Since then, they have shared screen space several times. Bachchan had played Rishi’s stepfather-in-law in Kabhi Kabhie (1976). They were brothers in Amar Akbar Anthony (1977) and Naseeb (1981), friends in Coolie and secular friends in Ajooba. Their upcoming 102 Not Out sees them play father and son for the first time. What’s even more special is that they reunite on the big screen after 27 long years.
In his autobiography released last year, Rishi had spoken candidly about the “unspoken undercurrent of tension between Amitabh Bachchan and me.” He shared that while they never sat down to sort it out, it was only after they did Amar Akbar Anthony that they got friendly with each other.
He also shared, “I must confess there 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 the 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. Directors and writers unfailingly reserved their strongest, pivotal roles for Amitabh Bachchan. And it wasn’t just me. Shashi Kapoor, Shatrughan Sinha, Dharmendra, Vinod Khanna faced it too.”
Both were made for stardom, though it came differently. Rishi, son of the famed Raj Kapoor, had an expectedly easy entry into films. He had featured as a child actor in his father’s films Shree 420 (1955) and Mera Naam Joker (1970). In fact, when his father spoke to his mother about casting him as the young hero in Mera Naam Joker, it was at the dinner table. Rishi had digested the news in silence and then slipped off to his room, sat at his study table and started practicing his autograph!
With no connections in the film industry and simply a burning desire to act, a debut was much tougher for Amitabh Bachchan. Rishi remembers seeing him, “a lanky, handsome man auditioning for Khwaja Ahmad Abbas’s Saat Hindustani at the time… He was sitting on the floor and giving a written test.” Unsure and insecure of how things would pan out for him in the film industry, Amitabh had actually carried his driver’s license along to the city of dreams in case things didn’t work out for him so he could drive a taxi to fill his stomach…
Rishi, at 65, is 10 years younger than Bachchan and is an unabashed admirer of his older contemporary. He finds it a pleasure to work with Amitabh, observing how he flirts with his character and gets into its skin in barely a day. “He works his way into his character. That is his craft,” Rishi marvels. His best learning experience from Bachchan was watching him shoot for the song ‘Chal mere Bhai’… “It required us to look drunk and Amit ji aced it with such perfection that he actually looked as if he is drunk,” he shares.
Bachchan is full of praise for Rishi’s art as well. “He’s an accomplished artiste… Working with him is always a joy,” he says. He is particularly impressed by Rishi’s capacity to lip sync while matching the expressions on his face. Bachchan shares that he has noticed the same temperament in his son Ranbir Kapoor, of whom he is a great fan.
Incidentally, the two are also related by marriage – Amitabh’s daughter Shweta Bachchan Nanda is married to Rishi’s sister Ritu Nanda’s son, Nikhil Nanda. No wonder Bachchan points out, “It’s not like a lost-and-found story. It isn’t as if we just met after 27 years!”
The duo still retains their youthful goofiness. Recently Bachchan informed Kapoor about Bollywood’s pout club while urging him to pucker up for a selfie. Then Bachchan shared their pic on Twitter, asking Karan Johar if they were doing it right! Karan greenlighted their effort writing, “Haha Amit Uncle. Chintuji and you are pouting on point! #legendpout.”
What else do you expect from #LegendMen!