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Rishi Kapoor: a childhood gone by Sharad Raj

To be honest I had never imagined that Hindi movies one day will be without Rishi Kapoor. Despite being aware that death is inevitable, somehow, I never saw Rishi Kapoor and death together. But it came to him like it must to all men, albeit a bit too soon. It is the loss of a childhood and teenage for those members of my generation who were brought up on Hindi films.

We, born in the sixties were too young to fathom the romance of “Bobby” or the childhood crush of “Mera naam Joker”. We realized their importance to our collective upbringing a bit later. But Karz was perfectly timed. Kapoor had already made his presence felt as a romantic hero in Manmohan Desai’s, “Amar Akbar Anthony”, as Akbar Allahabadi, the qawwal, romancing his real-life wife Neetu Singh, singing songs to her with his pink lips. In Yash Chopra’s “Kabhi Kabhie”, he was the youngest romantic hero in the film, mirroring the aspirations of youth by romancing two girls at the same time, Neetu Singh and Naseem. Once again, “tere chehre se nazar nahi uthti nazaare hum kya dekhein…” along with other songs picturized on him wooed the youth of the seventies. But it was “khullam khulla pyar karengey hum dono…” from Khel Khel Mein in 1975 that had introduced us to the unabashed bravado in love. No wonder he calls his autobiography “Khullam Khulla”. He was extremely candid in his views, known to speak his mind. And then in 1980, came Subhash Ghai’s reincarnation blockbuster, Karz. It turned out to be a signature film of both Rishi Kapoor and Subhash Ghai. He once again captured the hearts of the youth with, “meri umar ke naujawanon, dil na lagana oh deewano…”

Into our teens, Rishi had taught us to romance, to rebel, to go and get the girl fearlessly and to nurse a heartbreak. He was a walking tutorial of romance on screen. The boys loved to copy him in real life often with disastrous results, for they failed to realize the X factor that a Rishi had was the key. He was a dancing star and formed a formidable pair with R D Burman, Kishore Kumar and Neetu Singh. Rishi lost out on some share of his stardom for his rise coincided with that of Amitabh Bachchan. The angry young man overshadowed the romantic hero and Rishi often found himself cast in multi starrers as was the trend in the Bachchan era. He also had to make do as a solo lead in heroine-oriented films like Prem Rog, Chandini, Nagina and Damini. But in each of these despite playing the second fiddle to the heroine Rishi left his mark as an actor. Choti malkin of Prem Rog would not have been complete without the consummate support of the man from the lower strata which Rishi played in the film. Sridevi’s romance would have lacked the intensity but for Rishi Kapoor in “Chandini”. “Damini” was his most complex role, as a husband torn between the truth of his wife and tyranny of his family. He ruled the marquee with his talent. And then in his second innings he was menacing as the villain in films like “Agneepath”.

It has been a year without Rishi Kapoor, but I still think of him in the present, as if a new film with him is just round the corner. Rishi, with him took away some romance from our generation.

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