Rishi Kapoor passes away: The quintessential Bollywood star danced, sang and charmed his way into a million hearts
Rishi Kapoor took audiences on a joy ride with his energy and charisma and struck a bond with them.
I remember seeing Masoom only closer to my teen years. One of the many moments that struck a chord with me, involved Minni, the youngest of Naseeruddin Shah’s two daughters in this wonderful Shekhar Kapoor film. Minni is watching Rishi Kapoor as the actor’s Karz plays out on the television in front of her. Kapoor is shimmying away to the ‘Om Shanti Om’ track in the film and Minni is whole-heartedly supporting her beloved ‘Chintoo mama’ by singing and dancing along with him.
This in essence is the effect Kapoor had on his audience, even if it were a five-year-old. He took them on a joy ride with his energy and charisma and struck a bond with them. For some he was the pop sensation Monty (Karz), to others he was the delightful Akbar Illahabadi from Amar Akbar Anthony, while many simply saw him as the middle-aged, pot-bellied Duggal sir of Do Dooni Chaar. But in each of these performances, Kapoor always managed to connect with his audience.
Kapoor became an overnight sensation after his father Raj Kapoor cast him in Bobby while he was only 21. Bobby released in the same year as Zanjeer, the film that catapulted Amitabh Bachchan to stardom. As Bachchan went on to dominate the Hindi film landscape over the next decade with his Angry Young Man persona, Kapoor probably remained the only contemporary to find stardom while being hat ke. He was everything that Bachchan was not. He was youthful. He was spunky. He was sharaarti, musical and he could dance. Sample any of his films from this phase - Rafoo Chakkar, Khel Khel Mein, Hum Kisise Kum Nahin, Karz or Saagar – Kapoor could be just as intense as Bachchan, but more than anyone else, it was he who remained quintessential Bollywood by being romantic and charming.
His dancing talent was perhaps Rishi Kapoor’s biggest gift to the film industry.
After his uncle, the inimitable Shammi Kapoor brought in his own, unique style to swaying and pirouetting in Hindi film songs, there was a sizeable void before young Rishi arrived and took forward the baton from him. Shammi’s success forced several Hindi film heroes, not naturally blessed with dancing talent, to traumatise audiences with their ungainly limb movements. Any number of leading men including Shashi Kapoor, Dharmendra, Rajesh Khanna, Vinod Khanna, Shatrughan Sinha and even Jeetendra, the man given the ‘Jumping Jack’ moniker, owing more to his limitations than serving to be a true compliment of his dancing talents, had scarred us sufficiently with their jerks and twirls in the period after Shammi uncle hung up his dancing shoes.
But then along came Rishi, announcing himself with chutzpah and the sound of the trumpet in ‘Bachna ae haseeno’. He simply danced his way into our hearts be it through the phenomenal qawwali sequence ‘Purdah hai purdah’ from Amar Akbar Anthony, or ‘Aa dil kya mehfil hai tere’ (Hum Kisise Kum Nahin), or ‘Paisa yeh paisa’ (Karz). Rishi was as naturally blessed with impeccable rhythm and grace as Sachin Tendulkar to the game of cricket or Adele to singing. No other actor could make the narrow, confined space of the top of a train (a back projection gimmick) appear limitless with his dynamism as Rishi did in ‘Hoga tumse pyaara kaun’. Even when he performed a devotional song like ‘Shirdi waaley Sai Baba’, he packed it with such oomph that you could not help but become a devotee.
It is Rishi alone, who saved the dancing hero in Hindi cinema, and proved to be the crucial link to the next generation of dancing stars such as Govinda and then Hrithik Roshan. Even today, when you see Ranbir Kapoor shake a leg, you see a continuation of Rishi Kapoor through the son.
Hindi cinema has mostly been unkind to stars looking for a second wind. Few have escaped Father Time’s clutches in an industry starved of scripts for those in the autumn of their careers. But here too, Kapoor managed to hold fort better than several others before or alongside him. Starring in significant roles in a number of prominent films such as Luck By Chance, Chintoo Ji, Agneepath, D-Day, Kapoor and Sons and Rajma Chawal, Kapoor shined until the very end. His Mulk, where he plays a character from the minority community, speaking out against the stereotypes and inequities that Muslims have been subjected to in the India of today, remains one of the most important socially relevant films of our time.
Rishi Kapoor was an integral part of my childhood. I cannot recount the number of times I have watched and enjoyed films such as Hum Kisise Kum Nahin, Amar Akbar Anthony, Karz or Naseeb while growing up. I loved watching Chintoo ji prance around in Kabhi Kabhie, in as much as I felt a strong sense of betrayal when he turns out to be the bad guy in Keshu Ramsay’s whodunit thriller, Khoj. But through all these very many films, the important lesson that I learned from him, courtesy the ‘Jeevan ke din chhotey sahi’ song from Bade Dilwala, is to live life to its fullest.
Jeene ka rangeen mausam, yeh khubsoorat zamaana
Apney yahi chaar pal hain, aagay hai kya kisne jaana
Jeena jisey aata hai voh, inmein hi mauj mana le
Kal ki humein fursat kahaan, sochey jo hum matwaale
Rest in peace Chintoo mama. And thank you for the movies.
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