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SOUL-STIRRING SESSION WITH RISHI KAPOOR -- Rishi Kapoor: “I Have Lived With The Trauma Of Seeing My Father Have Affairs Outside!”

Stardust logo Stardust 20-05-2018 A Stardust Reporter
Rishi Kapoor posing for the camera © Provided by Magna Publishing

Words Sarita Tanwar

Here is what interests me about Rishi Kapoor. He wants to be famous. He wants people to talk about him. He wants people to notice him. He wants people to ask him for photographs and he wants people to invade his privacy. He is one man who really seems to be enjoying the flavour of fame. Of stardom. Of being a Kapoor. Look how merrily he floats in his Kapoordom; look how brightly he wallows in his Kapoorness. You can't imagine him whining or complaining about any of it; you can't imagine him wanting to be treated as a normal person. That's the glory of being a Kapoor. That's why you never see him behaving like other stars do. He has no pretensions. He does not make excuses for being arrogant. You don't see him whining and complaining about it, you will never see him wanting to be treated as if he were a normal person; or trying to convince you that he isn't any different from the other guy. Because he knows he is different. He knows he's a star. 

And he has all the trimmings of being a star. He luxuriates in his moodiness, in his crankiness, and his grumpy disposition. And I can say with conviction that it isn't a cultivated act. He is a natural. So when he declared to me, "I am difficult. Very very difficult", it was no news to me. Almost three years of knowing the man I had the chance to do an interview with him. Although I devoured every article written about the man, somehow all his interviews ended up sounding the same. He never lets any journalist come close to him. They were always kept at a distance and Chintu only made them believe what he wanted them to. "I have been in the industry for twenty-one years. How different can I get? There is nothing that I haven't spoken about before," was his feeble justification. But there was a lot more to the man. A lot that was to be dissected, understood, explained. Where was the real Rishi Kapoor? The man who could feel, who could cry, who was insecure and who could experience pain? Was he prepared to go on a voyage to discover himself? "Call me at home tomorrow. I shall think about it," he replied.

In answer to my call the next morning, I was invited to his tastefully done-up Pali Hill sprawling residence. "People only wanted to know about Rishi Kapoor, the star. That's how the poor Rishi Kapoor, the person got side-lined. It's time I brought him back to life. I owe him that much." That's when I realized that the time had come. For the unbuckled hero to lay open his heart. To evaluate his soul. To respect his identity. Later that afternoon, I left 56, Pali Hill a much happier person. Happy, more for him than for me. Because I knew that in just a few hours, Rishi Kapoor had emerged a more enlightened person. His search for self-analysis had paid off. He knew himself better than ever before. And that was his triumph.

Sitting comfortably  in his glass enclosed out-house with an enchanting view of green lawns in front with an array of wooden furniture and strategically placed mud pots, we discussed what made him so private. And so famous. "Famous I knew I was going to be some day. It's in my blood. You have to revel in your fame to enjoy it to the full. I remember when Dad was making Mera Naam Joker, he needed a young boy to play the central role in the first chapter of the film. He asked my mother if she would allow me to do it. I waited all day long hoping that she would say yes. She saw me being so impatient.  Later in the day, she came towards me and said, 'It's okay. As long as it doesn't interfere with your studies.' I was like so thrilled. I ran to one of the studio rooms with my school-bag in my hands. Took out a notebook and started practicing my autograph there itself. Today, when I look back, I laugh at the incident. But come to think of it, my action said so much. Even when I was that young, I knew that signing autographs was the first step to being famous. And in my childlike innocence, I said, here comes stardom. You know, Shashi uncle still tells me that every time my mom used to spank me, I would run and stand in front of the mirror to see how I looked when I cried. Like I said, that was in the Kapoor blood. So guess my reaction was just normal.

"To be a Kapoor. I'm not indulging in self-glory but I honestly feel that it is a great honour to be born in our celebrated family. You cannot deny that. Being born in a family that has served people for generations. In any medium of entertainment right from theatre to films, I think we've been the pioneers. Frankly, I didn't know the importance of being a Kapoor till I grew up. It was then that I realized that I could never behave in a manner that others adopted without thinking twice. One always had to think how it would reflect on someone from the Kapoor clan. People wanted us to be discreet. Have a little more grace, a little more sophistication, I may not be very well educated but I certainly do think I'm cultured. As a Kapoor we were answerable socially. People expected us to behave very well. Sometimes, you do feel suffocated trying to live up to people's expectations of you. But then, that's the price you have to pay. Being a part of the third generation of the family had its pros and cons. The good thing was that I had a secure background. I didn't have to do bad films to survive. I was financially sound. The bad thing was that people actually believed that I was successful only because I was a Kapoor. That was frustrating at times. It is not necessary that anyone who is a Kapoor has to be an actor and a successful actor at that. Today, if I have survived in this industry, it's not because I'm a Kapoor. I have slogged to reach this position. I've fought for my achievements.    

"People often ask me what institute have I been to. And I always tell them that I've graduated from the University of the Kapoors. I've learnt everything in this school. It is here that I learnt to overcome failure, hurt, pain. My experiences have taught me a lot. Why only this, I have even lived with the trauma of seeing my father have affairs outside. It traumatised me a great deal. Throughout that period, I have seen my mother suffer. I've even seen that part of life. And if today, I've emerged a stronger person emotionally, it's only because of the patience that my family imbibed in me. I'm a matured person because I have grown up evaluating the things that took place when I was a child. Maybe that is why I keep away from relationships outside marriage. I don't want my children to go through what I went through. I'm sincere to my work and to my family because I've experienced a lot from the lifestyles of my grandfather, my father, my uncles, my brothers. I've deliberately stayed away from things that could possibly affect my family life. The only thing that I haven't been able to stay away from is alcohol. I don't know how that has happened. Maybe because my father too was a big drinker, I guess.

"You know I've learnt a lot from dad, I've developed my fighting spirit only from him. After the debacle of Mera Naam Joker, he had the guts to take two bloody raw newcomers to make Bobby. That required guts. That is what makes a great filmmaker. At that time, he could have taken Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore, the hottest pair in those days and make the film. It would have been easier for him. Both of them were literally eating out of his hands. They were dying to work with him but no, he took two bloody nincompoops and made a hit film out of it, at a time when any other man would never have dared to take such a risk. He always did what he wanted to do. Raj Kapoor would offer a film to anyone at any time but he always made films like he wanted to make them. At one time, Mr. Rajesh Khanna went around telling people that papa wanted to take him in Satyam Shivam Sundaram. He even distributed press-releases to the effect that I was responsible for him not doing the film. That I had told dad, not to take him in 'Satyam'. Do you think Raj Kapoor was a kind of person who would listen to anyone? It is a bloody myth created by Khanna. The truth is that he was fielding day and night for the role and when Shashi uncle got the role, his ego was hurt. So he spread these rumours saying that I was responsible. Even Anil Kapoor went around saying that Dad wanted to make Paramveer, with him. I asked mom about it and she said it wasn't true at all. If there was any truth to it, she would know. The thing is that people just love to drop Raj Kapoor's name for effect.

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(Video provided by The Time of India)

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"Like I said earlier, Dad was a fighter. How many people know that after Joker flopped, we were on the roads? Everything that belonged to us was mortgaged. And in that state of mind, he made Bobby. Only Raj Kapoor could have done it. He was the genuine showman. It is that quality to fight to the bitter end that I have picked up from him. Like Subhash Ghai says, 'Rishi Kapoor is the only solider in the industry'. That's because I've always struggled throughout my career. People say that Dharmendra and Mithun have struggled. I say that their struggle is nothing compared to mine. They had to struggle to become actors but once they became actors, they never looked back. But with me, every time a film of mine became a hit, a new star came along. And when my kind of romantic films were being made, the action era came along.

"People say that I was born with a golden spoon in my mouth. I say that is rubbish. The golden spoon does not work in this industry. It does not buy you time. You can be a Kapoor till your first film. After that, you are on your own. Take my case. After Bobby, what happened? I failed. I flopped. I faltered, Zeharela Insaan, Zinda Dil, all those films came and went. After that I did not get work because I was a Kapoor. I was on my own. Where was the golden spoon then?

"Then there was a low phase in my life again. Once again there came a time when I didn't have any films. Earlier too I used to have two-three films a year. But that was out of choice. Then came a time when I didn't have even a film or two and that was not put of choice. Then too I fought. I remember the Saagar days. I had only Saagar and Naseeb Apna Apna at that time. I didn't have any other film. No offer. No films. Then Saagar didn't do too well and the other film did. That's why I say, I've survived purely on my goodwill. The blessings of my well-wishers, my makers, my heroines and my music directors. It is the joint combination of all these factors that has borne fruit and that is responsible for me being where I am today.

"The credit for reaching the shore safely after the ebb in my career goes to Neetu too. She has been my source of inspiration and my strength in my days of despair. Dabboo says Neetu deserves a Nobel prize for putting up with me for so many years. I agree with him. I'm not the easiest person to live with. I'm very short tempered. I get angry very fast. I hate it if things are not done the way I want them to be. I fight a lot. I have a lot of whims and fancies. That's why I say that Neetu has been very understanding and patient. Had it not been for her, maybe I wouldn't have been here today. Even physically, although even today I'm slightly on the obese side, I would've  been in a worse state had it not been for Neetu. I mean I am not looking to become a Sunjay Dutt, to have a body like him. Or to have Salman Khan's jaw-bone but I would have really let myself go had it not been for my wife. And she knows me for what I am.

"Neetu knows that I don't have a roving eye. She has an edge over other star-wives because she is from the industry and therefore she knows the score. And if there have been rumours, Neetu has taken them with a pinch of salt. Actually it is not her reaction that bothers me. It is my children's reaction that I am more worried about. Rumours and affairs have rarely been pinned on me and when they have been, we've laughed them off. I think affairs don't shock people any more. Everyone does everything openly as it is. Gone are the days when one needed to have affairs or to have link-ups to give him the Casanova image. In our field, a lot of good-looking men and women are working together in close proximity. So affairs, marriages, relationships are bound to happen. The situation, I'm sure exists in every line of work. I'm sure it happens in offices too. But it does happen a lot in the industry. I won't say it is an occupational hazard, I would say it is a welcome hazard. See, it can happen to anyone. It depends on the chemistry between two people and then it is up to them how they understand and compromise. I am not of the train of thought that one needs to have a lot of affairs to say in news. I mean, if it happens it should happen as a genuine case of love.

"Anyway I can't see it happening to me because the cells responsible have been dead for many years now. So the question never arose of 'what if Neetu finds out?' or 'will she accept me back?' Like I said, Neetu knows I don't have a roving eye. Period. I admire beauty like everyone else but it ends there. But for me to get attracted to a woman she has to be exceptional. I don't think beauty lies only skin-deep. It is the entire persona of a woman that matters. Only if I find the woman appealing then I'll probe for all the other things. Like compatibility and how we get together. But in the industry, well … Anyway, all my heroines call me a true and bound professional and that is what I am.  

"My only regret is that I haven't really been able to spend as much time with my children as I should be. I try my best but it's still not enough. Otherwise, I think I make a great dad. Whenever we get the time, we go out together; they have late nights with me. But they are not spoilt. Unfortunately, this year they won't get a holiday because I'm shooting for my home production. But they'll understand. I also know that they are much more close to my wife Neetu. But that is understandable. Even I was more close to my mother. I think that's because the big daddies are out working most of the time.   

"Work. That's my only obsession. Today, after being in the industry for so long, I'm still successful. Of course, I'm loving every bit of it. It gives me such a high even thinking that I don't have dates to spare till the end of of '95. What more can an actor who's been in the industry for over two decades ask for? I have always been recognized as a good actor. But I have never received an award for my talent. I often wonder why. But that has never bogged me down. I'm happy thinking that even after so many years, the audience still likes me. Actors are basically an insecure breed. They need to be convinced about the fact that people still want them. I would've probably thought that I was over the hill. I would have thought  that people would not want to see anymore of me. I'm very conscious of the fact that I'm working with new girls. I'm very conscious of the fact that I'm probably over staying my time in the film industry. But the fact that I'm still wanted rejuvenates me and fills me with confidence. It gives me that feeling that 'Yes, I can still do it'. 

"Even my dad was a thorough professional, and I'm proud that I and my brothers have had the chance to learn from him. From his experiences from his work, from the kind of films he made. We are all proud of the film that we made for his banner. Dabboo proved it to the world that we are the worthy sons of a worthy father. Today, the industry is proud that Raj Kapoor's sons are keeping the R.K. flag flying high. I expect the same from my son as well. You know, I'll be the happiest man if my son wants to become an actor because then it will be our fourth generation in this line. But I know that this line is a very dicey place. There is no guarantee for success. That's why I'm stressing on his education. At least, he should have something to back on. I don't want my son to keep struggling year after year. Those days are gone when if one film of yours flopped, you had ten other films to rely on. Now if a film of yours flops then all other films that you have are shelved immediately. These days we have instant stars. And that is one reason that I want them to complete their education. I want my children to have a very sound academic background because both Neetu and I didn't have it. I have told them one thing. They may enter whichever field they want to. Only they have to excel in whatever they do.

"My father was of the belief that put the child in the water. If he swims, well and good. If he doesn't then he will drift ashore by holding on to something. He always maintained that if you are not successful in whatever you're doing, find another form of livelihood. I knew from the beginning that whatever I would do, I was going to excel in it. Even if I had been a cobbler, I would have made a damn good shoe. And what has kept me going is the growing competition. It has kept me on my toes. Competition is healthy as long as it doesn't turn ugly. At one time, Dad, Shashi uncle and Shammi uncle were contemporaries. But they were never jealous of each other. They never manipulated to grab each other's roles.

"Even I have never believed in manipulating circumstances. I don't understand why people do it. Why don't they just accept things as they come? That's how I have managed to stay out of controversies for so long. They only recent controversy I was involved in was the misunderstanding with the other Kapoors. And even in that, I reacted only because it concerned my family. Anyway, that's a thing of the past. We've made up now. Actually, to tell you the truth, I never had a problem with Anil to begin with. My problem was with Boney. Basically, it was stupid things like 'you didn't come for my premiere and you didn't do this' that instigated the whole drama. It was very childish. We realized later that there were people who were fueling fire from both the sides. People would come and tell me something that they were supposed to have said about me. Then they would go to them and say that I had said something. And because we never bothered to clear out the mess, things became worse. It would've have mattered with anyone else but I was really close to these guys at one time. So it hurt when I heard the kind of things people came back and repeated to me. I am very kaan ka kachcha. I readily believed whatever they told me. But there is no animosity now with Boney that if we joined hands we could bugger the world. Can you imagine the combination of two such lethal Kapoor minds? We can devastate the world, believe me.

"A lot of people  say that I'm arrogant. But tell me, what is arrogance? It is just a way of saying that you know your job well. Your confidence says that you are a cut above the rest. Anyone who is arrogant has to be talented and successful. I may not be extremely successful but I know that I am a cut above everyone else. And that is why I am arrogant. Arrogance is a virtue in today's times. But I don't use my arrogance to displease anybody. I don't hurt anyone with it. This is me. This is Rishi Kapoor. It is not a put-on stand. I've been like this ever since the beginning. Yeh mere tevar hain. I'm a true Virgo by nature. I am very meticulous. I need everything to be proper. I get very finicky if things are not like what I want them to be, or to my requirements; which adds on to my characteristic which show in my relationships with people. I'm very short-tempered. I'm like a live-wire. Impatient. I can go into moods of depression without any reason. I want things to happen fast. I'm very impulsive. I can get into a rage immediately and become cool the next minute. But I'm not a bad guy. I'm a very emotional and sensitive. But I think that any actor, who is a actor is so. 

"I always feel that somewhere deep inside, the pathan in me still lives. If I know that someone is genuinely trying to harm my career, my children or my wife then I'll get back to the person immediately. I won't leave him. I'm a bloody Kapoor that way. But I can't have an aim in life to be vindictive to anyone. I'm a very social person. And I expect people to be nice to me because I'm nice to them. I don't meddle around with anyone unnecessarily. I could get a little nasty when I'm drinking but not otherwise. That is why I go out very rarely. Although my attitude is that whatever I do, I do in my own house. But criticism is welcome from near and dear ones. Otherwise you can't grow. You can't correct yourself if you don't know that you're wrong. But I know I've changed a lot over the years. I've watered down my feelings. I've changed with times. I have adapted myself to the workings of the new world. That's the secret of Rishi Kapoor."


2018; and Rishi Kapoor is still going strong even after 48 'long and sometimes gruelling years' in the industry. But yes, he is the man who has weathered several storms – in fact, supposedly during his time, each time a new hero was launched, there would be the mandatory headlines tom-tomming 'Move over Rishi Kapoor, xyz is here!' Furthermore, he belonged to the much celebrated first family of the industry – the Kapoors - from Raj Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor to the charming Shashi Kapoor.  …And though, Rishi Kapoor was and still is a fine actor, his illustrious lineage however tended to overshadow his amazing acting feats. But still this Kapoor hung in there. And though at one time, he was called the original chocolate boy, today, he has honed his skills and moved to newer unknown territories from doing challenging character roles to even dabbling in an anti-hero character Rauf Lala in Agneepath.

Today, this self-confessed "grumpy" actor is also heralded as the Twitter king who keeps courting controversies galore simply because he refuses to mince his words or pull back his punches.  Careerwise too, Rishi Kapoor is indeed going great guns - the trailer launch of his latest film promos 102 Not Out with the Big B of the industry, Amitabh Bachchan is garnering much rave reviews.  And as, Rishi or Chintu, as he is fondly called,  himself says that he believes that he is now in the best innings of his life. So get ready to see many more spectacular performances of the great Rishi Kapoor.

Words: Sumita Chakraborty

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