During his young days, in 1970s and early 80s, Rishi Kapoor was one of the most romantic actors in the Hindi film industry. His movies did phenomenally well---- Bobby, Hum Kisi Se Kam Nahin, Karz---with the songs spanning generations. He continued to play a lead role until 1990s.

In 2000 Rishi Kapoor started his second innings, as a character actor, in Raju Chacha . Even in this inning he has played memorable role in films like Hum Tum, Love Aaj Kal, Agneepath, Kapoor & Sons . In this autobiography Rishi Kapoor has talked about his personal life, his intriguing profession as an actor, and has also revealed some of the unknown or lesser known facts about the Kapoors, especially about his father Raj Kapoor-the greatest showman of the Hindi film industry.

Describing himself, Rishi Kapoor says “I am Prithviraj Kapoor’s grandson. Raj Kapoor’s son. I am Neetu Kapoor’s husband. Riddhima and Ranbir Kapoor’s father. I am Rishi Kapoor. I was born lucky and stayed lucky.” This introduction shows the importance he gives to his family members.

In the foreword to the book even Ranbir Kapoor, talking about his father’s relationship with him, writes “I don’t want my relationship with my children to be as formal as the one I have with my father. I want to be friendlier, be more connected, spend more time with them than he did with me”. But this does not mean that they do not have a cordial relationship.

It is Rishi Kapoor who takes care of Ranbir Kapoor’s financial side of work. On Ranbir Kapoor’s acting , Rishi Kapoor writes, “ As an actor he proved himself in Barfi, Rocket Singh, Rockstar, Wake up Sid, while Ajab Prem ki Ghazab Kahani ,Yeh Jawani Hai Diwani (2013) and Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016) sealed his commercial appeal”. But Rishi Kapoor expresses his dislike for Ranbir’s films when he writes, “ I see his films but I don’t like any of them. I am always analysing them as an actor and not as a father and always end up being overcritical”.

His wife Neetu Kapoor came into his life after his first serious girlfriend Yasmin Mehta left him. He admits that it was his fault because after the success of Bobby his life changed and his “attitude transformed into a brash arrogance”.

Their love blossomed during the shooting of Kabhie Kabhie in Kashmir and they got married on January 22,1980. About his relationship with Neetu Kapoor he writes “Like most couples, we’ve had our ups and downs and our share of fights and misunderstandings. Adjusting to married life was difficult for me to start with, because I‘d never been answerable to anybody before. But we have spent an incredible thirty-seven years together as husband and wife and I feel blessed to have her in my life”.

Neetu Kapoor, who has written an Afterword to the book, has accepted that they have usual husband wife tensions between them. But complimenting Rishi Kapoor she writes, “It has been a fulfilling life with Rishi Kapoor. Other actresses like Dimple Kapadia and Tina Munim may have paired well with him on screen, with some amount of success, but I can safely say that I have been his best partner-on screen and off”.

Talking about his father Raj Kapoor, whose presence at home made him shiver during his child days, Rishi Kapoor writes “As I grew older, I began to understand and accept that my father was an exceptionally creative and eccentric man. Some nights, after drinking, he would go to a buffalo shed to hear the bhaiyas sing. Often, he joined in and even played the drum or the harmonium with them. During Dussehra he would go to Shivaji Park to listen to Bangla songs”.

He had nothing against his children joining the industry. Rishi Kapoor writes “Unlike some of our friends, whose parents sought to shield them from the film world, we were never discouraged from visiting studios as children.” He further writes “Before I turned eighteen, my father had me hooked to the movie business for life. I was sixteen when he cast me as the young Raju, the film’s protagonist, in his semi-autobiographical film Mera Naam Joker, a celluloid narrative in three parts”.

Latter, Rishi Kapoor was launched as an actor in film Bobby . About Bobby he writes “Bobby was never meant to launch me as a lead actor. It belonged to the lead actress…… For my father, a movie was about telling a story, and the story always came first. Personal relationships were never allowed to get in the way.” This was also the first film for Dimple Kapadia. For Bobby he received the Filmfare Award for the best actor which he says he ‘bought’ in Rs 30,000.

Besides Mera Naam Joker and Bobby some of the films he enjoyed doing were : Laila Majnu, Prem Rog, Karz ,Khel Khel Mein ,Coolie,Kabhi Kabhie,Amar Akbar Anthony, Hum Tum, Aurangzeb,Agnipath etc. He regrets not having worked with Hrishkesh Mukherjee, Shakti Samanta, Gulzar and Basu Chaterjee.

Rishi Kapoor has talked about his relationship with Amitabh Bachchan with whom he has appeared in many films, as a co-star. The second superstar with whom he had a little misunderstanding was Rajesh Khanna. He has also talked about the RK studio which he thinks is not in a good shape because the three sons of Raj Kapoor did not take required care of it.

Before the book was released a punch line appeared in many Indian newspapers about Rishi Kapoor having had tea with a convicted criminal –Dawood Ibrahim. This may be part of a strategy adopted by the publishers to create an interest in this book. Rishi Kapoor has narrated his meeting with the underworld don in March 1988 in Dubai. Incidentally, after twenty five years of that meeting, in 2013, in a movie D- Day Rishi Kapoor played a role inspired by Dawood Ibrahim.

Comparing past with the present, Rishi Kapoor says “For the twenty five years of my career, I got by without having to do any preparation whatsoever for a role. And it was’nt just me, none of the leading men in the 1970s and 80s had to, or ever did. So when I hear that Ranbir is attending workshop before starting a film or flying off to New York for acting lessons before he can play a hearing –and speech-impaired man in a film, it’s an alien concept for me. I ‘m not against it, I ‘m just not used to it”.

The Kapoor family has literally ruled over the Hindi film industry for more than eighty years out of about hundred and four years of existence of this industry. The family has given great actors and actresses to the industry who have entertained the masses from time to time. At present Ranbir Kapoor is the heartthrob of the viewers of Hindi cinema. As Raj Kapoor said in Mera Naam Joker “the show must continue”, the Kapoors, hopefully, will keep on providing talented actors and actresses to the Hindi film industry.

Kapoor, Rishi with Meena Iyer (2017)
Khullam Khulla Pages Xii + 271 New Delhi
Harper Collins Publications.

(The writer is Visiting Research Fellow at Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore.The views are personal and do not reflect of the institute the author is associated with)