He is Passion Incarnate. 45 years after his debut in Mera Naam Joker, Rishi Kapoor is not only still a selling-point in his movies but, luckily, is being recognized as an actor seemingly unlimited in range.
At 63, Rishi is set to play a 90 year-old in Kapoor & Sons, produced by Karan Johar and directed by Shakun Batra. Showing some incredible photographs in which he looks completely unrecognizable, he crows, “I have the same make-up man who worked on The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button and Mrs Doubtfire, and they are spending one crore on my getup alone. That’s the kind of faith Karan and Shakun have in me!”
Sanam Re (in a 10-minute cameo) and All Is Well are his other films to come in an incredible innings that began with Bobby in 1973. “I was the lover-boy, but am proud to say that I was the only one who survived the Bachchan era! When the late Yash (Chopra)-ji called to compliment me on my performance in Do Dooni Chaar and expressed how surprised he was that I could do the role of Mr. Duggal, a simple school teacher, I told him that no one, not even him, had ever thought of me as anything other than a glamorous romantic hero!”
Rishi Kapoor mentions Agneepath as the vicious criminal Rauf Lala: “Karan and director Karan Malhotra were after me, convincing me to do the role so different from my image. It was like an adrenaline push. I never doubted my ability to do the character, but was just apprehensive that if the film flopped, I would be held responsible as I was cast against type!”
For the last few years, Rishi has finally got roles worthy of him—like the two-faced cop (Aurangzeb), the gay principal (Student Of The Year), the romantic Goan (Chashme Baddoor), Dawood (D-Day) and more. “Yeh to shouq ki baat hai, mera junoon hai, but no one ever gave me a chance before!” he says about this magical ability to do everything. “Acting is about delving into storage in one’s mind to reprocess what is needed.”
He goes on, “Cinema and audiences are also changing. Piku could have been a success in any era, but no one would have financed such a story in those days, or it would have had problems finding buyers. But why single me out? In our times no one got roles worthy of them because everyone was imprisoned in images!”
But why did those films still touch a chord that most movies do not today? “I don’t know,” he says. “Our music, for one, was very refreshing. And our audiences were very forgiving. Today, it’s a learned audience with accessibility to Internet and world cinema. In my father’s time, they were still more forgiving, although there was so much variety in cinema for a then-young yet optimistic India.”
He warns that his son Ranbir Kapoor will not be forgiven now for a bad film. “We had content-based films, but today, there are situation-based movies. We wove in entertainment skillfully with a lot of heart. Where is that heart today even in Hollywood? Where are the great stories and romances? It’s all action and VFX!”
Rishi thanks the industry and audiences for giving him everything in his career. Yes, he has not received any national honour like his father Raj Kapoor and his grandfather Prithviraj Kapoor, both Dadasaheb Phalke and Padma Bhushan laureates, did. “I hope to win them too one day, but with a clean heart and soul. A lot of sweat, tears and passion has gone into my work!” he says forcefully.
– Rajiv Vijayakar, a Senior Journalist, Film & Music Critic and Historian for Hindi cinema and Film Music is also an Author and Twice Jury Member at 58th and 62nd National Film Awards.
Rajiv Vijayakar tweets @rajivvijayakar