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Monday, December 11, 2023

Rishi Kapoor: Unforgettable & Versatile Performances of Our Chintu Ji

Rishi Kapoor was a celebrated Indian actor, director and producer.

After being diagnosed with cancer in 2018 and undergoing treatment for a year, he passed away at a Mumbai-based hospital, aged 67, after being admitted due to breathing issues.

According to the family statement, he passed away after two-year battle with Leukaemia.

The son of legendary filmmaker/actor Raj Kapoor, Rishi ji (lovingly known as ‘Chintu’) was working in front of the camera since a tender age.

Aged 3, his first-ever role in a movie was for Raj Kapoor’s Shree 420, wherein the song “Pyaar Hua, Iqraar Hua”, he is walking through the rain with 2 other small children.

During the initial and prime stages, he played several ‘chocolate boy’ roles, exuding a charming and endearing personality on-screen.

At a more mature phase of his career, we saw him undertake multi-shaded characters.

To one of the most charismatic actors of Hindi cinema, Filme Shilmy pays a heartfelt tribute to some of his finest and memorable performances.

Mera Naam Joker (1970)

His debut as a young actor, though brief, but very impactful.

An adolescent called Raju (Rishi Kapoor) and deals with his infatuation with his teacher, Mary (Simi Garewal).

Mary, who is older than him, gives him confidence in himself and in the process, he discovers the world of femininity and desire. He attends her wedding in a state of false cheerfulness.

Mary’s lessons nevertheless aren’t lost as Raju comes to realise that he was born to make the world laugh, despite his own troubles. Hence, a ‘Joker’ is born.

For this innocent and mature depiction, Kapoor won the National Film Award for ‘Best Child Artist’.

Bobby (1973)

Making his debut as an adult actor and winning the Filmfare Award for ‘Best Actor’, Bobby cemented his position as a romantic hero.

A lovey-dovey tale of an affluent teenager (Kapoor) who falls in love with the daughter of a poor Goan Christian fisherman (Dimple Kapadia).

He plays a young, hot-blooded lover who rebels against his family. The character is symbolic of chivalry amidst a clan of narcissistic rich people.

Such characters truly set the precedent for male love interests in Bollywood.

Rafoo Chakkar (1975)

Inspired by Some Like It Hot, this revolves around two unemployed musicians (Rishi ji and Paintal) witness a murder and are spotted by the villains.

Attempting to save themselves, they disguise as girls and board a train to Kashmir which is packed with other girls in a singing band (these characters played by Neetu Singh, Bindoo and Asrani).

Arguably, for the first time in Hindi cinema, we witnessed a mainstream hero crossdress during a significant screen-time, redefining of what one calls a ‘Bollywood hero’.

Rafoo Chakkar is among the first to play with ideas of same-sex love in Hindi films and is considered important for its light-hearted treatment of themes such as sex and gender.

Laila Majnu (1976)

Rishi ji goes back to basics and undertakes the archetypal character of a lover… And Laila Majnu was his first-periodic/historical character.

Based on the Arabic folklore of the same name, it’s a tale of two star-crossed lovers (Kapoor and Ranjeeta), curtailing their trials and tribulations.

A classic love story told in an artistic, poetic and earthy fashion. Prior to his previous works, this one is more rooted and poignant.

Seeing his rugged looks, obsession for his love completely shattered his ‘former’ chocolate boy image.

Karz (1980)

Subhash Ghai’s Karz is a special film. For the first time, we witnessed Rishi ji as ‘showman’ on-screen, rather than a stereotypical lover boy.

Whilst it retains the previous ‘cute’ aspects of his characters, this one is arguably maturer… How a young music sensation comes to terms with his previous life and thus, seeks vengeance.

Ravi (Raj Kiran) is killed by his evil wife Kamini (Simi Garewal) after his marriage.

He is reborn as Monty (Kapoor) and is now a singer he goes on holiday in Ooty where he recollects his memories from the previous life and enquires about his (then) family.

Do Dooni Chaar (2010)

Throughout his career, Rishi ji appeared in several roles with real-life partner Neetu Singh… Many of them have been quite larger-than-life.

However, Do Dooni Chaar is a comedy-drama which resonates strongly with the common man. As such, so are the characters.

Chintuji plays a middle-class school teacher who tries to keep his wife (Singh) and children happy in inflationary times and dreams of buying a car.

His character is representative of issues like underpaid teachers, and their issue with their self-worth in the face of growing inflation and demands of their family.

He even won the Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actor.

Patiala House (2011)

In the latter half of his career, there were several movies in which he played the father role.

However, Patiala House is when we see him as a full-fledged Sardar and despite being a supporting actor, his performance packs a punch.

Unlike his characters, this patriarch is stubborn, principled and to an extent, domineering.

Set at the backdrop of racism in the UK, this truly encapsulates a stereotypical Desi father and the pressures faced by children who ‘dare’ to dream.

As such, the movie exhibits how an aspiring and gifted cricketer (Akshay Kumar) wishes to play for the England team, but his dream clashes with his father’s ideals.

Agneepath (2012)

The FIRST time ever Rishi Kapoor forayed onto the dark side which gained him widespread acclaim and most deservedly. He gained the ‘Best Villain’ trophy at various award ceremonies.

This remake of the 1990 classic, we see Kapoor play Rauf Lala, a local girl-trafficker and importantly an enemy of Kancha Cheena (Sanjay Dutt).

At one point, he acts as the benefactor of protagonist Vijay Deenanath Chauhan (Hrithik Roshan), but then things soon turn hostile between them.

That kohl-eyed fierceness, deep voice and violent demeanour are difficult to forget.

Student Of The Year (2012)

Whilst we saw Rishi ji exhibit a different kind of masculinity in Rafoo Chakkar, in SOTY, he essays a full-fledged homosexual character.

Dean Yoginder Vashisht is camp and yearns for the attention of other ‘macho’ men – especially Coach Shah (Ronit Roy).

The actor captures various nuances and sassiness to make the character believable. His idiosyncratic antics enhance the movie’s entertainment appeal.

In 2012, Kapoor portrayed two characters which were completely different from each other, once again proving his calibre as a versatile actor.

D-Day (2013)

After delivering a chilling performance in Agneepath, Rishi ji once again plays a villainous role in D-Day. 

This time it was riskier as he plays a character inspired by Mumbai’s real-life Don, who is still at power…

The red-shades, moustache and a harsh demeanour, he really nails this dark character well to an extent, that his menacing presence is felt within the audience.

He even won the Screen Award for ‘Best Villain’.

Kapoor & Sons (2016)

When Chintu ji’s look was unveiled, we couldn’t even recognise him. His representation in Kapoor & Sons shatters the stereotypes of traditional grandfathers in Bollywood.

Despite his ailing demeanour, we see him being uncensored with his grandchildren, childlike antics, his stubbornness. It is so endearing to watch.

Plus, it’s a progressive and positive interpretation of how understanding and modern grandparents can be… Especially among dysfunctional families.

Most deservedly, he won the award for ‘Best Supporting Actor’ at various ceremonies. Truly, a memorable work, which will be cherished forever.

Overall, our Chintu ji always lit up the screen with his charisma, chocolate hero avatars and characters.

In his latter portion of the career, his fearless and determined choice of versatile roles.

He will be missed dearly. May his soul rest in peace. 

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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