- The actor belonged to a film dynasty well-known for living life king-size
- He loved food and life, like the other Kapoors
- He worked in over 140 films in his career spanning five decades
Rishi Kapoor belonged to a film dynasty well-known for living life king-size; perhaps no Kapoor lived more king-size than Rishi, who was claimed by cancer on Thursday at the age of 67 and, per a family statement, remained his "jovial" self and kept doctors entertained till the very end. Rishi Kapoor loved food and life, like the other Kapoors; he liked a joke and he made absolutely no secret of liking his drink. Remember him with a smile and not with tears, urged the actor's family in the statement. In this obituary of the beloved star of films such as Chandni, Karz and Amar Akbar Anthony, we will attempt to do just that.
Rishi Kapoor was born on September 4, 1952 in Mumbai, the second of three brothers and two sisters born into Bollywood's First Family. His father was Raj Kapoor, his grandfather theatre pioneer Prithiviraj Kapoor. Shammi and Shashi Kapoor were his uncles. Acting was hardwired into his DNA and, given the gene pool, there was little doubt that Rishi Kapoor would follow his father into the family business. So did his two brothers, Randhir and Rajiv, but Chintu, as Rishi Kapoor was nicknamed, was the only brother to hit stardom. Rishi Kapoor eventually made over 140 films in his 50-year career.
He started very young; Rishi Kapoor's first roles were in his father's films. At all of three, he made an appearance in the iconic song Pyar Hua Ikraar Hua from Raj Kapoor's 1955 film Shree 420. Some years later, he played the younger version of his father's Raju the clown character in 1970's Mera Naam Joker, winning the National Award for Best Child Artist.
Three years later, Rishi Kapoor made his debut as a leading man in Raj Kapoor's Bobby, in which he featured alongside Dimple Kapadia. The teen romance emerged as one of the decade's biggest hits and the young Rishi became a favourite choice for loverboy roles. He was cast as the slightly feckless but ultimately charming hero in films such as Rafoo Chakkar and Khel Khel Mein, also earning a reputation as something of style icon. Those sweater will live on in Bollywood consciousness forever.
Through the Seventies and Eighties, Rishi Kapoor charmed his way into hearts as one of the top romantic leads - no small feat given that his competition in the 70s was Rajesh Khanna and in the 80s, Amitabh Bachchan. Big B was to become Rishi Kapoor's most frequent collaborator - they made iconic films such as Amar Akbar Anthony, Naseeb and Kabhi Kabhie.
Another frequent co-star was actress Neetu Singh, Rishi Kapoor's heroine of several films and eventual wife. Their first meeting was "horrible," according to Neetu Kapoor, but they later grew fond of each other and after dating for three years, they got married in 1980. Their son Ranbir Kapoor is also a renowned actor; daughter Riddhima Kapoor is a jewellery designer.
Rishi Kapoor also worked more than once with actors such as Sridevi, Dimple Kapadia, Anil Kapoor, Juhi Chawla and Madhuri Dixit.
Rishi Kapoor's choice of roles spanned romance, comedy, dramas and thrillers. As a result, he worked in films as diverse as Laila Majnu, Karz, Prem Rog, Saagar, Nagina, Honeymoon, Chandni, Heena, Bol Radha Bol, and Yeh Vaada Raha, all of which did well at the box office.
Like several peers, among them Amitabh Bachchan and Anil Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor aged like fine wine. He graduated from playing the romantic lead to darker, more dramatic fare. He was up for playing the older hero of the double romantic track in Love Aaj Kal; he was also up for playing the villainous Rauf Lala in the 2012 remake of Agneepath. Rishi Kapoor played the 90-plus grandfather in Kapoor And Sons with as much aplomb as he did a Muslim patriarch fighting prejudice and a legal battle after his nephew becomes a terrorist.
Among his later films was 2010's Do Dooni Chaar, which reunited Rishi Kapoor and wife Neetu onscreen, and 102 Not Out in 2018, in which he and Amitabh Bachchan played an odd-couple father and son.
Rishi Kapoor, known for his outspoken nature, also published his autobiography Khullam Khulla in 2017. In his memoir, Rishi touched upon several issues, including his relationship with Amitabh Bachchan.
Rishi Kapoor was diagnosed with cancer in 2018. He returned to Mumbai in September 2019 after almost a year of cancer treatment in New York. He was taken to hospital twice in February this year - first in New Delhi and then in Mumbai. The actor was last seen in 2019 films The Body and Jhootha Kahin Ka and he was going to star in a Bollywood adaptation of The Intern alongside Deepika Padukone.
For as long as we watch films, we will remember Rishi Kapoor.