Rishi and Neetu Kapoor were in New York when they received news of the National Award for Best Hindi Film going to 'Do Dooni Chaar' . It’s a film that marked their return as an on-screen couple after three decades. Now back in India, they spoke to Consulting Editor Anna M.M. Vetticad about belonging to the longest surviving film family in Bollywood, Rishi’s second innings in films, Neetu’s career plans and their son Ranbir.
This phase is rare for actors your age. How is it that things have been working out so well for you in the past few years?
Rishi : I only know that my sincerity towards my work and probably my good luck have got me these kinds of films and roles. I thank God for these offers and that I took them up. Films like 'Do Dooni Chaar' are contrary to the kind of films I’ve done in the past, but I’m at an age when I want to experiment. I want to do different kinds of films, films that say something, topical films, but at the same time I want to make sure they’re entertaining. Because I belong to the genre of commercial cinema actors, and I’m very averse to boring cinema.
Prithviraj Kapoor reached Mumbai in 1928. Beyond talent, charisma and looks, what is the X factor the Kapoors possess that has helped your family survive 83 years in films?
Rishi: That’s for people to answer na? We’ve been blessed. No family in the world has been in this entertainment field for four generations. Ranbir my son is the 4th generation male actor. I transcend from Prithviraj Kapoor, Raj Kapoor, to myself to Ranbir. And God has been very kind that we all stand on our own merit.
Could one reason for your family’s success be that each individual star who has emerged from among you has had an individuality on screen even though you are all related?
Rishi: It has to be that. Each one has his own individuality, identity, charm, charisma, his own adulation, own kind of people who have loved them. If anybody was aping or copying anyone, it would have been evident. I guess that must be the reason Anna.
Neetuji, you married into the Kapoor family, you weren’t born into this family – can you tell me what is that X factor the Kapoors possess that has helped them thrive for 83 years?
Neetu: It’s hard to pinpoint. Maybe it’s luck. Maybe it’s because from childhood they only think movies, and they understand the medium. Like from the time Ranbir was born, we only talk about movies. We discuss films, roles, performances. Riddhima was in the same house, she was not interested but it was Ranbir. So maybe because it’s such a big family so somebody or the other comes up. Or maybe it’s their genes, the face, the way they look, the Kapoors have very likeable features. And it’s pure luck that each one of them has shown just how talented they are.
Tell me about the family atmosphere…
Neetu: They eat, breathe, drink, everything is movies. We don’t discuss anything else. There is no sensex, no business discussion, only films, films and films. I’ve lived with this since I got married. In the house, they talk about only food and movies. These are the two main issues. (laughs) There is no third issue.
You weren’t in India when the national awards were announced, were you?
Rishi: It was 6 am in New York when we started getting numerous SMSes on our Bombay phones. Me and my wife were asleep. First I didn’t understand. I thought people were probably congratulating me because I’d just won the Best Actor award at the New York Indian Film Festival for Do Dooni Chaar. Thereafter, I realised the film had won a National Award. At this stage, for me and my wife to have worked in this kind of film, a film which Neetu worked with me after a period of 30 years, and it wins the most coveted award from the government – I couldn’t be happier or more blessed. Obviously we were delighted Anna.
You said you’re looking for films that should be entertaining even if they are saying something, right?
Rishi: Yes. If you want to do something that is going to be boring, you might as well see it on Doordarshan yaar. Tickets are expensive today. So if you have to sell tickets for a film, the film better be worth its money.
Can we expect more Neetu Kapoor films or was 'Do Dooni Chaar' a one-off project?
Neetu: I’m really not into coming back in movies. This movie attracted me because the story was really different. But I have so much going on in my house and with my kids. I’m a grandmom now, I’ve got more responsibilities. But if something as nice as 'Do Dooni Chaar' comes along which is really different, I wouldn’t mind. Some people did come to me after this film, but I don’t want to do the clichéd mother and bhabhi kind of role. I’ll do something nice like this or with Ranbir where there is a comfort level. But the granddaughter is coming to Bombay and I keep travelling up and down, so for some time I’m quite busy now.
Like you said you don’t want to do the typical bhabhi-mother kind of roles, your husband too is getting to do substantial roles which is unusual for a star his age. Can you help me understand what he’s going through right now?
Neetu: He’s in a very happy space. Because he’s very very hardworking Anna. He never gives up on anything in life. He’s very committed to whatever he does. The transition from a hero was difficult for him with no work those 3-4 years, but he understood that he has to get into character roles. And he always believed in himself. He said, I’m a very very good actor and I will get roles. He’s strong and he had that will, that I will get it and I will always be a top star and the best actor this country can have. His confidence that he’s a great actor takes him a long way.
When Abhishek Bachchan made his debut, a huge number of comparisons were made with his father, both by the public and the media. When Ranbir made his debut, people did say the next Kapoor is coming, but there were no crushing comparisons. Why do you think that is?
Rishi: Because I am not a stylised actor. I believe in a different school of acting. I have a different way of working. But I think you are wrong. There was a lot of baggage on Ranbir, people were scrutinising him very tightly and rightly so. They felt, how is he going to face up to his grandfather, great grandfather? It was not so easy for Ranbir. Because Ranbir has taken it and made it in his own way, people think it became easy for him. It’s to his credit that he has done it. The very fact that he stood on his own in his first film that was a flop at the box office is all the more creditable to that boy, because they felt that the film failed him, the boy did not fail the film. So it’s because of the boy’s talent, hard work, sincerity, his dedication. I think that is what makes him stand out. I mean if he had just to be a flamboyant flash in the pan, just aping his predecessors then it would have become evident. Ranbir stood on his own. He made a statement that yes here is an actor who is going to be recognised.
Neetu: Also, Ranbir doesn’t remind you of anyone in the family. When you see him you don’t feel, arrey yeh to copy kar raha ha i. You don’t feel Ranbir is copying Shammi Kapoor or Rishi Kapoor or Raj Kapoor. There are so many actors in the family but he doesn’t remind you of anybody, because he has a very individual kind of personality. And he’s natural. He doesn’t do any role in a stylised way, nor does he have a different style to himself. Sometimes an actor may remind you of a relative although he’s not imitating that relative – he may be actually like that in real life too, but the public thinks he’s imitating. As luck would have it, Ranbir didn’t have anybody’s style, he had his own personality. I think that’s what really worked for him.