Home / Entertainment / Bollywood / A tribute to Rishi Kapoor: The romantic hero who could pull off any role

A tribute to Rishi Kapoor: The romantic hero who could pull off any role

We doff our hats to the evergreen man at the movies, with some of his films we watch and rewatch

Priyanka Roy   |   Published 30.04.20, 05:12 PM

A twinkle in the eye. A smile on his lips. Ever ready with a quip. A man full of life. The romantic hero who could pull off any role. The Telegraph doffs its hat to Rishi Kapoor, the evergreen man at the movies, with some of his films we watch and rewatch. Rest in peace, our childhood hero. Kya umar thi, kya sama tha, kya zamaana tha...

Mera Naam Joker (1970)


Imagine winning a National Award on debut, that too when you are still in your teens? Rishi Kapoor, slightly podgy but with the wide-eyed enthusiasm of a young man knowing that the movies are made for him and he was made for the movies, brought a certain sweet innocence to the part of young Raju, the older version of which was played by dad Raj Kapoor. It was a heavy lineage to take forward but the young man was a natural. “My father was casting Mera Naam Joker. We were having dinner at the dining table one day and suddenly my dad asked my mom (Krishna) if he could cast me as the young joker. I was very excited but I kept a straight face. My mother agreed provided it didn’t disturb my studies. I ate my food quickly, excused myself, went to my room… and the first thing I did was take out a foolscap sheet and start practising my autograph,” the man had shared while on a visit to Calcutta a few years ago.

But Mera Naam Joker wasn’t Rishi’s first appearance on screen. As a three-year-old, he was the boy in the rain as Raj Kapoor romanced Nargis in Pyaar hua ikraar hua in the 1955 film Shree 420. “It was Nargisji who lured me with a Cadbury chocolate and said I could have it if I gave the shot properly,” the actor had chuckled in the same chat.

Bobby (1973)

Hum tum ek kamre mein bandh ho... aur chaabi kho jaaye, sang the 21-year-old in this teenybopper love story that introduced Rishi — and his leading lady Dimple Kapadia — to the world. Cute looks. Check. Coy smile. Check. Boyish charm. Check. Rishi became an overnight sensation in this film directed by dad Raj, with every young woman wanting to be locked up in a room with him... and lose the keys, of course. And when he sang Main shaayar toh nahin, magar ae haseen, jab se dekha maine tujhko mujhko shaayari aa gayi, you knew that a new romantic hero was born. “Bobby made me an overnight sensation and at 21, I was flying. I turned into an absolute brat… badtameez jisko bolte hain,” he had once said, in the way only Rishi Kapoor could.

Rafoo Chakkar (1975)

One of the earliest, if not the first, film to star Rishi Kapoor with his future wife Neetu Singh — they did more than a dozen films together, almost all of them hugely successful, making them one of the best-loved pairs in Hindi cinema — Rafoo Chakkar was inspired by the Hollywood film Some Like It Hot. It took forward Rishi’s romantic hero charm (though he was in drag in many parts of the film) and also gave us a peek into his comedic chops. Rishi — bell-bottoms to oversized glasses — became a fashion icon for an entire generation.

Khel Khel Mein (1975)

A fun film that worked equally well as a taut thriller, this was yet another outing that made girls swoon over Rishi, even as his chemistry with Neetu lit up the screen. Khel Khel Mein, mostly powered by Rishi, ensured a good time in cinemas. And all thanks to R.D. Burman’s foot-tapping numbers — Ek main aur ek tu to Khullam khulla pyaar karenge — we were introduced to the effortless dancer in him.

Kabhi Kabhie (1976)

Rishi Kapoor had once admitted that he had never wanted to do Kabhi Kabhie, the iconic Yash Chopra multi-starrer that pitted him against the likes of Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor and Rakhee and paired him opposite Neetu Singh. Chopra apparently had to chase him for months for the part of Vicky, with Rishi — in a bid to throw off the filmmaker — saying he wanted to play Neetu’s part, all in jest of course! Chopra stood his ground and Rishi made it to Kabhi Kabhie, excelling both in the romantic scenes and the dramatic moments. “Now I realise what a fool I would have been to not have Kabhi Kabhie on my resume,” he had confessed a few years ago.

Hum Kisise Kum Naheen (1977)

The Nasir Hussain-directed film illustrated that Rishi, then in his mid-20s, could sell a film on the strength of his name and presence. Hum Kisise Kum Naheen — with Rishi bringing charisma and charm to R.D. Burman’s iconic Bachna ae haseeno — was a massive hit at the box office, further establishing him as among the brightest in his generation. With his best yet to come.

Amar Akbar Anthony (1977)

The one that catapulted him into the big league and marked the beginning of his hugely successful collaboration with Amitabh Bachchan over many, many films, Amar Akbar Anthony was a vintage Manmohan Desai larger-than-life caper that had Rishi bringing so much fun and fabulousness to his irrepressible Akbar Illhabadi. From the comic scenes to the dramatic moments to the typically Rishi Kapoor flourishes in Taiyyab Ali pyaar ke dushman and Parda hai parda, this was as good as it got. Many years later, in his memoir aptly titled Khullam Khulla, Rishi had revealed that when Manmohan Desai had called him for the part, he had initially thought it was that of emperor Akbar... courtesy a faulty phone connection!

Sargam (1979)

Such was the ease with which he slipped into his roles — accompanied almost always by that twinkly charm — that when Rishi’s Raju picked up the dafli, with Jaya Prada’s Hema egging him on with Dafliwaale dafli bajaa, you felt like he had played it all his life. The 1979 film marked a departure for Rishi from the easy-going, urban young man he had mostly played in his earlier films and gave us an actor who astonished us with the depth and intensity of his performance.

Karz (1980)

Meri umar ke naujawaano, dil na lagaana o deewano sang Monty... and contrary to what he said, we were in love... with him. Subhash Ghai’s reincarnation thriller had the man sing, dance and romance with abandon. He was the energetic rockstar on stage, performing to Om shanti om but also brought in heft and heart to Dard-e-dil. Karz showcased Rishi’s versatility as a performer more than just the ideal lover boy. Yes, Monty forever.

Yeh Vaada Raha (1982)

Rishi’s performances were almost always enhanced by the music in his films (most of which were scored by R.D. Burman, in the ’70s and ’80s) and Yeh Vaada Raha, a bonafide Bollywood romance that saw him in his element, was no different. On a bad day all you needed was to tune in and watch Rishi, cheerful smile and charming disposition, go Tu tu hai wohi even as he effortlessly romanced his heroines — Poonam Dhillon and then Tina Munim, with a change of face — in this feel-good love story.

Prem Rog (1982)

While romance came easily to him and so did song and dance, the man also excelled when it came to heavy-duty drama that teased the tear ducts. That was aptly illustrated in Prem Rog, a socially relevant film directed by dad Raj that focused on widow remarriage. Many moods and moments featuring Rishi are memorable, especially the pain and pathos on his face in Mere kismat mein tu nahin shaayad.

Coolie (1983)

This Manmohan Desai film may have been frontlined by Amitabh Bachchan and is today best known for Bachchan’s near-fatal accident on its sets, but Coolie benefited massively from Rishi Kapoor’s flamboyant act, with the star arresting attention even when he was in one corner of the frame. The fun Lambuji Tinguji, featuring him and Bachchan, still makes us break into a smile.

Saagar (1985)

Saagar jaisi aankhon waali, yeh toh bataa tera naam hai kya? Guitar in hand, a beguiling smile on his lips and charm that no one else could pull off. It was Dimple Kapadia’s Mona that Rishi’s Ravi was wooing, but for scores of swooning women, it felt that he was singing paeans in their praise. The Ramesh Sippy film — that brought Dimple back from a hiatus and paired her opposite her first hero — had Rishi at his romantic best, but he also showed how well he could shoulder a film even when it was not really about him. Once again it was R.D. Burman’s melodies — Saagar kinare to Jaane do na — that aided Rishi in cementing his position as an evergreen romantic hero.

Ek Chadar Maili Si (1986)

All those who doubted whether Rishi Kapoor could stretch himself as an actor beyond the tried-and-tested were silenced by this relatively small film that co-starred Hema Malini and had a rural setting. Rishi effortlessly slipped into the role of a man with various shades... some black, some white, all grey.

Chandni (1989)

Chandni was made for and by Sridevi, but can one ever think of this Yash Chopra-directed romance without Rishi Kapoor? Whether it was the carefree charm of the young lover going Chandni meri Chandni on the Swiss greens in those colourful jersey sweaters (that became his trademark all through the ’90s) or the frustrated paraplegic on a wheelchair pushing his girlfriend away so that she could have a life better than his, Rishi showed, in every frame he inhabited, what a consummate actor he was. And when he sang Tere mere hothon pe meethe meethe geet mitwa, we believed, innately and passionately, in love.

Deewana (1992)

Rishi’s career, through a large part of the early ’90s, saw his heroines getting younger (it was the teenaged Divya Bharti in this film, that marked the debut of Shah Rukh Khan), but there was something in him — even when he was a few pounds heavier and the wrinkles had well and truly started coming on — that made him still land romantic parts easily. Deewana was a film we could watch and rewatch, and though he had a relatively shorter screen time, he lifted the film in the way only he could, from going Payaliyaa ho ho to that emotionally wrought climax that tore one’s heart apart.

Bol Radha Bol (1992)

This David Dhawan entertainer had Rishi Kapoor in a rare double role, both of which he pulled off with elan. He was equally convincing as the do-gooder Kishen in love with Juhi Chawla’s gaon ki gori as he was as the canny Tony. And a sweater-clad and white trousers-sporting Rishi going Bol Radha bol, that familiar smile on his face, is such a ’90s Bolly image.

Damini (1993)

This Rajkumar Santoshi film was never about him. It was frontlined by Meenakshi Seshadri and had Sunny Deol screaming Taareekh pe taareekh, but can anyone ever forget that one scene — simply that one scene — in the courtroom where Shekhar, played by Rishi, looks his wife Damini (Meenakshi) in the eye and tells her how proud he is to be her husband. Goosebumps.

Pyaar Mein Twist (2005)

“Even when I stopped being a hero, the actor in me was always there,” he had once said. It was this relatively small film that heralded the beginning of the next phase of Rishi Kapoor’s career. Rishi, now greying but still retaining the twinkle in his eye and his robust attitude towards life, came back for this charming love story that paired him opposite Dimple Kapadia. The film may have faltered in parts, but Rishi — who lit up every frame he was in — was a delight.

Luck By Chance (2009)

One of our favourite characters in the Rishi Kapoor 2.0 list, or for that matter, in any list. Rishi was a riot as the rambunctious film producer Rommy Rolly in Zoya Akhtar’s directorial debut that took more than a peek into the juicy goings-on in the world of films and filmstars. This was a part that enabled him to exploit his comedic capabilities to the hilt and you could see how much fun he was having while playing the part. When things got heavy — as they did in many parts of the film — it was Rommy Rolly who came to the rescue, equipped with a quirk or a quip... and often with both.

Love Aaj Kal (2009)

Seeing Rishi Kapoor bring emotion and empathy to a man in the December of his life as he narrated his love story made us believe that one couldn’t really keep him away from the camera. He was absolute magic in front of it, “100 per cent a child of cinema”, as Aamir Khan tweeted after his demise on Thursday morning. His part in Love Aaj Kal, though short, brought things alive in the Imtiaz Ali love story and just that chance to see him and Neetu share screen space again, towards the end, was worth its while.

Do Dooni Chaar (2010)

Bollywood’s now-successful formula of slice-of-life films powered by a middle-class protagonist’s dares and dreams, actually began with this charming 2010 film directed by Habib Faisal. Do Dooni Chaar, that gave us a sublime Rishi Kapoor pulling off an Everyman act, wife Neetu for company, and revolving around a Delhi family’s highs and lows around buying a car, never fails to put a smile on our faces, even now. A large chunk of the credit for that goes to Rishi’s Santosh Duggal, a man who could turn on the garrulous charm as easily as he could make you dissolve into a puddle of tears.

Agneepath (2012)

Compared to the initial years, phase two of Rishi Kapoor’s career was marked by his increasing comfort with venturing into hitherto unexplored zones. A shining example of that is his repulsively evil turn as the kohl-sporting Rauf Lala in the 2012 reworking of the Amitabh Bachchan classic. Sanjay Dutt may have played the part of Kancha Cheena and Hrithik Roshan its author-backed protagonist, but it was Rishi Kapoor who was the film’s big revelation. A tawdry mobster dealing in drugs and sex trafficking, Rishi surprised everyone with the amount of menace he brought to the role, making it not only filthy but very, very convincing. “Agneepath was special because I couldn’t think of myself in that role of such a ruthless guy! I rejected it because I was sure that if the film flopped, I would be blamed! But Karan Johar and Karan Malhotra (the film’s producer and director, respectively) convinced me to give it a try. I gave the look test, I just put on kajal and when I looked at myself in the mirror, I felt I could do it,” Kapoor said a few years ago.

Student of the Year (2012)

Trust an actor with calibre as immense as his to pull off two diversely different roles in the same calendar year. After the wily Rauf Lala, Rishi took an about-turn to slip into the shoes of the lovable and over-the-top college dean in Karan Johar’s Student of the Year. Channelling Mr Weatherbee of the Archie comics, Rishi was a delight in the role (his earnestness made us love him even when he semi-caricaturised homosexuality), but also brought tremendous emotional depth to the film’s later scenes when he’s on his deathbed. And when he picked up the dafli in Radha, it was the ’80s again.

D-Day (2013)

He had a blast — and it showed — playing the stylish underworld gangster, simply known as Goldman, in this Nikhil Advani thriller that also starred Irrfan Khan. Menacing persona, red shades, thick moustache and a fire in his eyes... few could have brought what Rishi did to his part of a man loosely modelled on Dawood Ibrahim. And when he said, “Trigger kheench ... mamla mat kheench ... khinch gaya na toh bahut takleef doonga”, you could literally feel the goosebumps.

Kapoor & Sons (2016)

He was a delight as the lascivious 90-year-old Daadu getting an eyeful of Mandakini under the waterfall in Ram Teri Ganga Maili on his “i-Papad” in this 2016 film about a dysfunctional family that’s ever ready to fall apart at the seams but is somehow held together by its patriarch in the hope of a final family photograph. Rishi Kapoor was barely recognisable underneath the layers of prosthetics, but the eyes twinkled all right and the sharp-edged humour, coupled with some killer lines, made the film come alive. Daadu brought on most of the laughs — that smoking-up scene is a classic — but we really can’t forget our eyes welling up towards the end when he calls up his grandsons and implores them to bury their differences and come back home.

102 Not Out (2018)

There is not a sliver of doubt that 102 Not Out wasn’t a very well-made film. But what makes this film worth a watch is the absolutely incredible chemistry between Rishi Kapoor’s depressed septuagenarian and his 102-year-old father, played by Amitabh Bachchan. Most film buffs, across generations, queued up for a ticket of 102 Not Out just to relive that old magic, and the two veterans — with Rishi stealing the show in some scenes — delivering that in spades.

Mulk (2018)

“Gale lagake sawal poochhega, kaleja nikaalke haath mein rakh doonga ... ungli uthaake poochhega na, toh yaad rakhiyega meri jawabdari aap se nahi hai ... apni imaan se hai, apne mulk se hai”. Few could have delivered these lines with an equal amount of smoulder and suffering as Murad Ali Mohammad, played by Rishi Kapoor, did in this Anubhav Sinha film that took Islamophobia head on. A brave film with a courageous central act from Kapoor, Mulk had the man showing us just how much more was waiting to be discovered in him as an actor.

My favourite Rishi Kapoor film is... Tell

Copyright © 2020 The Telegraph. All rights reserved.