Rishi Kapoor's Khullam Khulla Live: On stage, he travels light having offloaded baggage through his book

Lakshmi Govindrajan Javeri

Mar,19 2017 09:01 15 IST

Rishi Kapoor has worn a lot of hats (and sweatshirts) in his almost five-decade long career. From being a pudgy fellow who ripped his pants to becoming a romantic hero who at one time starred opposite all new heroines, he has been a part of several blockbusters; sometimes helming them, many a time playing second fiddle. He also dabbled with production and direction, not always with the success that he would’ve liked.

Wholly aware of his lineage and the astounding legacy it leaves, Kapoor made his literary debut by co-authoring his autobiography Khullam Khulla with Meena Iyer, to trace the origin and magnificence of this First Family of the Hindi film industry. The book that hit the stands in January 2017, was every bit what one has come to expect of Kapoor in this Twitter generation. Candid, self-deprecating, and insightful, it followed his thoughts, not chronology, in recounting episodes of his life with him playing the proverbial guide to a Kapoor family tree. Given how many influential family members he’s linked to across generations, unless he writes a three-volume memoir like Bob Dylan, Kapoor would have a tough time doing the justice he intends to do, to his life and that of those around him. After all, for a film industry that has been around for 104 years starting with Raja Harishchandra, the Kapoors have been a part of it for 90 years to this day.

Rishi Kapoor during the 'Khullam Khulla Live' session.

Rishi Kapoor during the 'Khullam Khulla Live' session.

He has been widely lauded for his literary attempt, more for the candour than the writing itself, and with two months of sales to boost, Kapoor took to the stage on Thursday night to launch it officially in Mumbai. Except that this was no ordinary book launch.

It was the pilot episode of Khullam Khulla – Live with Rishi Kapoor, a unique live enactment of portions of the book, where Kapoor delves deeper into the narrative, providing one back story after another to piece together larger incidents in his life. Excerpts of the book were brought alive through a chat show that got his audience closer to him, in a setting befitting a family drawing room. With audio-visual assistance, he substantiated his storytelling, often breaking into peals of laughter at how hilarious or ridiculous some of his life’s chapters have been.

There was no script, he said; rather, he had put down pointers of what could be covered in the 90-minute show but Kapoor being himself, thrived on the extempore nature of the format. He decisively held fort through the entire duration of the show, laughing at his choices, some of his colleagues, and senior family members, like a true comedian with no one off limits.

In a sense, Kapoor is the only one in an industry that is otherwise famous for a lack of humour (and the currently popular concept of “nepotism”), to possibly get away with this level of honesty. It is one thing to write an autobiography, and a whole different ball game to enact his and the industry’s ludicrous workings. He has had his fair share of run-ins with trolls and generally obnoxious people on the Internet, but the one thing Kapoor has always had, is an opinion; one that he has never been shy of voicing. Sometimes he been akin to the stereotype of a baug-living Parsi old man; with colourful language devoid of a verbal filter, he’s had something to say to everyone who has had something to say to him.

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Rishi Kapoor has come a long way to take to the stage entirely on his terms.

He has been an industry insider, a social commentator, an actor, a son, a father, and a husband, playing each role in public with remarkable outspokenness. So when he looks at his aunt Neela in the eye—who is in the audience to support his stage debut—to seek her permission to narrate a story about her husband Shammi Kapoor’s attention seeking ways with the ladies, he does so with practised restraint but with a glint in his eyes that has been his calling card since his Mera Naam Joker days.

He is in splits and takes the audience with him when he talks about how he mistakenly bought a pair of ladies trousers only to be told a few minutes before a shoot of this fashion faux pas. It doesn’t end there. A video on screen shows a young Kapoor dancing about in a woman’s pants, without a care that it came with no zipper! “Look at me! I’m dancing like an idiot in feminine pants!” he guffaws.

Khullam Khulla – Live with Rishi Kapoor is not just a rib-tickler. Given that Kapoor has a tendency to veer off from a story to narrate another one, it is a conversation he wants to have that spans the people and the films that have mattered to him. He poignantly recalls Dilip Kumar’s attempt to speak with an ailing Raj Kapoor in the ICU, throwing light on what it is to be friends with your colleagues and contemporaries… a concept famously uncommon within the industry today.

While the book will figure prominently in the various editions of the show in the future, it would be premature to look at it as just an elaborate marketing strategy. Because here is Rishi Kapoor in the winter of his career dabbling with films like Agneepath and Kapoor & Sons, playing roles that have specifically been written for him. Yet when he takes to the stage, it isn’t just the writer who is talking; the actor comes alive too. Dramatising events of his past, pondering over life’s choices and suddenly laughing it all off, Kapoor on stage is a man who likes to travel light. For the baggage has been offloaded in the book.

Each episode will be different because it is driven by his memory and mood despite having a rough plan of what he wants to say. One of the hallmarks of a good actor is when you don’t know if he’s in character or not. For a man who admittedly paid for the only Best Actor award he has been given, Kapoor has come a long way to take to the stage entirely on his terms.

Khullam Khulla – Live with Rishi Kapoor will make its debut on 31 March at Dubai World Trade Centre.