Rishi Kapoor: The ‘underrated actor’ who reinvented himself


Wearing distinctively urban looks, he smiled his way to professional success beginning with blockbuster musical Bobby (1973) till his last big film Heena (1991) hit the screens. Having put on weight — being an uncompromising foodie that he is like a true Kapoor, Rishi was back in the reckoning with films like Do Dooni Chaar, 102 Not Out and Mulk that gave the actor in him the chance that he richly deserved. © IE Online Media Services Pvt Ltd And make no mistake, Rishi remained equally khullam khulla with his views off screen. And he proved that he had it in him. At his very core, Rishi Kapoor remained a romantic hero. Written by Vivek Deshpande
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Updated: May 1, 2020 1:02:21 pm

Rishi Kapoor passed away on April 30. He could have possibly displayed much more of his untapped potential, but cancer cut short his new innings abruptly. Subhash Ghai did cast him in his action thriller Karz (1980), but not without making him punctuate it liberally with dance and romance. That he came across to most as a “chocolate hero” with a charm that could instantly floor any girl is an injustice. In a sense, his looks had blocked his forays into good performance-oriented films. What makes Rishi’s tryst with romance more appealing is the fact that it panned out wide in an era where romance was replaced by action. He went on to tilt the charm-scale highly in favour of the male like never before. It was Rishi, who had made the female charm play second fiddle in most of the films he did. (Express archive photo)
Rishi’s romance also sought to push the limits with songs like “Khullam khulla pyar karenge” from Khel Khel Mein (1975) which proved to be a chartbuster. It was just that he got trapped in there till his career ran out of steam. Nonetheless, Rishi Kapoor was truly reborn as an actor before he died. Of course, being a Kapoor, he had it in his blood, but he beat other Kapoors to it. Rarely was the ultimate charm of Sridevi eclipsed by her hero like Rishi did in Chandni. Despite that, however, the two never ceased to be a made-for-each-other pair. He rather proved to be an antithesis of that image in many roles that he essayed in films like Prem Rog (1982), Sargam (1979) and Ek Chadar Maili Si (1986). While few have looked at Rishi Kapoor as an actor of innate talent that remained vastly untapped, there are no two opinions about him being one of the most popular stars ever. Haasan, who had acted alongside him in Saagar (1985), couldn’t have got it wrong after all. (Express archive photo)
Legendary actor Kamal Haasan had said in an interview many years ago that Rishi Kapoor was one of the most underrated stars despite being a fine actor, and he really couldn’t understand why it was so. He could be seen as the hero, who paved the way for an ebullient post-liberalisation generation of actors that more or less resembled him in their energetic style of acting. But unfortunately, his career coincided with an era that was marked by mediocrity. As Rishi had himself recalled, his success lay in the fact that it was achieved in an era so completely dominated by action-packed Amitabh Bachchan. A bundle of youthful energy, Rishi Kapoor symbolised a new smart and starry-eyed generation of Indians, whose body language exuded confidence coupled with style in an era that had witnessed a transition in Bollywood from romance to action. 📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. He had actually turned the tide of the sixties and seventies, when romance unmistakably ruled storylines of Hindi films but with female beauties playing the charmer and the hero singing paeans to them. Heroes, including Rajesh Khanna, could rarely dance as good as Rishi did. Chandni epitomised that like never before. True that he had a rich family legacy and a godfather like legendary Raj Kapoor, but attributing his success solely to it would not only be unjust but uncharitable too for Rishi. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
For all the latest Entertainment News, download Indian Express App. In that he stood quite in sharp contrast to his legendary father Raj Kapoor, who often played a poor man to everyone’s delight. But as soon as Hindi films witnessed a new wave, Rishi was back as an elder. Hum Kisise Kum Naheen (1975) was the crowning glory of his excellence in dancing. His pairing with an equally boisterous Neetu Singh uninhibitedly exhibiting love in the open was later to blossom into a companionship that brought curtains down on the career of a fine actress in the typically conservative family tradition of the Kapoors. That Rishi titled his autobiography as “Khullam Khulla” was an ode, among other things, to his flamboyant love story with Neetu. What also made Rishi Kapoor special was his dancing skills. Also Read | Rishi Kapoor passes away | Rishi Kapoor: The singing-dancing-romancing hero we all loved to love | Celebrities mourn the demise of Rishi Kapoor | 102 Not Out director Umesh Shukla on Rishi Kapoor: He truly was magic | ‘Rishi Kapoor wanted to fly a chopper, but Nasir Hussain didn’t let him’: Air Force officer remembers | Everything Rishi Kapoor said about his cancer treatment | The best films of Rishi Kapoor’s second innings | Alia Bhatt pays tribute to Rishi Kapoor | Shah Rukh Khan fondly remembers his first co-star Rishi Kapoor | 15 movies of Rishi Kapoor you can watch online | 10 best songs of Rishi Kapoor | Everything you should know about Rishi Kapoor | From the archives – Rishi Kapoor: I got the best break in Bobby, but it all went downhill from there
Unsurprising that he had himself, of late, said he had finally got the real chance to put his acting skills to test. He had all the trappings of a very expressive actor, who could change facial expressions in a flash, much like Raj Kapoor. With Bobby (1973), Rishi proved that the honours of charm lay equally on both sides. But Khanna’s charm lasted only for about four years while Rishi’s innings lasted for about two decades. On the day when Kapoor bid adieu to the world, there can’t be a better tribute to the actor than recalling Haasan’s observation. There was one man who started it all before Rishi did – superstar Rajesh Khanna. Watch him closely even in the most mundane of roles. And how well he proved it. Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh in Rafoo Chakkar.