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The end of the sister act

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BHARATHI S. PRADHAN Bharathi S. Pradhan Is Managing Editor, Movie Mag International   |   Published 22.11.09, 12:00 AM

The passing away of Simple Kapadia would normally have been an inconsequential piece of news about a starlet of the early 1980s who never did make it as an actress of repute.

But it was not so simple, in her case. She also had very strong filmland connections and those celebrity ties made the prayer meeting, held in a hall in Juhu four days after she had passed on, an event that caused a traffic jam. At the prayer meeting itself, the turnout was like a rewind to the scandals and stories of the 1970s and 1980s.

While Bobby was being filmed in the 1970s, like most new teams, Dimple and Rishi were dating each other when the superstar of the day, Rajesh Khanna, made a dramatic midnight proposal to her. He’d taken the 15-year-old starstruck Dimple for a walk by the Juhu sea and had flung Rishi Kapoor’s ring (yes, she wore his ring on her finger) into the moonlit waters. The wedding happened so quickly that Anju Mahendru, who was living with the 30-plus Rajesh Khanna, didn’t know what hit her. At Dimple’s wedding, her mother Bitti Kapadia wept that her daughter was marrying a man who was closer to her mom’s age than to her own.

Bobby was Dimple’s one and only film as she chucked up her career for a marriage that was rocky from the word ‘go’. Perhaps the only silver lining in it was that Dimple and Rajesh had two lovely daughters — Twinkle and Rinke. Dimple walked out on her marriage and threatened to return to films so many times that her younger sister Simple was perhaps the only steady factor in the toddlers, Twinkle’s and Rinke’s lives.

Rishi Kapoor re-entered the scene when Dimple made a comeback to films, preceded by drama à la Rajesh Khanna. Ramesh Sippy had decided to make a film called Sagar with the Bobby pair as its USP. Rishi Kapoor had gone to Rajesh Khanna’s house to seek his permission before doing Sagar with his wife. A tipsy Rajesh had lectured Rishi on how he was responsible for breaking up a home, before showing him the gate.

Rajesh’s rants bore no fruit and Sagar brought Dimple back to the studios. Soon, she also signed a film called Arjun and thereafter Rajesh Khanna was truly history as co-star Sunny Deol made a permanent place in her life. So close did Sunny get to Dimple that Twinkle and Rinke began to call him chhote papa. Sunny took on the role of de facto husband to Dimple so completely that Simple became his costume designer, making Dimple and Simple a nightmare package that every Sunny producer had to endure and foot the bills for.

Simple, who didn’t make it as an actress, married a Sardarji, had one son by him and got out of the marriage in a jiffy. When Simple fell ill with cancer three years ago, Sunny battled the gods and kept her alive all this time, until the patient herself was in too much pain to go on. Financially, Simple got help from another quarter — a Gujarati businessman (married, of course, like her sister’s beau) who gave her a hefty allowance every month right until she passed away.

At Simple’s prayer meeting, Sunny Deol threw his customary caution to the winds and stood rocklike at the head of Dimple’s family line, along with Akshay, Twinkle, Rinke, Simple’s son Bitti and Dimple, to accept condolences.

Strangely, Rajesh Khanna was nowhere around. At one time Rajesh had got along so fine with saali Simple that he had cajoled Shakti Samanta to launch her opposite him in Anurodh. The film had wonderful music by R.D. Burman but flopped with an aseptic, chemistry-less romance between the lead pair. Rajesh had been too aware that the audience would see Simple as his sister-in-law and therefore had avoided any kind of physical intimacy with her on screen. It had resulted in a drab film with far too many inhibitions and compromises.

Dimple hasn’t had much luck with her siblings. Her youngest sister, Reem, died of an overdose of drugs early in life. Her only brother who was also an addict cleaned up his act and now works for drug rehabilitation. Sister Simple was the one full of joy and spirit.

With her passing away, several chapters of the past flitted across the hall. Rishi Kapoor came to condole with wife Neetu by his side. Neetu and Dimple have long ago bridged the many differences they had. Also spotted at the condolence meet was Ranjeet, the villain with whom Simple had such an intimate relationship that it had annoyed Rajesh Khanna and had led to a cold war between the two men during the shooting of Shomu Mukherji’s Chhaila Babu.

It is believed that Akshay Kumar and Twinkle have taken Simple Kapadia’s teenage son under their wing. It is Twinkle who is supervising her cousin’s studies and taking care of him after his mother’s fight with cancer ended last week.

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