During his over five-decade illustrious career, Rishi Kapoor had set a distinction which no other actor could ever achieve. He was considered a lucky mascot until early 90s, hence various directors, production houses and actresses dreamed to work with him. He is probably the only actor who has worked with majority of actresses despite age difference.
I grew up watching Rishi Kapoor’s films. Like my peers, I too have repeatedly watched his films and have all the songs memorized. But when we talk of acting, not one film or role comes to my mind that left an ever-lasting impression on my mind. Undoubtedly he was a huge star, but his acting skills never impressed the masses, classes nor critics. His films were huge hits, but the credit of which I think did not go alone to him as an actor. His films were blockbusters for their own strengths like directors, music, storyline etc. Though his acting was effortlessly natural and convincing, he failed to churn out award-worthy performances as a leading actor.
The roles for which he received awards were not so remarkable. The long gap between his first-ever Filmfare award for debut film ‘Bobby’ (1973) and the next award in 2008 was the lifetime achievement, followed by Critics award for ‘Do Doni Chaar’ (2011) and supporting role in ‘Kapoor & Sons’ (2017), is a proof that he failed to proof his mettle as an actor. I am deliberately not mentioning other awards he received because except Filmfare the remaining bear no credibility. Not to forget the National Film Award for his debut role as a child artist in Raj Kapoor’s ‘Mera Naam Joker’ at the age of 21. I still can’t figure out why such a prestigious award was given to him.
Though Rishi churned out memorable films like ‘Kabhie Kabhie’, ‘Hum Kisise Kum Nahin,’ ‘Amar Akbar Anthony’, ‘Pati Patni Aur Who’, ‘Laila Majnu’, ‘Sargam’, ‘Karz’, ‘Prem Rog’, ‘Chandni’, ‘Bol Radha Bol’, yet films that really showcased the actor in him were only in the second phase of his career in character roles in films like ‘Do Dooni Char’, ‘Agneepath’, ‘Kapoor & Sons’ and ‘Mulk’.
His passion for films was evident from the fact that he continued working in films until his last days while his contemporaries had given up their acting career. Thanks to his versatility which kept the ball rolling. After Rishi stopped getting films as a lead actor he conveniently transitioned into character roles with films like ‘Hum Tum’ (2004), ‘Fanaa’ (2006), ‘Namastey London’ (2007), and ‘Love Aaj Kal’ (2009). Owing to his versatility, the audience accepted him in the 2010s in diverse roles such as the villain in ‘Agneepath’ (2012), ‘Aurangzeb’ (2013) and ‘Kaanchi’ (2014), besides cameos in slapstick comedies.
The evergreen heartthrob had the longest run in Bollywood as a romantic lead from the 1970s to the late 1990s. His leading romantic roles in around 100 movies bagged him the well-deserved titles of ‘ever youthful’ and ‘chocolate hero.’ His debut film ‘Bobby’ had a remarkable contribution in carving his image of a romance icon and gave a new dimension to romantic films in Bollywood. ‘Bobby’ was a blockbuster at a time when Indian heroes were playing angry young men or tragic heroes, but Rishi’s impressed the audience with this youthful vivacity and on-screen chemistry with Dimple Kapadia. The film was the most commercially successful films of the 1970s. Probably, the star hysteria was first ever witnessed in India and abroad after ‘Bobby’. King Khan Shahrukh Khan had once said in his interview, “Before Bobby, Indian cinema was about men and women, but after Bobby, it became about boys and girls.”
Besides film career, Chintu had much more interesting facts to share from his life. He chronicled all his professional and personal anecdotes in his autobiography Khullam Khulla: Rishi Kapoor Uncensored. His fans should not miss out reading the actor’s personal account which is a fascinating read entailing a deeper look into the actor’s life and career beside interesting facts. The autobiography lives up to the title and tells us what his father Raj Kapoor did to gain publicity, why SRK should be thankful to him, why he thinks the industry was partial towards his contemporary Big B, why he didn’t forgive Javed Akhtar all his life, and what he did with his jerseys which he wore while romancing his heroines.
The legendary actor was last seen in ‘The Body’ released in 2019. While, two of his films namely ‘Ram Baran Singh’ and ‘Kitty Boy’ were posthumously released on Netflix. I wish Rishi had completed Hitesh Bhatia’s under production ‘Sharmaji Namkeen’ opposite Juhi Chawla. The film’s only four-day schedule was pending at the time of Rishi’s death. According to producer Honey Trehan, Paresh Rawal will complete Rishi’s unfinished portions and the film will be released in theatres on 4 September 2021 to commemorate the actor’s birth anniversary.
As Chintu writes in his biography “I want to be remembered as an actor who did his job with utmost sincerity,” very true to his wish for sure we will remember Rishi for his natural acting, brutal honesty, sincerity and blatant outspokenness.