12 - 04 - 2021

RISHI KAPOOR (1952-2020) Indian cinema loses its eternal heartthrob Chintu ji

It’s a double whammy for cinema lovers. Just when they were trying to come to terms with the untimely demise of Irrfan Khan, came yet another heart-breaking news of cancer snatching away one more beautiful actor.

When Amitabh Bachchan broke the news with a tweet “Rishi Kapoor gone…just passed away…I am destroyed,” he was echoing the sentiments of millions of Rishi’s fans cutting across generations. Chintu baba for the older generation, there is little doubt that the break out star of Bobby still had millions rooting for him.

Once a romantic hero, he set many hearts aflutter when he lip-synced Mein Shayar to Nahi inimitably in the unforgettable Bobby. The star of umpteen hit films like Khel Khel Mein, Karz, Rafoo Chakkar, Hum Kisi se Kum Nahin and Chandni, Rishi always flowed with time. Child actor to heartthrob to seasoned character actor, in more recent times he reinvented himself. As experimentation defined his new innings, we saw him in a wide range of roles­­­—from negative to comic to surly. Why he even played the dreaded gangster Dawood in Nikhil Advani’s The D-Day.

Incredibly proud of his latest films such as Kapoor & Sons, Mulk, et al, interestingly, when he was asked to play the rather mean and menacing Rauf Lala in Agneepath, he was not convinced he was cut out for the role. But Karan Johar, the producer of the film, prevailed and hereafter we continued to see him in one after another gem of a film. A sure-fire delight in Kapoor & Sons as the grandfather laughing at death while mimicking his endgame scenes, a patriot Muslim in Mulk and a cantankerous 75-year-old son in 102 Not Out, the fine actor anchored a clutch of films. He was surprised by the success of films like 102 Not Out in which he rubbed shoulders with his co-star of yesteryears Amitabh Bachchan after a gap of 27 years.

He wondered aloud; how could a film with no heroine, no glamour, work magic at the box office. He also dismissed suggestions that he had overshadowed Bachchan whom he rated highly and with whom he had given many a superhit like Amar Akbar Anthony, Kabhie Kabhie, Coolie and Naseeb back in time.

Born into the first family of Bollywood, the son of legendary Raj Kapoor, acting was his inheritance. Cinema both his passion and kingdom in which he ruled unfettered as the actor in him was spontaneous, who delivered and cut-off on cue. The parts he played were not him: he never deluded himself on that count. But you could never imagine anyone else but him in the myriad roles he essayed. With consummate ease, he sailed through each part, never letting the pedantic of histrionics weigh on him, proving time and again how best acting is invariably instinctive.

But then the actor who had learnt to practice his autograph right after his short and impressive debut in Mera Naam Joker, which also fetched him a National Award, knew to the world of acting he was born. No wonder, the actor in him continued to wow masses and cognoscenti alike, losing not even a bit of his charm with age.

If at the Jaipur Literature Festival, he brought the house down as he talked about his autobiography Khullam Khulla: Rishi Kapoor Uncensored in the most entertaining way, in person he was equally charming. Affable and bebaak in equal measure who would tweet fearlessly, had the nerve to call out his son Ranbir Kapoor’s films in his book and could be easily ruffled by what he perceived was an inane query. Yet he was a gentleman to the core. If acting ran in his blood so did etiquette and good manners. He could floor you with a small gesture, a considerate thought, a kind remark. As the world remembers the actor who lit up Indian cinema for 45 long years, in 90 odd films, and who shaped the wonder years of many of us with his lover-boy acts, one can’t help but recall the wonderful human being that Rishi was. As Michael Shurtleff would say, “Creating a relationship is the heart of acting,” Rishi, the actor and human being touched many lives.

Nonika Singh