Barely had the nation come to terms with the news of Irrfan’s untimely death when the devastating news of Rishi Kapoor’s sudden demise, in the morning of April 30, shook the film world and the entire nation to its core. Two great actors breathed their last within 24 hours; they were still young enough to act in films than they could think of. The unexpected demise of Irrfan and Rishi Kapoor reminds us of Daniel Defoe’s immortal lines: “The best of men cannot suspend their fate/The good die early and the bad die late.” Rishi’s fans are still finding it difficult to believe that their flamboyant and handsome romantic hero Chintu has left this world and will never come back.
The Crazy Seventies
The first movie that Rishi Kapoor acted in at the age of fourteen was Mera Naam Joker (1970), produced and directed by father, Raj Kapoor. He received the National Film Award for Best Child Artist for his debut role. The actor’s major break came some years later when he played the hero opposite Dimple Kapadia in the romantic movie, Bobby, which had the youngsters going crazy. Both Rishi and Dimple became stars overnight.
However, when Rishi Kapoor started working with Neetu Singh, who became his wife later on, his movies became more popular and set the box office on fire. Movies like Khel Khel Mein, Rafoo Chakkar, Kabhi Kabhi, Amar Akbar Anthony, Jhoota Kahin Ka, Doosara Aadmi and Dhan Daulat saw the emergence of a fresh romantic couple in Rishi and Neetu. Almost all the songs picturised on the couple in these movies were instant hits and are immensely hummable even today.
After they both got married and Neetu bidding good bye to the world of films, Rishi Kapoor continued to remain popular as a romantic hero, delivering one hit after another. The 1980 blockbuster, Karz, directed by Subhash Ghai, and Yeh Vaada Raha (1982) marked another big shift in Rishi’s career. In between doing romantic roles, Rishi also displayed a natural flair for comedy in movies like Coolie and Hawalaat which had Shatrughan and Mithun as his co-stars. However, Rafoo Chakkar remains Rishi Kapoor’s best comedy movie ever.
When Chandni Revived his Career
Even as Rishi Kapoor kept doing romantic roles at regular intervals, the freshness and novelty his movies exuded in the Seventies and early Eighties appeared to be wearing off. It looked as if his career was about to hit the skids. But a drowning man will always clutch at a straw. Rishi Kapoor teamed up with Yash Chopra in 1989 for Chandni with Sri Devi and Vinod Khanna. The romantic blockbuster propped up Rishi’s sagging career. Rishi and Sri Devi became the new romantic pair of Bollywood which had the nation swooning.
In a New Avatar in the 90s
The 1993 hit movie, Damini, which was female-centric, gave Rishi Kapoor an opportunity to prove his mettle. There was no more running around trees. The movie which revolved around a gutsy housewife (Meenakshi Sheshadri) taking up cudgels on behalf of a rape victim, saw Rishi Kapoor playing a serious and confused husband, who is not sure whether to support his wife or protect the reputation of the family at the cost of his principles. That was perhaps the only important movie that he did in that particular decade.
Excelling in Negative Role
With Rishi Kapoor putting on weight and past his prime, the moviegoers were expecting something different from this versatile actor. The actor took up the gauntlet and decided to cast himself in roles that were edgy and unconventional. In Kapoor & Sons (Since 1921) (2016), Rishi plays a grandfather with an unabashed interest in porn. In Agneepath (2012), the actor was simply brilliant and outstanding as the sinister Rauf Lala, the underworld lord. He played the negative role to amazing perfection. It was hugely appreciated by moviegoers. In Mulk (2018), the actor plays a sinned against Muslim, whose family is wrongly accused of having links with extremist groups. With these movies, Rishi Kapoor had completely reinvented himself, and was basking in the glow of his new-found success.
Amazing Zest for Life
An audacious optimist that he was, Rishi Kapoor believed in living life to the hilt. As John Lennon would say, “Don’t sulk and feel sad/Life is never terribly bad.” Like Irrfan, Rishi had been fighting a courageous battle with cancer for the last two years. Despite occasional physical discomfort, he never lost his sangfroid and was always in his element. He was equally happy with the success his son, Ranbeer has achieved in the film industry through his hard work and determination.
Now that he is gone, he will always remain our lovable Chintu, the romantic hero and a wonderful human being. May his soul rest in peace.