One for his fans

One for his fans

One for his fans
Khullam Khulla: Rishi Kapoor Uncensored
Rishi Kapoor
Harper Collins
2017, pp 280
Rs. 599

Khullam Khulla: Rishi Kapoor Uncensored is a breezy read that lives up to the promise in its title. The actor talks about his life and times in the film industry in an unrestrained manner.

A considerable portion of the book deals with Rishi Kapoor’s perception of his father, Raj Kapoor, and the respect he has for the man and his work. It provides vignettes into the ways of the earlier generation of movie stars and where they lived in Mumbai before Juhu became the prized address of Bollywood.

From there, the book moves through the actor’s growing up years, his own career and personal relations; his early loves, friends, family and of course, the tiffs and disagreements. It is written in a simple language, moves fast, and should be an engaging read for a Rishi Kapoor fan, or somebody who loves Hindi films.

To my eyes, this is less a book on the film industry or the craft of moviemaking and more a book for fans because the authors — the actor and Meena Iyer — recollect and comment within the restricted context of Rishi Kapoor’s life in the film industry. For the book, the industry already exists as it should and the idiom of its films is accepted as given.

One may think that an opportunity to trace the industry’s evolution from the days of Prithviraj Kapoor may be a chance to also tell readers why we had or have movies made the way they are. But no, the book makes no foray in that direction. Instead, it speaks like a camera seeing the life around it, life and times seen through Rishi Kapoor’s eyes. Perhaps the best way to explain the working of the book would be — the Indian film industry is just over one hundred years old; three generations of the Kapoor family starting with Prithviraj Kapoor, the first from the family to become an actor, have been associated with Hindi films for almost 90 years.

So, even if you keep the scope of the book restricted to Rishi Kapoor’s birth in the Kapoor clan, his growing up years with a ringside view of the likes of Prithviraj Kapoor, Raj Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor and Sashi Kapoor, not to mention the many actors and directors whose paths intersected with that of the Kapoors, you still have a book that makes for pleasant reading, even if it is cast largely as an observation and not inquiry. 

While the book is a breezy read, I felt let down on two fronts. First, the unquestioning acceptance of Indian films as they are. There is no departure from the main text to illustrate the backdrop to each era we pass through, with history or research. Industry names find mention but not the industry’s state in evolution or any changes happening to the style and content of movies.

On the other hand, acceptance of things as they are and lack of questioning may go down well with those who are implicitly fans of the Indian movie predicament. Which is why I conclude the book should be a fan’s delight for it says much about Rishi Kapoor, film stars, their natures, and their personal equations.

Second, the recollections are such that they spill over on to each other too often, making the division of the book into chapters a rather blurred exercise. It reads more like a memoir, almost a lengthy conversation transcribed. The man hasn’t held back on the memories tumbling out — there is the time when he bought an award; there is the time when he met an underworld don who would eventually become one of India’s most wanted.

If you are a Rishi Kapoor fan, you need this book on your shelf. While I hadn’t thought of him so, Kapoor makes a strong case for himself. Besides the fact that he was born into the Kapoor family, as an actor, he occupies a unique niche. Unlike many contemporaries who thrived on action films, he was a romantic hero, who interestingly remained marketable for quite a long time.

In his movies, he has been partnered with a long list of heroines and as he aged, he moved to character acting. Indeed one could say that at present, he is in an exciting new phase of his career. The sum total of such existence is a fine pen to wield for autobiography, and the authors have delivered a breezy read.

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