launch, making Kapoor becoming an overnight star and the poster-boy of teenage girls. The film is remembered for its shear innocence, sincerity and joyous melody which is carried to another generation.
Hum Kissi Se Kum Nahin (1977)
Nasir Hussain riding high on success took chance of making a film with moderate younger stars – which he tried with Yaadon Ki Baarat but it still helmed by the stardom of Dharmendra, this time he wanted younger for the young. The story being based on three flamboyant characters in their early 20s and the chase for the mystery diamonds surrounding them – but the film stood out more for R.D Burman’s composition. Arguably one of the best albums in the 70s, the music is still remembered today. Rishi Kapoor’s famous Bachna Ae Haseeno made him a youth icon where no one of his calibre or of his stance was running second. Hussain’s writing and enhanced music makes Hum Kissi Se Kum Nahin still remembered today.
The birth of Mukta Arts and the birth of Monty. This remake of The Reincarnation of Peter Proud was Subhash Ghai’s stamp to success but not only being a cult for years to remember, it was always remembered for its haunting signature tune. During the late 70s, most of the films despite a few were multi-starrers for Rishi Kapoor, either being with Manmohan Desai or the odd few titans. Karz was a shift in Rishi Kapoor’s career – it defined him more to the calibre of being an all-rounder in one film – a superstar, the romantic hero and a vengeful son. The reincarnation genre had rarely been touched earlier, Ghai brought back the genre which followed with years of commercial successful reincarnation features. Karz is not only remembered for its theme but also for its music and Ghai’s peculiarly written characters.
Ek Chadar Maili Si (1986)
During the period of the 80s, when commercial cinema had dropped its value in terms of cost and quality, a handpicked section of directors had marched into their stamp of cinema. Despite with the new-age of art cinema competing with commercial, Ek Chadar.. falls into the category of ‘middle-of-the-road’ cinema with the dash of both. Saleable stars staying away from this genre, Kapoor had picked up the role which dropped by his colleague Raj Babbar, who felt the topic was too bold, Kapoor on the other hand felt it was something meaningful to be a part of. Based on Rajinder Singh Bedi’s novel which deals with the issue of ‘chadar dalna’ when a widow has to marry her brother-in-law is somewhat unsettling, bold yet meaningful cinema challenging the demeaning rituals of rural India.
Yash Chopra, was going through a rough patch during the 80s which he saw frequent failures, his bounce back to success – Chandni – was one film that worked for everyone – especially for Chopra and Sridevi. Chandni put Sridevi where she really deserved to be. For Rishi Kapoor, it worked to the extent that for the definitive ‘hero’ it changed the outlook. Rishi Kapoor’s character spent half of the film in a wheelchair grieving for the heroine, rather than fighting goons – he fought his disability. Many feared being paired with Sridevi, but in this case we have to say the role Rishi Kapoor had been complimented by Sridevi giving Rishi Kapoor a new feather to his hat.
Bol Radha Bol (1992)
What Chandni had did for Sridevi, arguably Bol Radha Bol had did for Rishi Kapoor. Bol Radha Bol, took Rishi Kapoor to doing the entertainers, an upcoming genre for the 90s where he played the central entertaining hero, well twice. The David Dhawan entertainer set new records at the box office and even giving a new lease of life to Rishi Kapoor as the leading man. The success of Bol Radha Bol boosted Kapoor’s career on the levels of his contemporaries Anil Kapoor, Govinda, Sunny Deol and the offers began to flood in. Kapoor through the 90s was getting substantial decent commercial ventures with him leading even working with some of the biggest directors, the entertaining genre worked for Kapoor right till the end of the decade giving him the few successes.
Originally, Rishi Kapoor had rejected the role of Rauf Lala on the first narration claiming he did not see any morals in this character – which was what Lala stood for. He felt he was not the villain that fitted between the war between two central characters. After persuasion, Rishi Kapoor took the role which was freshly written for the adaption and was not existent in the original – another possibility why Kapoor had rejected the role as Vijay Dinanath Chauhan and Kancha Cheena were such powerful written characters – he didn’t want to be bone in the meat. But, again Kapoor worked wonders and left his presence felt despite his role being shorter than the other leads. The menacing Rauf Lala won praises and saw Kapoor in a new light.
An ensemble cast on capturing the most wanted criminal in India – that too played by Rishi Kapoor did not seem favourable at first to many in the industry. The role of Dawood Ibrahim has been played by many in the past, even a few years before D-Day we saw Emraan Hashmi playing the don with his young charm with a commercial heroistic look which raised the bar. What shocked many was Rishi Kapoor’s take on the don, dialogues were only a few but the presence was felt. The maturity of the character that Kapoor had brought was the beauty of the role being it so far different to Hashmi’s interpretation a few years earlier. Regardless, this won him the role of Best Negative Role that year.
Kapoor & Sons (2016)
Shakun Batra had apparently a hard time with dealing with Rishi Kapoor, first trying to persuade him in playing a grandfather which did not go down well in the first few narrations and then making his life hell on the sets. Rishi Kapoor would often let his load off to Karan Johar, the producer of the film, but he then would calmly continue. What Rishi Kapoor had eventually seen of his work had shocked him, the makeup and the persona brought out a new Rishi Kapoor within – he told Shakun ‘this I never knew I was capable of’. The loveable Grandad in Kapoor and Sons won hearts not just at the box office but even at the award functions at that year – Rishi Kapoor hilariously called it his ‘third innings’ after playing lead and then the onscreen father.