“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”– Will Rogers
Blunt, outspoken, fearless, and truthful! If one had to have these personality traits, who should he/she look up to? Undoubtedly, the prince of romance of the last three decades, the most flamboyant actor of India, the one who got younger with age, Rishi Kapoor. He was a charismatic miracle who made the art of acting look extraordinary with his diligent performances. He changed the definition of acting by bringing in his unique style into the characters he portrayed. Though he belonged to a family of superstars, the place he found in the hearts of the audiences was earned solely based on the talent he possessed. He danced well with the melody of life right from the beginning till the end and left behind a swimming pool of memories for his fans to swim in.
He was born in Bombay in 1952, into a well known ‘Kapoor’ family. Krishna Kapoor was his mother and Raj Kapoor, a famous Indian actor, and director who also swayed the hearts of cinema lovers with his skills, his father. The acting was in his blood as his grandfather and uncles also came from a similar background. At the age of 3, Rishi had his first appearance on the big screen when he danced to the tunes of ‘Pyaar Hua Ikraar Hua’ as a child artist in the movie ‘Shree 420’ that was directed by his father. By then, it was confirmed that the chubby child was going to fill in the shoes of his legendary father someday. He got his first major solo appearance, in a film when he was around 18, it was ‘Mera Naam Joker’ where his father played the older version of the character played by him and also directed the film. For his stupendous performance, Rishi bagged the National Film Award for Best Child Artist, 1970. The stage was set for him to enter the industry and create a legacy of his own, and he didn’t disappoint either.
“Nurture your mind with great thoughts. To believe in the heroic makes heroes.”– Benjamin Disraeli
Though his projections in the film industry were quite predictable, the kind of beginning his career would get was still a mystery that was about to unfold in the prettiest way. In 1973, he was cast in ‘Bobby’ that was again being directed by his father. Opposite him was Dimple Kapadia, also making her movie debut. The results that the film produced, both at the box office and in the critics’ pens, were outstanding. ‘Bobby’ was one of the biggest hits of the decade and established the footprints of the lead pair in Indian Cinema. It was a highly regarded film for which Rishi won the Filmfare Best Actor award, and from there, never looked back.
Some of his next projects were Rafoo Chakkar, Khel Khel Mein, Kabhie Kabhie, Amar Akbar Anthony, etc. and all did well. He worked with peers like Amitabh Bachchan and Vinod Khanna in Amar Akbar Anthony that became a super-hit. Before proposing Neetu Singh for marriage, he had worked with her in several films and reportedly fell in love with her on one of the films’ sets. He was slowly establishing himself as a romantic hero who would not shy away from dancing on the hills with his lady love. In the year 1980, Rishi married Neetu and also delivered a cult movie, Karz, which explored the idea of reincarnation in a completely different way.
“Look at the sparrows; they do not know what they will do in the next moment. Let us literally live from moment to moment.”– Mahatma Gandhi
Valley to Zenith
Expectations, it is said, lead to scary results. After the mind-boggling success of Bobby, Rishi was somewhat confident that the rest of his films would also be big hits. When, in the late 70s and the early 80s, several of his films tanked at the box office, he couldn’t come to terms with them, and his mental state took a downhill path. During this time, Neetu was pregnant with their first child and unfortunately had to go through his angry behaviour. Their relationship suffered a setback when he started blaming Neetu for his failures, but with the help of his colleagues, friends, and wife, he finally overcame the stress and again set sail on his journey. How Neetu dealt with the precarious situation is highly appreciable.
Logically speaking, the reason behind his films failing at the ticket windows was not that he picked the wrong stories but that Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna were the diamonds of the eyes of the audiences. Rishi’s romance was just not the taste of the town those days, in fashion were the action sequences the ‘Angry Young Man’ would perform. With flop movies staring at him, he again picked up the courage to go out and give his best, and that’s when his second phase started. On the road to come back, he starred in hit films like Chandni, Bol Radha Bol, Deewana, etc. and was lauded critically for his work. His songs were once again becoming chartbusters, and his career was back on track. In the year 1999, he went on to direct his first film, Aa ab Laut Chalein starring Rajesh Khanna, Aishwarya Rai, and Akshaye Khanna in lead roles.
“Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others.”– Winston Churchill
Defeating the Age
Post-2000, things changed for him as he started getting different roles or maybe, he opted for them since he knew that he was stepping into the fifties. In Hum Tum, he played the role of Saif Ali Khan’s father, and later in Love Aaj Kal, his romantic side saw an elderly glimpse of itself. He was back to being funny in Namastey London and reflected his versatility as an actor when he played a key negative role in Agneepath in 2012. His character portrayal in the film Do Dooni Chaar won him the Filmfare Critics Award for the best actor. Rishi furthered his reach and broke whatever shackles were left when he aced the role of a Gay character in Student of the year. In movie D-Day, he portrayed an underworld don to perfection. His comic timing in Housefull 2 was bang on, and in 2013, he appeared in Besharam that also had his wife, Neetu Singh, and son, Ranbir Kapoor. As he grew older, it seemed like his acting skills were getting sharpened, and this was visible in Kapoor and Sons (2016) in which he portrayed the character of a 90-year-old man, that won him the Filmfare Award for the best supporting actor. He partnered with Amitabh Bachchan, after a gap of decades, in 2018 in the movie 102 Not Out, where he played the role of a 76-year-old son. Later in the year, he starred in Mulk, in which his portrayal received a lot of appreciation from critics and the public. The movie was received well and did good business too. The Body (2019) turned out to be his last appearance on screen in which he acted along with Emraan Hashmi.
Blunt and Fearless
If Kapoor had a strong opinion about anything, he would not hold back. Whether it was about criticizing the policies of the government or calling out socially irrelevant practices, he was always blunt and vocal. In his autobiography, Khullam Khulla, he revealed many harsh truths of his life, including the one about him receiving the Filmfare Award for the best actor for Bobby. He wrote that he didn’t win that award but bought it when it was offered to him in exchange for money by a PRO. He never shied away from speaking truth to power, and that’s what made him a fearless star, which is a rare phenomenon these days.
“The great thing in this world is not so much where you stand, as in what direction you are moving.”– Oliver Wendell Holmes
THE END in reality
His health started deteriorating somewhere in the middle of 2018, and he had to move to New York for treatment. He would not let any media outlet know about the disease he was suffering from since he didn’t want to gain attention through sympathy on the grounds of health. If somehow, news portals would try to provide answers regarding the question mark on his health, he would be the first to call them baseless. He believed that there were many better things for everyone to focus upon than his medical condition. Every time, before leaving for treatment, he would say that ‘… I’ll be back soon.’ It was only in the middle of 2019 that people got to know about him suffering from bone marrow cancer, also called Leukemia. Even when in 2020, he was admitted to the hospital for the last time, the public got to know about it only a week later. It was his way of not letting his fans and well-wishers get sad about his health. How could an artist who spread smiles throughout his life make his fans feel sorrow because of him?
He acted as if everything was fine even while facing the deadliest villain of his life just to ensure that his fans were not disheartened by the bad news of him getting diagnosed with cancer. He did that till he could, such was his personality, always craving for others to be happy either through his work or other deeds. The acting was the first and the last thing he wanted to do, and this was clearly reflected when he allocated a major portion of his time to the profession even while undergoing such a dangerous disease. He breathed last on April 30th, 2020, and the news got the entire country crying in the pain of sadness.
“The difference between a successful person and others is not lack of strength not a lack of knowledge but rather a lack of will.”– Vince Lombardi
Rishi Kapoor could not be separated from Indian Cinema, neither the latter would ever be thought of without him. His legacy shall remain intact forever. He was the symbol of romance in India, and people will continue to be in love with him through the endless memories that he has left behind. Not only as an actor but also as a human being, cheerful Rishi has taught some great principles of life which every individual should follow. He never lied in his entire life span, without being afraid of getting hatred, he always spoke what he thinks is right, and above all taught every youngster to follow his heart, fearlessly. Rishi Kapoor was a synonym of joyous living and will always be!