Brutal, frank and veracious – Rishi Kapoor is revered for characteristics as such. Disregarded as well, might we assert, by certain quarters. But does it even matter? Absolutely not because Rishi Kapoor will be Rishi Kapoor. His magnanimity on screen as well as off it is such that the senior actor is loved by not just his gentry, but the new generation of actors as well.
In a career spanning over four decades, Rishi – son of legendary filmmaker Raj Kapoor and his wife Krishna Kapoor - has delivered stellar performances since his debut Bobby and subsequently, in films including Kabhie Kabhie, Amar Akbar Anthony, Karz and Bol Radha Bol. Apart from films, the actor has also written his memoir with Meena Iyer, titled Khullam Khulla – in typical Rishi Kapoor style – effortlessly honest. Hence, it would be safe to claim that his book completely validates the title.
Soon after the book was released, it made headlines for the actor’s revelations surrounding his personal as well as professional life and as he turns 66 today, we’ve collated a few excerpts from his memoir that justify the fact that Rishi, with his biography, has been at his uncensored best. Or should we say, unadulterated!
Well, you can decide for yourself. But for now, take a look at this piece because his confessions are nothing short of a redefinition of candid.
The Vyjayanthimala -Nargis phase
Not that Rishi is unaware of his father’s reputation in the film industry and otherwise, but he didn’t think twice before revealing Raj Kapoor’s extramarital affairs with veteran actresses Nargis and Vyjayanthimala. While elaborating on this, Rishi also mentioned his mother’s plight, saying that he had moved into an apartment with her during this period.
"I was very young when my father had an affair with Nargis ji, and so was not affected by it. I don’t remember feeling anything was amiss at home either. But I do remember moving into the Natraj Hotel on Marine Drive with my mom during the time Papa was involved with Vyjayanthimala. My mother had decided to put her foot down this time. From the hotel, we shifted for two months into an apartment in Chitrakoot. My father had bought the apartment for Mom and us. He did all he could to woo her back, but my mother didn't give in until he had ended that chapter of his life."
Yes, of course, Rishi has been linked to several actresses in his era but the actor wrote in his biography that his first girlfriend was a Parsi girl, Yasmin Mehta, with whom he was in a pretty serious relationship before Bobby’s release in 1973. Soon after the film hit screens, an article in a magazine regarding his alleged romance with co-star Dimple Kapadia led to the termination of his relationship with Yasmin although Dimple was least affected by it.
“By the time Bobby was released in 1973, Stardust, which was the most popular magazine of its time, published a story about a budding romance between Dimple and me. Dimple, who by this time was already married to Rajesh Khanna, was not greatly affected by it. But it put an end to my relationship with Yasmin, I tried hard to get her back in my life, but she did not agree.”
RISHI AND Big B: Freinds or FOES
If Rishi didn’t mind speaking about his father’s personal life, why would he even attempt to conceal his unpleasant outlook in the past, of course, towards Amitabh Bachchan? He is of the opinion that meaty roles were written for Big B, even in films with an ensemble cast. Apart from this, Rishi is also of the opinion that Big B “has never given due credit” to his co-stars. Okay, then. This admission, certainly, requires some courage.
"To go back to Amitabh, I must confess, here is still a lingering issue I have with Amitabh Bachchan. A big disadvantage of working in an all-star movie in those days was that everybody only wanted to make action films, which automatically meant that the star who could carry off action with the most flair would get the meatiest part. That's how, with the exception of Kabhi Kabhie, which was a romantic film, none of the multi-starrers I featured in had an author-backed role for me. And it wasn't just me. Shashi Kapoor, Shatrughan Sinha, Dharmendra, Vinod Khanna faced it too."
This one might be difficult to believe. But please note, we aren’t saying this, Rishi is. Bobby and Big B’s film Zanjeer released in the same year and Rishi received the best actor award for his role in the film. But guess what? Rishi had actually “bought” the honour. No, seriously.
"I think that Amitabh was sulking because I had won the best actor award for Bobby. I am sure he felt the award was rightfully his for Zanjeer, which released the same year. I am ashamed to say it, but I actually 'bought' that award. I was so naïve. There was this PRO, Taraknath Gandhi, who said to me, 'Sir, tees hazaar de do, toh aap ko main award dila doonga.' I am not the manipulative sort but I admit that I gave him the money without thinking."
RISHI AND NEETU KI PREM KAHANI
After Bobby’s stupendous success, Rishi expected the same from his subsequent films but life is unfair, at times. In fact, most of the times. Most of his movies after Bobby tanked at the box office, escalating his state to that of depression. The wrath of it, unfortunately, had to be endured by his wife, actress Neetu Singh and it certainly wasn’t an easy task for her as Rishi, in fact, also held her responsible for his failure most of the times.
"Neetu was pregnant with Riddhima and had to endure my breakdown in that fragile condition. I finally came through it with the help of supportive colleagues, family and friends, but I can only imagine how agonizing the experience must have been for her.”
Kabhie Kabhie is memorable for Rishi because of odious reasons to be precise. Firstly, he intended to avoid starring in it because the film co-starred Big B and subsequently, almost rejected it because he observed a major complex from Neetu - he opined that her role in the film was better than his. Rishi, ultimately, ended up signing it after a strict reprimand from his uncle Shashi Kapoor.
"I've mentioned earlier that I was reluctant to do Kabhi Kabhie in the beginning because I had been warned against working with Amitabh Bachchan. The second reason was that I felt Neetu had a more prominent role than I did. That's why I had said to Yash Chopra, if you want me to do the film, give me Neetu's role. Naturally, Yash-ji was confused.”
Rishi: The fashion icon
Rishi made a major faux pas once, and for this excerpt, we needn’t elaborate. Instead, we’ll just let him do the talking.
"Today, I admit that my second film Zehreela Insaan was a mistake. After the bubbly Bobby, I should have stuck to something similar and not gone for a film so drastically different... The one enduring memory of the Zehreela Insaan shoot was the black trouser I had bought from Beirut. I was in the habit of shopping for my costumes and this tight-fitting beauty with flares caught my fancy. It was only later, when I wore it in the song '0 Hansini', that the dress man pointed out that its zip was to the side and not in front. I had made a fashion boo-boo, picking up a ladies' trouser.”
Like Rishi admitted, his relationship with Dimple Kapadia was dissected and bisected even beyond celluloid. But she was married to Rajesh Khanna while Rishi settled down with Neetu. It was after Dimple made a comeback with Saagar, co-starring Rishi, that Neetu confessed she wasn’t quite comfortable about her husband working with her.
"Many years into our marriage, Neetu confided in me that the only time she had felt threatened was when I worked with Dimple in Saagar. But she needn't have worried. Dimple was a friend, even if she may have been a little more than that during Bobby. Ten years had gone by; she was coming out of a marriage with two children of her own and I was also well settled with two kids."
Well, certainly enough, Rishi deserves a big round of applause for his absolutely honest proclamations and what could be better than doing so on his birthday?