Adieu Rishi Kapoor

Main na rahoongi tum noa rahoge

Phir bhi rahege nishaniyaan

            It was in this magical rain scene that a little kid showed up only to return years later as a school kid suffering adolescent blues with a stammer saying th th th teen to a riddle that his school teacher asks. Rishi Kapoor had announced his arrival in 1970 with Mera Naam Joker. Three years later he with his Showman Dad Raj Kapoor redefined the idea of romance. The heroes who hitherto at 30 and 40 were depicted as going to college and romancing like an adolescent came to be a thing of the past (except Main Hoon Na). It is believed that Rajesh Khanna was the first choice for Bobby (1973) but RK could ill afford the luxury and thus our cinema was enriched by arguably  the boy lover. The master romanticist thus gave our cinema the master of song dance and romance.

            It is often believed that an actor is only as good as the script. Rishi had a career that defied the theory. Acting was in his genes, yet he survived where similar inheritors failed. He was arguably one of the only to survive the Bachchan tornado. In fact in films they worked together be it the early AAA, Naseeb or the much 102 Not Out he stood his own in the presence of the giant of our cinema.  This obituary will skip the mundane. He deserves more. So look elsewhere for details of his birth and his filmography.

            For an actor who started his career as a romantic hero and spent the most of its productive time singing songs and running around trees in floral shirts and flappy pants, this actor was the very incarnation of Romance. If RK Sr with Mukesh symbolised the melancholic romance albeit with an hitherto unknown physicality to it, RK Jr brought back naïve romance in the company of the likes of Kishore Kumar and RD Burman. An artist is finally not judged at the Box Office. Even by those standards, he left an indelible mark by not just surviving but facing up to the Bachchan decades. Bobby will remain a milestone. Notwithstanding the fact that he was directed by a man who could make Zeenat and Mandakini act. He redefined romance and is arguably nonpareil in the song and dance paradigm.

In his second innings, he exhibited a widened scope of his calibre. His role as a villain in Agnipath and a comic actor in Kapoor and Sons were indicators of his calibre as a great actor. He had the uncanny knack of surviving the screen presence of co-artists. Be it the Big B (specifically recall his Chal Chal Mere Bhai; and the pep he adds to the title song in AAA), or Chandini (Vinod Khanna), Deewana (debutant Shah Rukh), Damini (script loaded in favour of Sunny Deol), Guru Dev (the much younger Anil Kapoor), Kabhi Kabhi (Shahi and Amitabh), Badalte Rishte and Aap Ke Diwane (the extremely popular Jitendra), Hum Dono (Nana Patekar) and above all Sagar (Kamal Hassan). Cherry on the cake – Dilip Kumar (Duniya). He proved that neither a script nor the challenge of a co-star could hide the natural skills.

The list of heroins who made their debut or infant steps alongside him include Dimple Kapadia, Ranjeeta, Shoma Anand, Sulakshana Pundit, Neetu Singh, Parveen Babi, Tina Muneem, Poonam Dhillon, Rati Agnihotri, Padmini Kolhapure, Farhan Naaz, Zeba Bakhtiyar and Vinita Goel. It is interesting to note that he played the lead role with stars who were certainly older looking than he including Hema Malini, Zeenat Aman, Rakhi and Shabana Azmi. As a villain, if he was suave in Khoj, he was menacing in Agnipath.

The image of a young eternal lover, nibble footed and a song on his lips, it would be difficult for a generation to erase montages and images of the eternal lover who survived death in the name of romance (Karz), instinctively knew that the lady with a plastic surgery was still his lover (Yeh Wada Raha), who loved and dared to marry a widow (Prem Rog), the school kid stepping into adolescence (Mera Naam Joker) and the tragic lover (Laila Manju).

Rightfully, if one actor could shout from the rooftop the lines:

“Tu ne kisi se pyar kiya? Maine bhi kiya”

It was he. To the changing scenario of viewing cinema, whenever the ciniist watched even his horrendous movies in so far as he was concerned, they would rightly hum:

Kya Umar Thi

Kya Sama Tha

Kya Zamana Tha

Adieu Rishi Kapoor.

L. Ravichander

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