Rishi Kapoor in conversation with Rachel Dwyer
Prachi Bhagwat, Official ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival Blogger
While waiting for Rishi Kapoor to arrive, one could overhear conversations in a plethora of languages including Bengali, Punjabi, English and Hindi. This is testament to the popularity of the veteran actor, whose fan base expands across India. While he may have had his fair share of unsuccessful films, Kapoor has, nevertheless, managed to retain his place in the popular imagination by producing some equally significant work. As expected, Kapoor walked onto the stage to loud cheers from the star-struck audience.
The session opened with the official unveiling of Kapoor’s autobiography Khullam Khulla, co-written by Meena Iyer. Film historian Rachel Dwyer posed questions to Kapoor about his long, illustrious run at the movies, and the rationale behind penning his personal story.
The title of his book Khullam Khulla (‘Out in the Open’) is apt, considering the extent of the revelations about life behind the scenes of the colourful Kapoor family, Kapoor’s relationship with his son, Ranbir, and partner, Neetu Kapoor, and his personal journey over four decades. Dwyer likened her experience of reading the book as ‘being part of a conversation,’ as if she was ‘in the same room’ as the writer.
In his debut film, Bobby, which occupies cult status in the annals of Indian film history, Rishi Kapoor broke out as the quintessential Hindi film hero who had the power to make the audience go weak in their knees. It was fitting then, that Dwyer quipped, ‘Not very often does a lady get a chance to be on stage with Rishi Kapoor.’
Main Shayar Toh Nahi, a song in Bobby, was the first ever song that Kapoor performed in front of the camera. Recalling the day the song was to be shot, he remembered waiting anxiously for a dance instructor to come and teach him how to dance to the tunes. A nervous Kapoor approached his father and director, Raj Kapoor, and enquired about when the choreographer would arrive. Raj Kapoor sternly replied that he would have to devise his own performance, since the choreographers would only teach him steps that other leading men were already famous for, they had told him. To hit it off with audiences, he would have to create his own style and persona.
Raj Kapoor’s advice could not have been more prescient. In the months to come, Amitabh Bachchan made a splash on screen with his film Zanjeer. As a result, the genre of action films came into vogue and the cult of the ‘angry young man’ reigned the hearts of Indians. This caused turbulence in Kapoor’s career: ‘The trend had changed and I had to make a mark. I was thrown into the deep sea and I had to swim against the current.’ The fame that came his way after Bobby sent him ‘flying high,’ but as Dwyer observed, ‘after such a high, there had to be a low.’
Kapoor views the writing of his autobiography as a significant step, since it documents the story of his struggle. He may have been a ‘star-son,’ but at the end of it, ‘you are as good as your last film.’ At the age of 64, Rishi Kapoor is still going strong. With memorable roles in recent films like Kapoor and Sons, he feels that it is only in the latter half of his career that he has had the opportunity to push the envelope in terms of his acting prowess. The fact that he is still a name to reckon with, at a time when his son is one of the leading men in the industry, is proof of the wealth of his talent and his determination.
Photo Credit: Rajendra Kapoor