Rishi Kapoor's musical legacy lives on: The iconic actor's films always boasted of an impeccable soundtrack
Rishi Kapoor was blessed with great music in his films that only got better with time.
The music associated with any actor contributes immensely in their transformation from a successful actor to a superstar. The box office success of any film notwithstanding, the legacy of great songs is the significant factor that is the difference between how the audiences viewed Dev Anand, Rajendra Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Sadhana, Madhubala or Rajesh Khanna and their contemporaries.
It wouldn’t be completely incorrect to say that the advent of the Angry Young Man in the 70s changed this criterion to a great extent, and while one could say that the films of Amitabh Bachchan also featured memorable music, it was nowhere near the frenzy that the songs of his predecessors generated. In this aspect, Rishi Kapoor would perhaps be one of the rare examples of a star who not only survived, and thrived during the Angry Young Man phase of the 1970s but also had a great legacy of songs that is peerless.
Right from the onset of his career as a leading man in Bobby (1973) in the early 1970s till his transitioned into the character actor space in the late 1990s, Rishi Kapoor was blessed with great music that only got better with time. One of the last big stars of the golden era of Hindi films, Kapoor possessed the legendary sense of rhythm that his father, Raj Kapoor and uncle Shammi Kapoor, had but as someone who was at home with both an Indian as well as the western sound, he took it an all-together different level. He was one of the few actors who could be as comfortable with a dafli and the flute as he was with a violin and guitar.
Kapoor’s first few films Bobby, Zehreela Insaan (1974), Rafoo Chakkar (1975), Khel Khel Mein (1975) and Kabhi Kabhie (1976) featured the entire spectrum of leading music composers of the 1970s such as Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Rahul Dev Burman, Kalyanji-Anandji and Khayyam respectively. Each film with its unique sound adorned an unmistakable identity upon Kapoor and with songs such as ‘Main Shayar To Nahin’, ‘Tumko Mere Dil Ne Pukara’, ‘Khullam Khulla Pyar Karenge’, and ‘Tere Chere Se Nazar’, Kapoor became the onscreen embodiment of the young. He had a great rapport with RD Burman, who also created specific tunes with Kapoor in mind. One such tune that eventually became ‘Ruk Jana O Jaana’ from Warrant (1975) impressed Dev Anand so much that he insisted on having it and Kapoor happily ‘allowed’ it.
In the shadow of the Amitabh Bachchan juggernaut, Kapoor delivered what was one of the biggest hits of the 1970s in Hum Kisise Kum Naheen (1977). Once again it was RD Burman who provided great numbers that ranged from Kishore Kumar club favourite ‘Bachna Ae Haseeno’ to the classic Rafi-Asha qawwaali ‘Hum Kisise Kum Naheen.’ Kapoor’s versatility both as an actor and someone who always delivered great music was at its peak in 1977 where in the same year as he played a rock star in Hum Kisise Kum Naheen, he also played a qawaal in Manmohan Desai’s Amar, Akbar and Anthony and a young advertising man who becomes the apple of a much-elder woman’s eyes in Doosra Aadmi.
If Laxmi-Pyare provided one of the best qawwalis in Hindi films ‘Parda Hai Parda’, a great bhajan in ‘Shirdiwale Sai Baba’ and a fun-filled ‘Tayyab Ali Pyar Ka Dushman’ for Kapoor in Amar, Akbar and Anthony, Rajesh Roshan gave him many unforgettable songs in Doosra Aadmi. The Ramesh Talwar-directed Doosra Admi featured Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar in top-form with songs like ‘Ankhon Mein, Kajal Hai’, ‘Aao Manayen Jashn-E-Mohabbat’ and ‘Chal Kahin Door Nikal Jayein.’
In the 1970s, Kapoor was also the star who got some of the last few great scores of legendary music composers such as SD Burman in Barood (1976) that featured a sublime Kishore Kumar song, ‘Matlab Jo Samjhe’, and Madan Mohan in Laila Majnu (1976). Interestingly enough, Kapoor was introduced with the singer Shailendra Singh in Bobby, he was also one of the few actors after Dev Anand for whom both Kishore Kumar and Md. Rafi provided vocals.
Although one could say that this was a fairly common practice where Rajesh Khanna, Dharmendra, Amitabh Bachchan all got both Kishore and Rafi to sing for them, by the 1970s, Rafi was limited to singing ‘special’ songs that were usually the traditional qawwali or providing vocals for the ‘other star’ such as Dharmendra in ‘Sa Re Ga Ma’ in Chupke Chupke (1975), Vinod Khanna in ‘Hum Premi Prem Karna Jaane’ in Parvarish (1977) or Shashi Kapoor in ‘Jaanu Meri Jaan’ in Shaan (1980). In Rishi Kapoor’s case, composers such Laxmikant-Pyarelal and RD Burman used Rafi effectively in songs like ‘Dafliwaale’, ‘Ram Ji Ki Nikli Sawari’ in Sargam, the evergreen ‘Dard-e-Dil’ from Karz (1980) and ‘Poocho Na Yaar Kya Hua’ in Zaamane Ko Dikhana Hai (1981).
In the 1980s, a decade usually chastised as the worst for songs in Hindi films, Kapoor once again had great songs even if the films failed to perform at the box office. Karz might have a cult following today but when it first released it was a flop but the songs have now come to define the decade. Looking beyond the hits like Yeh Vaada Raha (1982), Prem Rog (1982), and Chandni (1989), Kapoor’s filmography is peppered with memorable songs - ‘Jeevan Ke Din’ in Bade Dil Wala (1983),
‘Tu Chand Nagar Ki Shezadi’ from Duniya (1984), ‘Ek Baat Dil Mein’ from Rahi Badal Gaye (1985), and the iconic ‘Chand Roz Aur Meri Jaan’ from Sitamgar (1985). This is also the era from where obscure songs such as ‘Manubhai Motor Chali’ from Phool Khile Hai Gulshan Gulshan (1978) or ‘Jeena Kya Aji Pyar Bina’ from Dhan Daulat (1980) continue to be a radio favourites even today. Kishore Kumar’s last Filmfare Award for Best Playback Singer also came in a Rishi Kapoor song, ‘Saagar Kinare’ in Saagar (1985). Even in films that had very little to offer in terms of a typical Hindi film score, Kapoor’s films like Sindoor (1987) and Hawalaat (1987) featured that one odd song which went on to become the anthem of the nation - ‘Patjhad Saawan Basant Bahaar’ and ‘Shayad Tu Mujhe Se Pyar Karti Hai.’
In the 1990s, the lexicon of Hindi films music had transformed with the emergence of Anand-Milind and Nadeem-Shravan, and especially AR Rahman but it was Rishi Kapoor who ended up becoming the bridge that connected the two different eras. In the early 1990s, Kapoor delivered two back to back box office hits in Bol Radha Bol and Deewana, where once again the soundtrack stood out. The songs of Bol Radha Bol were composed by Anand-Milind and songs such as ‘Tu Tu Tu Tu Tara’ and the title track became popular. In Deewana, Nadeem-Shravan scored their hattrick of wins at Filmfare Awards and Kumar Sanu’s ‘Sochenge Tumhe Pyar’ won the Best Playback Singer too. In Damini, Kapoor had one of his last great hits and once again, the biggest chartbuster in the film, Kumar Sanu’s ‘Jabse Tumko Dekha’, was filmed on him.
From the early stages of his career till the end, nearly every film of Kapoor's had great music. What could be a bigger testimony to his matchless musical legacy than the fact that Kapoor would be one of the rare actors whose songs have won the Filmfare Award for Best Playback Singer Male award in each decade since his debut. Three out the five songs were filmed on Kapoor - ‘Beshak Mandir Masjid’ by Narendra Chanchal in Bobby in the 1970s, ‘Saagar Kinare’ by Kishore Kumar in Saagar in the 1980s, ‘Sochenge Tumhe Pyar’ by Kumar Sanu in Deewana in the 1990s, and two from the films that he was a part of - ‘Chand Sifarish’ from Fanna in the 2000s and ‘Masakali’ from Delhi-6 in the 2010s.
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