By Sharada Iyer
Being Raj Kapoor’s son his entry into the industry may have been comparatively easy but thereafter it has been a long and arduous struggle fuelled by his determination, hard work, sincerity, passion and of course loads of talent. From the troubled adolescent of ‘Mera Naam Joker’ in (1970) to playing Abhishek Bachchan’s father in the recently released ‘All is well’ (2015), it has been a long and fruitful journey of 45 years embellished with some splendid, endearing and memorable performances for this well-liked and respected actor…
Rishi Kapoor is currently scripting an unbelievable second innings for himself as a character actor of amazing repute and versatility. After playing the quintessential lover-boy with remarkable aplomb for a full twenty-five years, he is busy proving that there is still a lot of talent left to be tapped in him as an actor and he is nowhere close to hanging his boots…
It was the year 2000 which saw him in his first character role in Ajay Devgn’s home production, Raju Chacha. He was not even 50 years old then. The next year he played father to Kajol in Kuch Khatti Kuch Meethi followed by Yeh Hai Jalwa in 2002, where he played father to Salman Khan and thus the wheel was set in motion.
While some of his best performances as the typical hero could be seen in Prem Rog, Karz, Daamini, Badaltey Rishtey, Amar Akbar, Anthony, Coolie, Aap Ke Deewaane, Bobby, Kabhie Kabhi, Saagar, Laila Majnu, Khoj, Khel Khel Mein, Sargam, Nagina, Khudgarz, Sahibaan, etc., his second innings has seen him exploring a range of roles and characters across various genres in films like Love Aaj Kal, Namastey London, Tell Me O Khuda!, Do Dooni Chaar, Chintuji, Patiala House, Luck by Chance, Aurangzeb, Student of The Year, Agneepath, Bewakoofiyan, Besharam, D-Day, etc.
The action thriller D-Day directed by Nikhil Advani had him essaying the role of Dawood Ibrahim with incredible poise and elan. He was pitted against Irrfan Khan and Arjun Rampal. He was also seen in Chashme Baddoor (remake of the original) starring Ali Zafar and Shudhh Desi Romance where he shared screen space with youngsters Parineeti Chopra and Sushant Singh Rajput.
In 2012, he won accolades for playing a gay dean in Karan Johar’s Student Of The Year. He is also game to try his hand at negative roles. In 2013, he played the lecherous underworld drug-lord Rauf Lala in Karan Johar’s remake of Agneepath with such effortless ease that it is difficult to imagine that this was the same actor who, three decades ago had portrayed the lovable ‘Akbar Illahabadi’ in Amar Akbar Anthony. His role also had grey shades both in YRF’s ‘Aurangzeb’ where he plays a corrupt police officer as well as in Subhash Ghai’s Kaanchi, where he plays a business tycoon . He teamed up with Subhash Ghai in Kaanchi 30 years after their super-hit Karz in 1983
A song from Kaanchi:
He acted with brother Randhir for the first time in Sajid Khan’s comedy ‘Housefull 2’ in 2012. In Besharam, directed by Abhinav Kashyap, he teamed up with son Ranbir Kapoor for the first time and the film also had his wife Neetu Singh. The couple were seen in the light-hearted role of Haryanvi cops named Chulbul and Bulbul, respectively.
For his heart-warming natural performance as the maths teacher in Do Dooni Chaar in 2010, he not only won the hearts of the public but also walked away with the Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actor and Stardust Award for Best Actor that year.
He was also bestowed with the IIFA Award for Best Performance in negative role for his roles in both Agneepath (2013) and Aurangzeb (2014). His role in Agneepath also fetched him the Zee Cine Award for the best performance in a negative role. He also walked away with the Star Guild Award for Best Actor in a Supporting role in Love Aaj Kal.
Among the forty-plus stars, he has worked with Saif Ali Khan (Love Aaj Kal), Shah Rukh Khan (Deewaana, Jab Tak Hai Jaan), Aamir Khan ( Fanaa), Salman Khan (Yeh Hai Jalwa), Akshay Kumar (Patiala House), Hrithik Roshan (Agneepath), Farhan Akhthar (Luck By Chance), Abhishek Bachchan (Delhi-6, All is Well), Ajay Devgn (Raju Chacha) and Irrfaan and Arjun Rampal (D-Day). He is at home with the current lot of youngsters be it Ali Zafar (Chashme Baddoor), Arjun Kapoor (Aurangzeb), Sushant Singh Rajput (Shuddh Desi Romance), Ayushman Khurrana and Sonam (Bewakoofiyan), etc.
In an industry dominated by macho-men and action heroes, his ‘chocolate-boy’ looks and small build never proved to be a deterrent. Always confident of his prowess he never shied away from accepting films with more than one hero or being part of an ensemble cast – Kabhi Kabhie, Damini, Mera Naam Joker, Chandni, Aap Ke Deewane, Coolie, Amar Akbar Anthony, etc. and more recently in Agneepath and D-Day. He has left an indelible mark in all films irrespective of whether he had an author-backed role in them or not.
He has shared screen space with almost every other actor of his time as well as many veteran seniors, be it a hero or a character artist. In his first two films itself-Mera Naam Joker and Bobby- he was pitted against the likes of Manoj Kumar, Simi Grewal, Durga Khote, Pran and Prem Nath. In fact he won the National award and Filmfare award respectively for these two films.
He formed a great team with superstar Amitabh Bachchan and they made a hilarious Jodi in Amar Akbar Anthony and Coolie. Other stalwarts he has acted with include Rajesh Khanna, Anil Kapoor, Sunny Deol, Vinod Khanna, Naseeruddin Shah, Jeetendra, Rakesh Roshan, Mithun Chakravorthy , Kamal Hassan, Shashi Kapoor, Shatrughan Sinha, Dharmendra, Ashok Kumar, DilipKumar, Anupam Kher, Amrish Puri , Prem Chopra, Prem Nath, A K Hangal and his own father Raj Kapoor.
Amongst the heroines also, he has had the unique distinction of having been paired opposite almost all heroines belonging to varied age groups- Rekha, Raakhee, Hema Malini, Shabana Azmi, Zeenat Aman, Moushmi Chatterji, Yogita Bali, Padmini Kolhapure, Sridevi, Madhuri Dixit, Tabu, Farha, Reena Roy, Parveen Babi, Kim, Jaya Prada, Juhi Chawla, Urmila Matondkar, Ranjeeta, Varsha Usgaonkar, Radhika, Shoma Anand, Rati Agnihotri, Poonam Dhillon, Tina Munim, Amrita Singh, Meenakshi Sheshadri, Dimple Kapadia and his wife Neetu Singh. Well the list is not only extremely imposing but quite unbeatable too.
He never had qualms in accepting subjects which offered as much or more scope to the heroine. In fact, in his very first film, Bobby, directed by his own father he had no issues to let the film be named after the character of newcomer Dimple Kapadia. Nagina with Sridevi, Prem Rog with Padmini Kolhapure, Damini with Meenakshi Sheshadri, Tawaif with Rati Agnihotri, Ek Chadar Maili Si with Hema Malini, Karz with Simi Grewal, Doosra Aadmi with Raakhee and Neetu Singh, etc., are examples of films where the actresses had a more powerful role and yet if one looks at these films one realizes that only Rishi Kapoor could have done the hero’s role.
Perhaps it is this experience of working with all the stalwarts and newcomers over the years which contributed remarkably to honing his acting skills and now his ability to mould himself into any character has ensured remarkable success even as a senior artist.
The fact that that filmmakers are coming up with distinctive roles for him in their films and going out of the way to convince him to explore characters he would have otherwise never visualized playing, speaks volumes about his talent. His forthcoming releases include- a Karan Johar production Kapoor And Sons where he will share screen space with Siddharth Malhotra, Alia Bhatt and Fawad Khan, A Bhushan Kumar production Sanam Re where he plays an eighty-year old man and teams up with youngsters Pulkit Sharma, Yami Gautam, and Urvashi Rautela.In Sanjay Chhel’s Patel Ki Punjabi Shaadi he plays father to Vir Das and will share screen space with Paresh Rawal and Prem Chopra.
His career is an example to the current lot of middle-aged superstars that one doesn’t necessarily have to be the hero to hog the limelight. In fact, he attributes his success to the perfect timing of his wise decision which made his transition from a hero to a character artist smooth and easy. Instead of sticking around as a hero and romancing heroines half his age, he took the plunge and now his repertoire boasts of a wide spectrum of character roles.
A unique combination of Prithviraj Kapoor’s screen-presence, Raj Kapoor’s passion, Shammi Kapoor’s liveliness and sense of music, Shashi Kapoor’s handsome looks and of course his own charisma and talent, he is a rare amalgam of the combined forces of the Kapoor family. He deserves every bit of his success in his second innings…