Khullam Khulla. There could not have been a more apt title for actor Rishi Kapoor’s autobiography than these words from the hit song from his 1975 film Khel Khel Mein. The actor, 64, famous for his candour and wit on Twitter, comes across as a straight arrow that he is known to be as he walks the reader through his life, warts and all.
In his memoir — a first from the Kapoor family — Rishi Kapoor writes at length about growing up in a house full of celebrities and the privileges and pressures that came with being the son and grandson of cinematic legends such as Raj Kapoor and Prithviraj Kapoor.
The Kapoor children grew up knowing well just how big a deal their family was and Kapoor is honest about how success went to his head when he got a National Award for playing junior Raju in Mera Naam Joker (1970) and especially after the stupendous success of Bobby (1973). He admits to buying a popular magazine award for Bobby, and then feeling guilty for a long time, thinking this was the reason for the initial coldness between him and actor Amitabh Bachchan who probably felt that he deserved the award for Zanjeer. “It was a mistake, and I’m owning it up in the book. But that doesn’t mean after that I bought all my awards,” he says in an Facebook live interview with HT. “I was so naive then… a 20-year-old brash bacha.”
Bollywood actor Rishi Kapoor along with his wife Neetu Singh and son Ranbir Kapoor during Sansui Colors Stardust Awards 2016 in Mumbai.
But being a Kapoor, he says, does not mean everything came easy and living up to the family legacy was a struggle in itself. “I may have not slept on pavements or gone hungry and had a huge hit in Bobby, but then on what? I was in the choppy sea all my life. I was battling the huge hurricane of action movies and competing with stars such as Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Shatrugan Sinha, and so on. I was a romantic hero in an action-films era.”
He also writes about the nervous breakdown he suffered after Karz (1980), which clashed with Feroz Khan-Zeenat Aman starrer Qurbaani at the box-office, and did not do as well as he had expected. “There was a time when I could not face people. I just lost confidence in myself. I could not work for a month and this was when I was overloaded with work and working with the biggest of directors,” he says. “These kind of things happen when you are overconfident about anything in life, and suddenly that doesn’t work in your favour.”
In the book, Rishi Kapoor shares what a hard taskmaster his father, Raj Kapoor, was on the sets. He is also open about his father’s love affairs with his co-stars Nargis and Vyjayanthimala. The actor says, as a child, he was scared of his father when he would come home drunk at night and pick fights with his mother, and that he eventually came to accept him for the “creative and eccentric person” he was. His relationship with his own son, actor Ranbir Kapoor, is also a traditional, formal one and the actor admits that he missed out on precious childhood years because he was working.
Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal honouring veteran actors Rishi Kapoor and Randhir Kapoor during the inauguration of the first phase of the historic Gobindgarh fort in Amritsar in December 2016.
“My time was very limited but I never failed in taking them on vacations and spending Sundays with them. But then I would have hated to be on hey buddy-back-slapping terms with my father and I don’t expect my son to do the same. I believe ek izzat ki deewar honi chahiye,” he says.
“I’m not the kind who’d like to share secrets with him about his girlfriends. I wouldn’t like that or ever do that. I am a different kind of father. I love my son to death but I cannot go overboard. Maybe I am wrong — that is debatable — but that is how I was brought up.”
He has been just as candid and opinionated about his friendships, fights and rivalries with contemporaries such as Jeetendra, Rakesh Roshan, Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna, Salim-Javed and Sanjay Khan (who once threw a glass at him at a party). “But isn’t that supposed to be the way when you write an autobiography? You’re supposed to be truthful,” he says, when asked if he was worried about how the book might be received. “I’ve no malice against anyone.”
Actor Rishi Kapoor during the 23rd Annual Star Screen Awards 2016 in Mumbai. (PTI)
The actor admitted that while being outspoken got him into controversies on Twitter, he has never hurt anybody intentionally. “If I do, I always apologise. I know diplomacy is not one of the great virtues of mine. I choose to be very outspoken and often I land myself into trouble.”
A heartthrob of the 80s, Rishi Kapoor is among the few actors of his time who successfully reinvented themselves. In his second innings as a character actor, he has played diverse characters from a middle-class maths school teacher in Do Dooni Chaar (2010) to the evil pimp Rauf Laila in Agneepath (2012) and the naughty 90-year-old grandfather in Kapoor & Sons (2016). This is his 45th year in Bollywood and Rishi Kapoor says he still has a long way to go. “I don’t think I’ve even touched the pinnacle. I’ve got to still work very hard and do a lot of movies.”