Still going strong

Still going strong

Now a ‘fat actor’, as he termed himself in a recent interview, Rishi’s come into the spotlight twice this year — for his superb performances in Luck By Chance and Chintuji. 

Excerpts from an interview with Rishi Kapoor:

Let’s start with your special strength — music. Music directors across generations have spoken about how you have inspired them.
I am very humbled. Father Nature and Mother Time have helped me last through three generations of music directors. My greatest compliment came from Mohammed Rafi-saab who after watching Amar Akbar Anthony said, “Beta, meri awaaz tumhare liye acchi tarah jachti hai” (My voice suits you very well). Rafi-saab had sung for my grandfather, father and all my uncles. Shailendra Singh, Suresh Wadkar, Mohammed Aziz, Udit Narayan and of course Kishore Kumar all sang great songs for me, and I enjoyed enacting them. I had a bit of a problem lip-synching Kumar Sanu because of his unusual voice and andaz but he too gave me hits. In fact, I always enjoyed singing and dancing and I must say that these composers and the singers contributed a lot to my career. Pancham-da, for example, thought of me as his youth icon! Nadeem would always say that he visualised only Rajesh Khanna or me while composing a romantic song for any film.

You were always slotted in a lover-boy image. Wasn’t that restrictive to your growth as an actor?
I would say that I was very lucky — my first film, Raj Kapoor’s Bobby was a huge hit. You don’t plan careers over here. I just did my work with sincerity and conviction. In your journey, you have to meet the right associates so that you can develop your status. I do not think that anyone else has lasted for 25 years as a successful romantic hero — the journey goes from Bobby in 1973 to Karobbaar. Every time a new actor made a mark, he was called the new heartthrob and it was predicted that Rishi Kapoor was over. But over the years, I proved that my only competition was myself.

When you came in, did upholding the formidable Kapoor legacy intimidate you?
As I said, I just worked with commitment. I also do not agree that I am an untrained actor — I learnt in the biggest film institute there can ever be in India — RK Films and Raj Kapoor! Those were hard times. The script was never complete, in my case one of the rare scripts readied before we shot was that of Prem Rog. In nearly all cases, the scenes was written either one day before or on the sets. We had to work extempore and I think we all did a damn good job. I was always a spontaneous actor, living the moment.

Would you have fared even better in today’s organised and disciplined milleu?
I don’t think so — we had solid content — discipline and everything else will only help. Content is missing today, both in films and film music.

When did you decide to quit lead roles? ‘Karobaar’ came in 2000, and so did ‘Raju Chacha’, your first as a character actor.

Frankly, I was bored singing songs and making money. I did not want to make a fool of myself. I returned the signing amount of so many films. But I did not want to take on any crap as a character actor, so I waited. Karobaar was delayed, otherwise there was a break of a couple of years at least.

Can we talk about a sore issue, ‘Chintuji’?
Why do you call it a sore issue? I enjoyed doing the film, it shaped out very well and got great reviews. The producers ruined the film’s release and there was no marketing. Over here, gambles are placed on favourite horses and not quality and most corporate honchos do not realise that content decides how each film should be marketed. They should follow UTV’s example, for it produces all the niche films under their Spotboy banner and promotes them differently.

You are also doing ‘Do Dooni Chaar’. That’s a different film too.
Yes, but I am reasonably sure that producers Planman International will market it in the right way. It’s a wonderful message film told in a humorous way by a very talented new director, Habib Faisal. Neetu and I are in the lead, and the film has no younger lead pair.

Raj Kapoor and Rishi Kapoor. Rishi Kapoor and Ranbir Kapoor. What are the similarities and differences in the equations?
My father launched me, but I did not launch my son — that’s the major difference!
My father just gave me a start, after that I was completely on my own. Naturally, there are going to be differences in the kind of films we like to do, and Ranbir and I keep work away from personal relationships. One has got to learn to walk on his own, after a point you cannot give your son a finger. We Kapoors also do not give or take advices! Ranbir has just started out and I have heard that Wake Up Sid is doing very well.