Rishi Kapoor: The show-stealer, the heartthrob

Rishi Kapoor: The show-stealer, the heartthrob
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Kapoor brought a blend of innocence and intensity on the screen

Anurag Singh Bohra | New Delhi

Just as I woke up today morning hoping for a better day, there was a strange somberness in the  sky while the breeze seemed numb. ‘Rishi Kapoor is no more,’ a huge blow in the heart with the tragic news headline. As a 90s kid, I was introduced to Rishi Kapoor’s filmography through Doordarshan and cable television. My early memories of his initial works that are termed cult classics have been Mera Naam Joker (1970), Bobby (1973), Khel Khel Mein (1975), Kabhi Kabhie (1976), Amar Akbar Anthony (1977), Karz (1980), Naseeb (1981), Coolie (1983). Only revisiting these films, when I grew up, did I realize their relevance in shaping not just Indian cinema but also influencing the fashion trends and swag among the youth in the 70s and 80s.

At a time when Dharmendra, Amitabh Bachchan, Feroz Khan, and Vinod Khanna were a rage with action-packed movies, Rishi Kapoor created his own path without getting entangled in the rat race. In those days when love marriage or dating was considered a taboo, Bobby, Khel Khel Mein, and Kabhi Kabhie taught us to love unapologetically, unconditionally without regrets. 

Kapoor portrayed a teenager in love with his teacher in his first appearance as a child artist in his legendary father Raj Kapoor’s Mera Naam Joker for which the actor was honoured with the National Award for best child artist. In a brief role, Kapoor brought a blend of innocence and intensity while emoting the dilemma of young Raju.

Kapoor’s filmography has a vast body of work comprising versatile characters and films of diverse genres. Although the yesteryear’s artists and generation remember him for playing the college lover boy, the millenials connect with the actor for his subtle and poignant performances in films like Namaste London (2007), Love Aaj Kal (2020), Do Dooni Chaar (2010), Agneepath (2012), D-Day (2013), Kapoor & Sons (2016), 102 Not Out (2018) and Mulk (2018). Be it the flamboyant Punjabi Dad in Namaste London, the lovable mathematics teacher Duggal Saab in Do Dooni Chaar, the evil Rauf Lala in Agneepath or the naughty grandpa in Kapoor & Sons, Chintu Ji gave tough competition to his actor-son Ranbir with every character he played in his films. His soulful acts in D-Day, 102 Not Out, and Mulk unraveled another dimension of the veteran actor’s range as an artist. His comic capers Houseful 2 (2012) and Besharam (2013) alongside son Ranbir were also appreciated.

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Kapoor was mostly seen playing the urban boy next door in his youth. Yet there was an X-factor apart from his captivating screen presence that audience of all age groups and diverse geographical locations and ethnicities revered. Be it the romance tragedy Laila Majnu (1976) or reuniting with Bobby co-actor Dimple Kapadia in the triangular love saga Saagar (1985), Kapoor seemed effortless and showcased mastery over his craft. His last romantic stint in Yash Chopra’s Chandni (1989), set a new benchmark for Shah Rukh, Aamir and Salman Khan to up their game when it came to romantic dramas. 

The USP of the veteran’s movies in the 70s and 80s was the music. ‘Main Shayar To Nahi,’ ‘Jhuth Bole Kauva Kate,’ ‘Dard-E-Dil,’ ‘Ek Hasina Thi’, and many other musical chartbusters reverberate among cinema lovers while reminiscing the work of the legendary actor. In movies like Amar Akbar Anthony, Naseeb, Coolie, and Kabhi Kabhie Kapoor wasn’t the main protagonist amongst the likes of Amitabh Bachchan, Vinod Khanna, Shatrughan Sinha, and Shashi Kapoor. 

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Despite the tough competition, the scion of Prithviraj Kapoor never gave up on his passion for cinema. The actor once shared an anecdote about his grandfather Prithviraj. When young Rishi presented his national award for best child artist to his grandpa, the latter said, ‘Kasar reh gai hai,’ which means there’s, still a long way to go and much more to achieve. Indeed, Kapoor proved he was a perfectionist while experimenting with diverse genres and subjects in his second innings as character artist or enacting dark roles.

Always an avid learner keeping in pace with the modern trends, Kapoor was very active on social media. Not caring for societal judgments on being politically incorrect, the veteran never shied away from expressing his views and opinions on different issues comprising politics, cinema, nepotism, beef ban, trolls. Unlike other mainstream stars, Kapoor uninhibitedly called a spade a spade. Although his unfiltered tweets and public outbursts gave enough scoops and gossips to tabloids, entertainment portals, and magazines. 

Kapoor lived his life on his own terms. Even during his battle with Cancer the veteran starred in Emraan Hashmi starrer The Body (2019). Be it the fictional characters that taught the youngsters to be a rebel in love or his unconventional roles in the 2010s, the actor is an inspiration in many ways. Be it life or career, he never gave up and kept fighting. In the present times when the youth seems uncertain and petrified due to the pandemic, one must seek inspiration from Rishi Kapoor. Nothing should stop us from being happy or pursuing our passion. 

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The late actor gave his best shot during his late 50s. There’s never a specific age for working or enjoying life, art, and cinema. Kapoor’s legacy shall be celebrated by movie buffs by not deviating from their goals and pursuing their passion despite any adversity. As Dharmendra said in Mera Naam…. ‘the show must go on’! As the curtain falls for the great showman, the elegy by the Late Mukesh ‘Jeena Yahan Marna Yahan,’ somehow has a soothing impact on a solemn heart.

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