Remembering Rishi Kapoor

I have still not deleted  his number  from my phone.  How  can I? It seems  like just the  other day when  I heard Rishi Kapoor had  a relapse from a young actor who said, “Chintu Uncle is in  denial.”

  “Are  you okay?” I  messaged him. “Yes, thank you,” was the terse reply. Then and there  I knew something was wrong.  This was  not the  Rishi Kapoor I  knew.  He  would have  given me a mouthful  on  listening to  rubbish and  spreading rumours, etc etc.

 Within no  time he  was  gone. Now  a  year later I am trying to remember  the  first time  I spoke to him. It  was on the eve of  the release  of his  first  and  only directorial venture Aa Ab Laut Chalen. There were  no  mobile phones back then, and  I  had  to speak to him at  a music  recording studio during breaks in his  recording sessions.The  rendezvous had been set up by my dear friend Simi Garewal.Simi and  Rishi Kapoor were really close.  She was, after all, his first heroine. He  was  all of 14.She was  20  something.

Rishi was  the Great Grumbler . He always had something  to crib about. Back then  it was his father’s lack of  interest  in his career. Or  so Rishi  thought.  “My father  never made   a film to launch me. Bobby was Dimple’s film,not mine.”

He  forever felt he was  shortchanged. That  he  never  got his dues. When  a  well-connected star-son got a National award for a performance that we all  agreed,he  didn’t  deserve, Rishi called and vented his  anger, accusing  the star’s mother of pulling strings, etc.

Five minutes later Neetuji called.  “Don’t listen to him. He is drunk.”

I didn’t.Invariably he  would  speak more than  he  should . Invariably he  would get  into trouble.The best thing to happen  to  Rishi Kapoor was  Neetu Singh. She  understood his moods  but  never  indulged him.She  dealt with his tantrums sternly. He couldn’t move  a limb without  her.

In an interview with  me Neetuji had  revealed,  “He can’t do without me for even a minute. When I go for my weekly movies with friends he calls me constantly. That’s why I don’t act in movies any longer. He never stopped me. But even if I were away shooting he wouldn’t be able to take it. He can’t be in the house without me. Since Rishi and I grew up together and sort of merged into marriage I don’t mind his dependence on me.”

She  also  made a penetrating comment  on the  uniqueness of her husband’s persona. “It’s impossible to imitate my husband. Johnny Lever once told Rishi that he’s the only actor he can’t ape because he is such a natural. I have done 11 films with him. I should know.”

Here’s to the  actor who spent  a majority of his youth in fancy sweaters. There will never be  another  like you.

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