Back from New York after an arduous battle against a terminal illness, Rishi Kapoor looks buoyant but refuses to dwell on the subject. He is more excited to talk about completing 50 years in the industry this year. “If you count Mera Naam Joker I will be completing 50 years. I was not introduced in Bobby, Dimple Kapadia was. I don’t count my career from Mera Naam Joker but I have been working since Bobby in 1973,” says the veteran actor.
On the lessons learnt in the film industry, he says, “I always tell Ranbir, ‘Never take your success to your head and your failures to your heart. Your choice of cinema or your roles is yours. You do two films a year and it can be a Saawariya or a Jagga Jasoos. You will wonder what went wrong but the industry is like that. No actor has a 100 percent success record. You have to accept both failure and success in your stride’.” Nonetheless, Rishi says he is enjoying his work more these days.
“I’m a passionate actor. I tried to do whatever I could 25 years ago. No one gave me a chance to do anything different. They gave me romantic roles and songs in Switzerland. But now I’m finally enjoying; I’m playing different characters. I’m not immodest nor am I boasting but I would say with pride that I’ve done different roles lately. I did Rajma Chawal, 102 Not Out, Mulk, Agneepath, Kapoor & Sons and Aurangzeb. I don’t want to play a father nor incidental roles,” he adds.
The 67-year-old feels that the trends in the industry are changing and the audience is ready to accept it. “You have to thank the audience for accepting films like Bala, Vicky Donor and Badhaai Ho. I’ve spent 25 years as a romantic hero. I never got the chance to do roles like what Rajkummar Rao, Ayushmann Khurrana, Ranbir Kapoor and Ranveer Singh are doing. My father made films ahead of his times and I worked in so many films which were different such as Mera Naam Joker, Doosra Aadmi, Ek Chadar Maili Si. None of them did well but everyone likes them today.
The audience never wanted actors to experiment back then. During our times, four of five films were about people being lost and found or reunited. Now if you give them that story, they will reject it outright. Amar Akbar Anthony is lost-andfound scenario too. Content-based films are doing well now. During our times we had a set formula—our films had five to six songs, two fights, a dance and a rape scene, ” he reminisces. Despite a long career, Rishi says he has still not understood the formula for hit films. “Nobody knows the formula or else a film on a bald hero wouldn’t have grossed `100 crore. When the RK Studios film, Kal Aaj Aur Kal, released in 1970, war was declared.
There used to be three shows: 12 pm, 3 pm and 6 pm. Two shows were cancelled as there were blackouts. How will a film run in two shows? My father used to tell us that any natural calamities that took place would affect the business of films.” On his ambitions after 50 years in the same profession, the actor says, “I’m passionate about my work and I don’t believe in competition. I’m my own competition. I’ve to challenge myself every time. I’m 67 years of age but I’m young at heart and optimistic. In fact, these days, I’m doing a romantic film with a very big Bollywood star, who is probably 30 years or 40 years younger than I’m.”