On set, Rishi Kapoor was a kid in a candy store: Late actor's co-stars and directors share their memories
Rishi Kapoor's leading ladies Poonam Dhillon, Rati Agnihotri, and Padmini Kolahpure, along with his directors and co-stars, fondly recall working with the actor.
A powerhouse of talent, Rishi Kapoor’s passion for his craft, as most of his colleagues would vouch for, was unparalleled. The actor was often quoted saying: "I have tried to look different and play different roles through my life because I am passionate about my work."
Kapoor was in touch with some of his favourite directors even while he was undergoing treatment in the US. Kapoor’s 102 Not Out director Umesh Shukla, who met him last in the US, said, “I was keen on working with Rishi for the third time, and was even ready with the script. I spoke to him on 18 March, and due to coronavirus and social distancing, we decided to meet up for a narration after things had normalised. He was very excited, and he said we would catch up soon.”
Reminiscing his collaboration and interactions with Kapoor, Shukla further said, “Rishi was a good human being, a very honest person, and that’s why he was such a great actor. We have lost an actor with very subtle and spontaneous performances. He was enjoying his second innings. He would often tell me that actually I am enjoying this inning more than the first one because, ‘Earlier I would be only running around trees and mountains, singing songs wearing thick sweaters. But now I am getting to play nice, meaty characters’. He used to come on set with lot of passion and energy.”
“Rishi was very keen that we do a sequel of Do Dooni Chaar,” reveals director Habib Faisal. “Whenever I would message him asking about his health, he would say, ‘I will be back very soon. I could almost hear it in the messages that he would write back – ‘Keep the script ready, and as soon as I am back, we will start,’” said Faisal.
“I was a first-time filmmaker, and was attempting to do something which, in 2009, had not become mainstream, and yet Rishi had no qualms meeting me, or listening to the story idea. He was ready to take up the challenge. He was not just passionate but a selfless person, who was okay to take the risk. He stayed that way throughout the process, and never made anyone feel that there was a huge legend of a star on set. He would rarely sit in his vanity van, and would always be hanging around on set. We shot the entire film on location, and half the time, he would be seen chatting with the mohallawallahs. He was like this little wide-eyed kid gone into a toy shop for the first time,” adds Faisal.
Leena Yadav, who recently directed Kapoor in Rajma Chawal, said, “I had an amazing time working with Rishi Kapoor. I have never met anybody who can be such a child and such a wise man, both at the same time. He had such a big life and a big career, and I am really grateful that I got to be a small part of it."
Poonam Dhillon, who co-starred with Kapoor in about eight to 10 films in the '80s, prominent among those being Yeh Vaada Raha and Zamana, said she was shocked to hear about his demise. “I thought he has totally recovered. I met him a few times after he was back from his treatment, and he was looking better than ever, and that’s why I told him, ‘Chintu, this is making you look so good. Now you should stay healthy, get off alcohol,' and he said, ‘Keep quiet.’ There was not a hint that he was unwell,” said Dhillon.
She continued, “For me, he was one of those natural actors, also very serious about his work, and very hardworking. He worked with many newcomers (actresses) but he never treated us like one. He never showed us attitude. I was a kid in front of him. He would let you be, and would give suggestion only if you asked for one. But I have learnt a lot from him. He taught me how while doing a sad song, you don’t necessarily have to look sad and have tears flowing, you can do a sad song with a smile as well. He would often smile in a sad song, and that smile conveyed lot of pain. I used to be a total fan of his songs on screen. He could sing any kind of song — a qawalli, or a ghazal or a romantic duet or a sad song, and it would look good on him.”
“He was so nonchalant about his talent. He was a pleasant person that way but he would also, at times, trouble us, rag us but it was all in good humour. I would complain to his wife sometimes, and she would say, ‘Can you imagine how much he must have bullied, and made me cry when I worked with him’. Actually, Rishi was a whole package of personality. He wasn’t that typical sweet-talking diplomatic man. He was a fireball,” Dhillon further added.
Like Dhillon, Kapoor’s Prem Rog co-star Padmini Kolhapure too said she learnt a lot about the craft from the veteran actor. “Rishi’s performance is going to live with me. In my performance, you will find a jhalak of him. I can’t explain what but I have learnt a lot from him about acting. I was first his fan before becoming his co-actor. I still can’t believe that he is gone,” said Kolhapure.
However, Rati Agnihotri, who starred opposite Kapoor in Tawaif, Coolie, and Yeh Hai Jalwa was too shocked for words. “At this point, I am too sad, so heartbroken. Chintu will always be alive in my thoughts,” said Agnihotri.
“He was one of those few people who would call a spade a spade, and react without putting on a facade or mask. He never minced his words, and because of his nature probably, there used to be this pin-drop silence on set always. There would be great discipline on set. He’s a no-nonsense person, and at the same time, fun-loving,” said Emraan Hashmi, who shared screen space with Kapoor in the recent release The Body, a mystery thriller.
“I had never met Mr Kapoor before we started the shoot. My perception of him was based on his tweets. I didn’t know what to expect and I was pleasantly surprised. He was a fantastic co-actor, very giving, extremely warm. He was full of stories and anecdotes about the industry. It was a great working relationship. I was going to message him in the next couple of days, just checking up on his health. He was such a huge part of my childhood. He has impacted all our lives with his fantastic performances, with his screen presence. Losing him is like almost an end of an era," said Hashmi.
Shukla shares an anecdote from the 102 Not Out shoot. “I remember once during dubbing... Normally actors watch their scene completely, and then do their dubbing. One day, he saw a scene and refused to dub that day, and he started crying. When I asked him what happened, he said, ‘No Umesh, I won’t be able to dub today. See, how Bachchan sir has performed. He is so good’. He was completely blown away by Bachchan’s performance, and had got so emotional. He went home, and sent a bouquet to Mr Bachchan. To praise a fellow actor like this is commendable. He used to also boost confidence of other junior actors. People used to say that Rishi is very moody, temperamental, and has anger issues but I never felt that. He would always come up with relevant questions, and one had to answer that. I consider myself to be very fortunate to have done two films with him. Just that right now, I am feeling so miserable that how do I meet his family, and I will miss him big time.”
And directors of two of the many memorable films of Kapoor in the recent past, Agneepath and Kapoor & Sons, haven’t come to terms with the demise of the legend. “I am not in a position to talk right now. He was more than Agneepath to me. He was family. He was closest to me after my father, and I have lost him today. It feels sad. I have nothing more to offer, and I am just trying to manage, and trying getting things under control,” said Agneepath director Karan Malhotra, and son of yesteryear producer Ravi Malhotra (who produced hits with Rishi Kapoor in the '70s, such as Khel Khel Mein and Jhoota Kahin Ka).
Kapoor & Sons director Shakun Batra merely said, “Sad day. Miss him dearly.”
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