Rishi Kapoor – India's National Treasure Comes Full Circle in Kapoor & Sons
While pondering about acting greats, it struck me, suddenly, that India has its own national treasure. Yes, we can argue the toss about Dilip Kumar being a living legend which I will definitely not circumvent. After all, he has been a consistent presence since the 50's, often cited as *the* actor's ac-tor, and revered for his remarkable understated performances time and again.
The national treasure I refer to and someone that's rarely had his due is Rishi Kapoor.
From podgy teen in Mera Naam Joker – Raj Kapoor's magnum opus about a clown's life and loves - to curmudgeonly 'old git' in this week's release Kapoor and Sons, Chintuji has played a gamut of roles and characters.
It's hard to believe that this prickly, outspoken and at times, blunt actor was once a gorgeous svelte hero, ladies of my mum's generation adored.
The Kapoors are the first family of Indian Cinema. Prithviraj Kapoor, Rishi's grandfather and father to Raj, Shammi and Shashi Kapoor was himself a film star. His sons proceeded to make and star in homegrown productions, RK Films, Raj Kapoor's own company, that often produced thoughtful, boundary pushing, socio-economic films that spoke to the masses.
As befits a scion of *the* 'filmi' dynasty RK Films Kapoor clan Chintu, as Rishi Kapoor is affectionately known, commenced his career as a child. With a part alongside his dad, uncles and brothers he progressed with the unforgettable classic Bobby in 1973. Still remembered fondly for its electric chemistry between a then teen, Dimple Kapadia and Rishi, the movie was a box office blockbuster and with it a new hero was born.
Throughout the 70's and 80's Rishi Kapoor and his increasingly COLOURFUL knitwear gave release after release, not only pairing with starlets du jour, but playing alongside superstars like Amitabh Bachchan, Shatrugan Sinha, Vinod Khanna, Dharmendra et al and still managing to cement his status as a star. He even met his wife Neetu Kapoor whilst filming and went on to star with her in many a classic.
Not content with just romancing heroines and dancing around trees, his films such as Prem Rog pricked consciences. Who can forget Padmini Kolhapure's plaintive young widow, a film which earned Chintuji his first Filmfare Award nomination for best actor. Or Subhash Ghai's Karz, a superb tale of revenge from beyond the grave, where the actor played a character avenging his own death in a previous life. So loved was the film that not only was it remade (badly) by Himesh Reshamiya, but it also inspired modern day classic – Farah Khan's Om Shanti Om, a film that launched Deepika Padukone into super stardom.
Each of his releases had memorable soundtracks, almost by default – whether it was the Qawwali number from Hum Kisise Kum Nahin, the disco number from Zamane Ko Dikhana Hai or the iconic title tracks of Yeh Vaada Raha and Chandni!
Every hero has a shelf life and with the advent of the noughties, Chintuji's career too took a back seat. No longer cutting it as a hero, his widening girth, by his own admission, made running around trees difficult.
An attempt to launch youngest brother Rajiv failed, his cousin Karan Kapoor son of the handsome Shashi Kapoor also made very little impact, thereby leaving Rishi as the sole star of the once prolific dynasty, that is, until his nieces Karisma then Kareena were launched. The latest Kapoor kid on the block is of course Rishi's own son Ranbir, heir apparent and very clearly gifted with the Kapoor acting gene, bringing the family full circle.
Fallow period notwithstanding his re-entry into mainstream was steady. Luck By Chance saw him portray a film director with a penchant for astrology, tongue firmly in cheek. A fatherly stint in Fanaa, seeing him perish at the hands of his terrorist son in law.
Dad parts are de rigeur for aging heroes but down and out dirty villains? Rishi Kapoor took on this part and his portrayal as a child trafficker was sickening. Agneepath saw him transition from cuddly dad to a rotten to the core trader who didn't baulk when selling girls to the highest bidder, a cold calculating individual and quite the departure from his norm. Refreshing to see that he is still willing to develop!
Never one to mince his words, especially on social media Rishiji or @chintskap on Twitter has been known to annihilate haters verbally, and his ascerbic putdowns are infamous albeit candid and refreshing, and we continue to chortle away at his chutzpah and the fact that he doesn't suffer fools!
I for one am totally looking forward to catching his "old git" who doesn't mince his words avatar in Kapoor and Sons. Let's see if art has imitated life in this promising Dharma venture.
Kapoor & Sons hits the marquee this weekend, 18 March, and also stars Ratna Pathak Shah, Fawad Khan, Sidharth Malhotra and Alia Bhatt.
By the by, do let us know which of Rishi Kapoor's film(s) are your favourites in the comments below!