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The genre of romance is almost a prerequisite for Hindi film hero to achieve stardom. An actor or actress may achieve critical acclaim for his or her performance. But to gain vast base of fans and admirers it is almost an unwritten rule that a hero has to succeed in romantic genre. This is because love, which is such a universal emotion, never fails in its capacity to appeal to audiences across age-groups, geographies and languages. A well-made romantic film which exudes simplicity makes a hero and heroine more beautiful and charming than they are or could be. This is because the immediate identification of emotions which guide romance has a great deal of investments of the audience. Romantic films revive, ignite, re-ignite and romanticise one’s own deeply experienced personal experiences. These experiences when find immediate connection with a romantic film catapults the hero of the film into stardom. This is what has transpired in the journey of most romantic heroes in Hindi cinema.
In the history of Hindi cinema, romantic heroes such as Dev Anand, Shammi Kapoor, Joy Mukherjee, Jeetendra, and Rajesh Khanna had created a distinct mark for themselves. An important aspect in the success of these romantic heroes is that they brought a new nuance in the already existing and widely accepted and popular genre of romance. Dev Anand brought urbane sophistication. Joy Mukherjee represented the amiability and calmness of demeanour, which are essential for the blossoming of romance. Shammi Kapoor’s intensity and playfulness added such a distinct note to the dance of romance that it became the most important thing on earth. And then came, Rajesh Khanna who with his certain freshness and handsomeness which were enhanced by a great degree by the songs which came his way redefined the meaning of romance for the audience in the 1970s. So, almost every romantic hero who appeals to the audience and creates a space for himself brings in a nuance unexplored earlier or he represents a fresh take on already explored nuance of romance.
In this legacy and tradition, how is Rishi Kapoor different as a romantic hero from his predecessors? It is quite symbolic in one sense that Kapoor’s debut on the screen is itself was a romantic song. The kids who appear in the ending part of the song Pyaar Hua Ikraar Hua in the film Shree 420 (1955) were Raj Kapoor’s children. One of the kids is Rishi Kapoor. A key aspect which distinguishes Kapoor from other romantic heroes from his times and before him is he played almost every stage that comes in the life of a romantic hero. He is perhaps the only hero who captured the pre-teenage, teenage, adolescent and adult and mature stages of romance with his characteristic charm. In Mera Naam Joker (1970), he essays the role of school kid who is in love with his teacher. This is so relatable and realistic. This covers the pre-teenage love. Three years later, Kapoor makes his debut as a teenage lover-hero in Bobby (1973), which appealed to the audience and filled up the space of a teenage hero which was acutely missing in Hindi cinema. Before Bobby (1973), the concept of romance was restricted to young, adolescent and mature heroes. But the aspect of teenage lover was hardly explored. And like most pioneers and visionary directors, Raj Kapoor filled in that space with his unique and inimitable fortitude and gutsy trait as a film-maker. This was young lover portrayals in Khel Khel Main (1975), Laila Majnu (1976), Kabhi Kabhi (1976), and Amar Akbar Anthony (1977). Then there were a string of slightly adult romances such as Doosra Aadmi (1977), Badaltey Rishtey (1978) and Sargam (1979).
A noteworthy aspect in the romantic films which Kapoor did is the diversity or the shades of romances. This is quite evident in his films. His romantic films were not just about urban romance. He selected films which also covered common man romancing not only common woman but also woman belonging to socially and economic more powerful than the hero. In Prem Rog (1982), there is poor yet compassionate lover who is conscious of his social status keeps his love suppressed to avoid any clash with the powerful family. Similarly in Sargam (1979), the common hero falls in love with mute heroine who belongs to the same class and status of the hero. He suited well in urban romances also. Films such as Karz (1980) and Yeh Vaada Raha (1982) showed that Kapoor can play romantic hero from almost any strata of the society and yet not look unsuitable to that milieu. This is because he had clear conviction of his style of acting which had no method but an unconscious spontaneity which had a certain unique appeal.
Then, there is a phase where he had advanced in age and he began wearing sweater to hide the signs which clearly indicated that he longer had the leanness required for a romantic hero. This is the limitation and big hurdle which most romantic heroes have to battle. In this phase where one would often see him sporting sweater in films, his romantic films did not have the same ‘charming’ effect on the audience like his early romantic films. It may be a professional decision or compulsion to continue to work as much as possible as a romantic hero. Yet, he managed this phase well without scathing criticism. He selected films which had plots wherein there would be a large number of characters in the form of a big family and it saved him constant gaze of the audience and yet he remained the central character of the film. These films worked. He survived this phase without looking extremely dated or out of sync with the times. This is because of the natural confidence of his craft as an actor. Technicians who worked with him hold a view that Kapoor was one of the few stars who was technically sound. He had clear understanding of the placement of camera and its movements and framing of shots and how an actor would look in a particular frame of camera. In these two phases, a clear distinction which enhanced his personality or stardom as a romantic hero is the acute sense of rhythm and musicality in him. When Kapoor held a musical instrument, it came across that he played that instrument. A case in the point is the song Chehra Hain Chand Kheela Hain from the film Saagar (1985). The way he holds the guitar in the film, it seems that he is playing the guitar. Even when he danced it seemed that he himself choreographed his songs. It seemed that the dance moves were a natural expression of his feelings about the melody or the emotion associated with a song. This sense of rhythm and musicality which is essential for the success of a romantic hero in Hindi cinema was a natural gift in Kapoor.
Then, there was a lull in his career because of his age. In Hindi cinema, the shelf-life of a romantic hero is almost equivalent to the complete career of a heroine. This phase made him bolder and again, he got a few roles which made his last innings or the third phase of his career more interesting and diverse than the first and the second phases of his career. In Hindi cinema, with the colossal exception of actor Amitabh Bachchan, very few stars had rewarding and creatively fulfilling last phase of his career as Kapoor had. Most actors fade out in their last phase of their acting career.
This phase started exactly a decade ago with the film Do Dooni Chaar (2010). For a person who lived a luxurious life, it was quite commendable for Kapoor to essay and look the role of a middle class man who works hard to keep his family happy. This film earned him Filmfare Best Actor (Critics) Award. But it took two years for audience to see the untapped talent of this actor. It was in Agneepath (2012), which is a turning point in Kapoor’s career, the audience saw their beloved romantic hero in the most unlikely role: A villain. He enacted with such brilliance that the critics and audience realised that it was not just ‘romance’ in acting which helped Kapoor survive so many years, but it was ‘romance’ of acting which prevented his slipping into obscurity and breathed fresh life into his acting career. In the past ten years, the sheer diversity of roles in films such as Aurangzeb, D-Day, Mulk, Kapoor & Sons, and 102 not out shows that the hunger for diversity of roles which might have been his keen ambition in the beginning of his career was satisfied in the last leg of his career. One has to remember the fact that when Kapoor debuted as a lead in the 1970s, it was fiercely competitive times with several heroes competing with each other. They reduced this competition by selecting multi-starrer films.
As one looks back at the career of Kapoor, it is clear that his love for acting—a profession given to him in legacy—was total. Film enthusiasts believe that he held his own even when it seemed that his fellow actors performed better than him. He was never completely overshadowed or outdone by his co-actors. In the given scope of a character, he did his role convincingly. Even in films like Saagar (1985) and Damini (1993), where his co-actors received more accolades than him, he did not pale in comparison with them. Film-maker Shibu Sable puts it aptly when he says, “Rishi Kapoor was like Rahul Dravid. When Dravid scored 180 runs, V V S Laxman scored 281 in the same match in 2001 against Australia. This does not mean Dravid played badly. He was equally good like Laxman. That is how Rishi Kapoor performed in his films.”
In an ideological sense, it is clear Rishi Kapoor has not passed on. This is because what Kapoor represented will continue to remain with us as long as the business of cinema finds its resonance and appeal to audiences. And that one precious thing is the romance of acting, which is one of the key elements which provide a solid foundation to cinema. In this sense, the spirit of Rishi Kapoor lives on.
'Main Shayar Toh Nahi', 'Chandni O Meri Chandni': Rishi Kapoor Left Us With Music And Memor...
Gone Too Soon
Noted actor Rishi Kapoor, a powerhouse of talent, passed away after a two year long battle with cancer.
The actor, who had charmed his way into millions of hearts with his scintillating debut in 1973's 'Bobby', had been diagnosed with cancer in 2018, and underwent treatment in New York for almost a year. He returned home to Mumbai in September 2019.
Born in 1952, Kapoor began his career as a child artiste with roles in his father Raj Kapoor's films, starting with 'Shree 420'. He won the National Award for Best Child Artist for his performance as a younger version of his father in 'Mera Naam Joker'.
While Kapoor's acting prowess is indisputable, the actor also left fans with some evergreen tunes from his films.
Here's remembering the icon through his songs.
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