Rishi Kapoor is timeless. Sometimes he is the dreaded gangster Goldman in D-Day, a romantic tattooed biker in Chashme Baddoor and sometimes a gay dean in Student of the Year. Kapoor transforms himself with each new role.
“I am here to sell my wares and sell it to the best of my ability,” he says enthusiastically. “I get paid for what I do and so I had better do it well.” Even wife Neetu Kapoor, who shared screen space with him in Habib Faisal’s Do Dooni Chaar after 30 years, praises his acting skills.
As his film Bobby enters its 40th year this September, Kapoor knows he has come a long way from where he started. “Bobby wasn’t a launch pad for me. Dimple got married even before the movie released. So I got all the credit,” he says with honesty.
Seated in his office at RK Studios, Chembur, Kapoor tells us that he isn’t finished yet. He lists out his assignments for the year. This year, he has two more releases -- Shudh Desi Romance, where he plays a Marwari businessman and Besharam, where he plays a cop and is teamed with his son, Ranbir for the first time.
In the pipeline are Sudhir Mishra’s Mehrunnisa which reunites him with Amitabh Bachchan after almost 25 years, then Subhash Ghai’s Kaanchi where he plays a villain, Sanjay Chhel’s next, Nupur Asthana’s next with Sonam Kapoor and also Umesh Shukla’s next with Abhishek Bachchan.
But Kapoor is most excited about a Tamil film offer that he has just received. “As an actor like me who doesn’t speak the language, I am taking little time to decide,” he says. For this movie, Kapoor will say his lines the way news anchors do, and then test himself to see whether he is caught cheating onscreen.
“It is difficult, but I really want to do it,” he states. On his wishlist, is also a Punjabi film which he wants to do to keep his family legacy alive. “Whenever I travel abroad, my fans tell me that my grandfather and father did Punjabi films. So even I should.”
Kapoor’s transformation, however, can be credited to a close friend and colleague of his, Rakesh Roshan. It was during the late ‘90s, that Kapoor decided to take a career leap towards character-oriented roles. In the interim, he directed one film, Aa Ab Laut Chalein. When he was done with it, Veeru Devgun and Rahul Rawail offered him a father’s role in Raju Chacha and Kuch Khatti Kuch Meethi respectively.
Kapoor decided to do it. However, it did not drive Kapoor to work each day. “One day I decided I am going to do only those roles that challenge me as an actor,” he states. It was during this time that Roshan called Kapoor for a cameo appearance in Koi Mil Gaya. “Rakesh wanted me to play Hrithik’s father in the film. It was just a day long shoot. But I refused. I told Rakesh that this wouldn’t do any good to my career. Rakesh laughed and said, “This age isn’t meant to make a career.” Kapoor knew Roshan was stating a fact, but it pinched him. “That day I decided I am going to prove him wrong and show the world that I still have it in me.”
Kapoor started taking up roles, each different from the other. Abhinav Kashyap, who is working with him in Besharam, says, “Rishiji is hell-bent on experimenting with his roles. It is his attitude towards his work that is reflecting in his movies.” Kapoor’s career-defining roles came with Do Dooni Chaar where he played a middleclass school teacher and Karan Malhotra’s Agneepath, where he terrorised the audience as Rauf Lala. Malhotra says, “Rishi Kapoor was always a great actor, and today he has become better.
When I approached him for Rauf Lala I was certain that only he could pull it off.” Kapoor’s biggest strength is his honesty and spontaneity as an actor. “I love to be true to my roles. But I am not a method actor. I come from the era when dialogues were written on set and we had to constantly improvise,” he explains.
But Kapoor takes his audience seriosuly even today. “They have made me what I am today. With each of my film, I try and break the mould. I try to do roles that the audience will not expect me to do. I want to surprise them,” he says. Like wine, Kapoor is only getting better with age.
Bobby wasn’t a launch pad for me. Dimple got married even before the movie released. So I got all the credit.
-- Rishi Kapoor