India mourns death of Bollywood actor Rishi Kapoor
Just when India was coming to terms with the passing away of multitalented actor Irrfan Khan’s demise, another shocker came in the form of news of Rishi Kapoor’s death within 24 hours! At 67 years of age, the Kapoor scion, who had been battling leukaemia for a long time, breathed his last at Sir H. M. Reliance Foundation Hospital on April 30, 2020. A career that spanned nearly four and a half decades, Rishi Kapoor had an early brush with acting, under his father, the legendary Raj Kapoor’s tutelage.
Starting his career at the young age of 21 years, Rishi Kapoor was launched in Bollywood by his father and acclaimed filmmaker Raj Kapoor. Although he was first recognized for playing a younger version of his father in ‘Mera Naam Joker’ in 1970, he had already appeared in a blink-and-miss role in a song in Raj Kapoor-Nargis starrer ‘Shree 420’ in 1955. Who knew then that the child actor, within a short span of time, would go on to become one of the most successful Kapoors in the film industry during his time. Raj Kapoor directed Rishi in ‘Bobby’, his debut acting role opposite Dimple Kapadia and made him an overnight sensation.
Fondly known by his pet name Chintu in the Bollywood circles, Rishi Kapoor made a mark for himself in the film industry in the late 70s, when it was already shining with Amitabh Bachchan’s presence on the big screen. With his fresh talent and a charm that radiated from his eyes, Rishi Kapoor captured a million hearts with his acting. During his initial years, he played a cross-dresser in ‘Rafoo Chakkar’ and entertained the audiences with his comic timing too. Then came ‘Laila Majnu’, where he played the role of Qais Al Amri, India’s answer to the star-crossed lover Romeo or Majnu. Post that, his presence in films at the box office only started to increase.
With a long list to mention, Rishi Kapoor’s body of work during the 80s and 90s boasts of multi-starrers and solo appearances, which only highlighted his acting skills further. ‘Kabhi Kabhi’, ‘Amar Akbar Anthony’, ‘Karz’, ‘Naseeb’, ‘Yeh Vaada Raha’, ‘Saagar’, ‘Nagina’, ‘Nighaen’, ‘Chandni’, ‘Ajooba’ and ‘Henna’ are some of the noteworthy films that had Rishi Kapoor wowing the audiences with his portrayals in the late 80s. With times changing, he was seen in varied roles in ‘Bol Radha Bol’ in a twin avatar, ‘Deewana’, ‘Damini’ and ‘Prem Rog’, where he played pivotal roles alongside noted actors. These were a break from his pairing with real-life wife Neetu Singh.
Rishi Kapoor even tried his hands at film direction with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan-Akshaye Khanna starrer ‘Aa Ab Laut Chalen’ in 1999, but it did not taste success, discouraging him from going behind the camera forever. He stuck to acting in movies and did not shy away from taking up roles that helped him break the stereotype. His role based on Dawood Ibrahim in ‘D-Day’ was highly appreciated, with people even calling his portrayal of the gangster as the best among others. Coincidentally, he shared the screen with Irrfan Khan in the film. ‘D-Day’ also ran into controversies, when the actor had stated that he had met Dawood Ibrahim once over tea, which helped him understand his character better.
With the emergence of changing trends in Bollywood in the 2000s, where movie making was not just restricted to romance and family values, Rishi Kapoor took up character roles in films, directed by newcomers. His role of the affable middle-class family man Santosh Duggal in ‘Do Dooni Chaar’ was highly liked; and the film went on to win the prestigious National Award. While most of his films during the 2010s did not fare well at the box office, a few films did change his course of acting in the following years.
Rishi Kapoor shifted to meaningful roles starting with ‘Mulk’, where he played a distraught Muslim man, out to reclaim his family’s lost honour due to the turn of events. In ‘Kapoor & Sons’, he played a dying grandfather, who wishes to bring his dysfunctional family together as his last wish. With ‘102 Not Out’ against Amitabh Bachchan, who played his father in the film, Rishi Kapoor played a grumpy yet lovable and relatable sexagenarian, who has lost his will to live life to the fullest. The heartwarming portrayals in each of these films proved Rishi Kapoor was a man for all seasons in Bollywood.
Rishi Kapoor was battling leukemia since 2018 and had moved to USA for treatment. He beat the deadly blood cancer and returned home as a survivor, and took up new acting assignments. He was last seen in the mystery thriller ‘The Body’ in 2019 along side Emraan Hashmi, which did not do well at the box office. On April 29, he experienced breathing difficulties and was admitted to the hospital in Mumbai, where he breathed his last on April 30, 2020, in the presence of his wife Neetu Kapoor.
Leaving behind his actor son Ranbir Kapoor and daughter Riddhima Kapoor and a rich legacy of films and a name that is synonymous with royalty in Bollywood, Rishi Kapoor shall always be remembered for his quirky nature in real life and talent, which to this day, gave newbies a run for their money!