Thursday, April 30, 2020

Rishi Kapoor - 1952-2020 In Requiem

The Eternal Lover Boy

One of the most illustrious actors of Hindi Films breathed his last today. It feels like a personal loss because I grew up watching his movies.

 His first role as a leading man was Bobby. I was barely 13 when this movie came out and I remember lining up to buy a ticket. This was us! This was a movie about a young couple that looked, dressed and behaved like a young couple. The viewers approved, the viewers thronged to the movie and it was declared a super-hit. At the time the movie came out, I was really a fan of Dimple. I adored Bobby, her clothes, her way of speaking -
बीसवीं सदी तो बूढी हो गयी , मैं इक्कीसवी सदी की लड़की हूँ। 
 Rishi Kapoor, with his smooth looks, did not go unnoticed by us girls. I remember a friend of mine passing a hand over a magazine with his picture on it, saying क्या धाकड़ लगता है। It was the slang of that time meaning that he looks great.

I have often poked fun at older actors playing young college graduates well into their thirties and forties. Here we had an actor in his twenties playing a young man. It was bonus for us. The filmmakers tripped over each other to make young-love movies with Rishi. Dimple had bowed out of the picture post her marriage to Rajesh Khanna. Neetu Singh stepped into this void like a diva she was.  They were paired together for 12 films, starting with  Zehreela Insaan, which came after Bobby. It wasn't a success. Despite his aristocratic bollywood lineage, Rishi had to struggle for success post Bobby. 

Rishi in drag in Rafoo Chakkar

Rafoo Chakkar sealed his career with the approval of masses, as did Khel Khel Main. I was in school then and my friends went wild about these two movies. Rishi was here to stay.  Amar Akbar Anthony started a chain of multi-starrer movies. Rishi fell conveniently into the niche of a younger brother who provided light moments of romance with the heroine while his angst ridden older brothers did the standard revenge things like fighting with the villains. 

In Doosra Aadmi, Rishi Kapoor got to show his serious acting chops playing a man besotted by an older woman, despite being married. It is one of my all time favorite movies. Raakhi has lost the love of her life, Shashi Kapoor and feels attracted to Rishi because he resembles her love. It was a clever meta move as Rishi and Shashi were related. Ek Chadar Maili Si was about the tradition of marrying a widow to her brother-in-law to provide security to her and her children. Hema Malini and Rishi Kapoor put in a lovely performance as a couple forced into such a marriage.

Ek Chadar Maili Si

By 1980, Neetu Singh married Rishi and retired from films. Other young actresses like Tina Munim and Poonam Dhillon stepped in. He worked with more than 40 actresses in career. This resourceful blogger pegs the number to 45. In my opinion, only Dev Anand worked with more heroines in his career. 

His pairing with Neetu Singh was the longest, and the cutest. They were both fresh and young. Yet in my mind there was something special about Dimple and Rishi. He began his career with Dimple. Bobby was an iconic film. When Dimple returned to acting, her most touted comeback film was Saagar, where she got another innings alongside Rishi. The movie was a huge hit. Strangely, they were not cast together again, until Pyar Mein Twist. It was a senior romance between two single parents with grown children. It had it's charm though it wasn't a very great movie. My favorite Rishi-Dimple pairing was Luck By Chance. In the movie, Dimple has had a successful run as an actress and is now pushing her daughter's launch as a lead actress. Rishi is a film producer who hates Dimple. This reversal of their usual roles as a lovey dovey couple was fresh and worked very well.

Throughout the Eighties, Rishi Kapoor was in his prime. He had the unbeatable image as a romantic hero. Other actors like Amitabh Bachhan and Vinod Khanna were busy beating up the baddies. Dharmendra lurked behind them, carrying on with his good looks intact and action movies sustaining him.

The famous Kapoor tendency to put on weight thanks to good food and drinks played havoc with Rishi too. He looks pudgy in Mera Naam Joker and had to diet rigorously for his debut movie. His metabolism helped him during his youth, but middle age brought the dreaded spread. He hid his growing paunch by wearing baggy sweaters. He must have known his time as a lead actor was at an end.

In my opinion, when he handed over Divya Bharti to Shahrukh Khan in Deewana, he was passing on the baton of Romantic Star to him as well.  He lasted a few more years as a lead before seguing into character actor roles. 

He was a good actor and chose good films and had a very respectable career as a senior actor. He left us with his boots on. He was working in films till the last. Ever since I heard he was not well and seeking treatment in USA, I have been dreading this day. A part of my youth died today. The actor who I watched in his prime as well as advancing age, very close to mine, is now gone.

हम न रहेंगे , तुम न रहोगे
फिर भी रहेंगी निशानियां

Rishi has left behind him a solid body of work. It is sometime great, sometimes good and sometimes not. Yet it is a sizeable legacy and we can console ourselves by watching his movies again. We are lucky to be living in times where it is easy to access movies we want to watch. Let us make most of it and raise a toast to a life well lived.


  1. Beautiful tribute, Ava. Bobby was the very first film I 'saw' - in a way! I was not even a year old, and my parents went to watch the film in a night show. Since there was no-one they could leave me with, I was taken along too, my mother being pretty certain I'd sleep through the film. But no such luck: I was wide awake, and utterly engrossed. :-)

    Since then, though, Rishi Kapoor has remained one of my favourite actors ever - and certainly my favourite actor of the 70s. He was always so alive, so vibrant and likeable.

    1. I like that! First movie you have ever attended, even if you were too little. He was like a ray of sunshine in the 70s. It is something else to follow movies in real time. It is something else to be young when these movie actors were young. They become a part of our youth.