Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor in 102 Not Out: An onscreen pair unlike any other

Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor's latest outing — the recently announced 102 Not Out — is a testimony to their friendship, and passion and commitment to cinema

Abhishek Srivastava May 21, 2017 10:32:50 IST
Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor in 102 Not Out: An onscreen pair unlike any other

Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor are as different as chalk and cheese. While one is politically correct at all times, the other is anything but. One made his career by beating up goons and smugglers while the other became a heartthrob by romancing nubile girls. One hailed from the first family of Bollywood while the other became a ‘family’. Despite their differences, together, they have been dynamite on screen,

What unites Bachchan and Kapoor is a mutual respect and love of their craft. The films that they have featured in together have reaped dividends at the box office. It’s been 41 years since they first worked together; and yet they remain a force to reckon with. Their latest outing — the recently announced 102 Not Out — is a testimony to their passion, friendship and commitment to cinema. It also shows that ageing onscreen doesn’t discourage these two cinema icons from taking up roles worth their salt.

The image of the two veterans with white hair, featuring in the poster of 102 Not Out spells out that class is permanent. Rishi Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan in the same frame also reflects that when it comes to histrionic potential, they are second to none. One must not forget the fact that when it came to the major awards last year, a chunk of the four coveted honours in the acting category went neither to the Khans nor the young Turks of today. It was a clean sweep by the trio of Amitabh Bachchan, Rishi Kapoor and Shabana Azmi — an indication that age is just a number for a true actor.

Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor in 102 Not Out An onscreen pair unlike any other

Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor in the first look of 102 Not Out. Image via Twitter

Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor have shared a long-standing relationship, which on occasions has been interspersed by all possible human emotions — happiness, anger, jealousy to name a few. It was Yash Chopra’s Kabhi Kabhie that brought the two stalwarts together for the first time and 41 years later, the journey looks far from ebbing. But it was Manmohan Desai who could smell and sense the ‘power of two’ when he made that call to Rishi Kapoor when he was shooting in Bikaner for Laila Majnu. The long distance trunk call in the era of '70s almost played spoilt sport when Rishi Kapoor almost refused to sign the film (Amar Akbar Anthony) thinking it was a period film as it had ‘Akbar’ in its title. As fate would have it, his ‘hit jodi’ with Bachchan was repeated not just in Amar Akbar Anthony, but also Naseeb and Coolie (as well as Ajooba). One common thread that binds these films together is they were all blockbusters and are considered classics today.

In Kapoor's recent biography, Khullam Khulla, the veteran star has mentioned that when he made his debut in Bobby it was also a time when stars like Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra and Shatrughan Sinha ruled the marquee. In other words, nothing worked except action in those days. Rishi was apprehensive of the onslaught of films of these genres. And it was this sentiment that forced both of them to maintain a distance during the shoot of Kabhi Kabhie in Kashmir. Kapoor also mentions that there was an undercurrent of tension before Amar Akbar Anthony. He refers to it as ‘unspoken’ and mentions that the two never sat together to sort it out. What Rishi Kapoor is actually referring to was the tension that emanated from Amitabh Bachchan’s screen persona of an action star during the shoot of Kabhi Kabhie. By the time the duo shot for this film, Kapoor got the monkey off his back; his relationship with Bachchan remained cold during the shoot of Kabhi Kabhie. In his book Rishi assumes that this could only be blamed on the role of a serious character that he essays in the film. He goes ahead and mentions that Amitabh Bachchan wanted to stay in the character and thus remained aloof on the sets throughout the shooting.

But opposites attract, and something similar happened with the two stars as well. Amitabh Bachchan’s respect towards the Kapoor family and the warmth that the patriarchs of the two families shared during their lifetimes was enough to give them a chance. Whenever Prithviraj Kapoor visited Allahabad with his travelling theatre company, he would often stay with Amitabh Bachchan’s father, Harivansh Rai Bachchan. A very young Amitabh was witness to all the bonhomie the two seniors shared. The two eventually did get along and in films, complemented each other.

During the shooting of Amar Akbar Anthony, the ice was finally broken. On the sets of the film, together, they pulled pranks on Pran by asking for acting tips. And then came Naseeb, a film that saw Rishi Kapoor battling depression. Things were so grave during the shooting of Naseeb for the actor that he actually avoided shooting the last few sequences of the film. Though the shoot of the film got over in the nick of time, it was only after the shoot that Amitabh Bachchan said words of encouragement to the actor and confessed to Rishi that he had faced a similar situation before.

The shooting on the sets of Coolie cemented the fact that the two really cared for each other. One instance that Rishi has narrated in his book deals with a stunt scene that he had to perform for the film. The action scene required him to jump from a height. Amitabh Bachchan even came on the sets and inspected the arrangement but was not satisfied. He doubly asked him if everything was sure the answer to which was given in an affirmative. The end result was after Rishi Kapoor took the jump, he had bruises on his face and hands. What followed next was a firing from the action star about his carelessness. It must be told here that when Amitabh Bachchan suffered that fatal injury in Bengaluru on the sets of Coolie, Rishi Kapoor was nursing his wounds.

The '70s were an era when most of the author-backed roles were reserved for the action stars especially Amitabh Bachchan and this peeved the scion of the Kapoor family. He has gone ahead and mentioned in his book that Amitabh Bachchan never gave credit to his co actors who were like rungs of the ladder. He has often credited his directors but never his co-stars.

While the press picked up the ‘rivalry’ excerpt when the veteran actor’s book was launched, the portions that were full of praises were conveniently ignored. Sample this — “It was Amitabh Bachchan’s inborn talent that allowed him to embody each new character effortlessly and entertain his audience. They weren’t earth-shatteringly unique characters,” is what Rishi Kapoor had to say in his book.” One hardly comes across such instances when fellow actors go all out to praise their co-stars.

His latest was during the release of Pink when Rishi sang paeans of Bachchan’s acting ability on Twitter. “Pink...That is why he is Amitabh Bachchan...the best,” he had said.

Their fourth outing together was Shashi Kapoor’s Ajooba. This was more of a family collaboration and union of friends as Shashi Kapoor directed Bachchan in this Indo-Russian collaboration. Bachchan and Kapoor were coming together after a gap of few years and Rishi also got an opportunity to work with his first heroine Dimple Kapadia. There was another film too, in which they were supposed to work together. Rishi Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan were to work alongside Randhir Kapoor and Vinod Khanna for a Vijay Anand film that sadly could not see light beyond its mahurat.

While Rishi Kapoor has spoken often of Amitabh Bachchan, the reverse is perhaps not true. On Bachchan's blog, there are several anecdotes about Shammi and Shashi Kapoor, but not about Rishi, who was his co-star in so many films. Bachchan’s daughter Shweta is married to Rishi’s nephew — that makes them family.

It has been a relationship that has spanned a vast , which can be dubbed as a kaleidoscope of human emotions.  The two are reuniting after a gap of 26 years; Abhishek recently worked with Rishi Kapoor in All Is Well while Ranbir Kapoor’s film for Ayan Mukherji — Dragon — is slated to feature the senior Bachchan too. It was a match that was certainly not made in heaven. God proposes, Bollywood disposes.

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