JLF 2017: Rishi Kapoor discusses his life, career and book Khullam Khulla

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 Actor Rishi Kapoor with Rachel Dwyer at the Jaipur Literature Festival 2017 on Friday.

Actor Rishi Kapoor is not one to shy away from difficult questions or controversies. Indeed, he seems to go after them with a club. When an audience member asked him about the Twitter controversy around his comments last year over the proposal to name the Bandra-Worli sea link after Rajiv Gandhi, Kapoor maintained his earlier stand. “I have no enmity with anyone. But why name everything after the members of one family?” he asked.

The actor, 64, who has over 1.43 million followers on the social media platform added that naming welfare schemes and projects after politicans should be made unconstitutional and banned. The Front Lawns at the Diggi Palace were packed for the session where he discussed his memoir Khullam Khulla with cinema scholar Rachel Dwyer.

Bollywood star couple Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Kapoor during the Jaipur Literature Festival at Diggi Palace in Jaipur on Friday. 

It was an interesting session but had its bizarre moments. Kapoor, the son and grandson of cinematic legends Raj Kapoor and Prithvi Raj Kapoor, insisted there was no nepotism in Bollywood. He cited his own struggle after the superhit Bobby (1973) as an example that a family name can only get you so far. “In the book, I write openly about how I survived in the industry through my hard work and the love of my fans despite being a romantic hero in an action-films era,” he said. The initial golden run that started with Mera Naam Joker (1970) and Bobby (1973) ended soon after, he said. “My head was in the clouds after Bobby, but my struggle had only begun.”

Rishi Kapoor’s first played a cameo in his father’s film Mera Naam Joker, which won him a National Award. He remembers Raj Kapoor as a hard taskmaster and shared how while shooting for the song Main Shayar Toh Nahin from Bobby, he wasn’t provided with a dance master and was asked to choreograph his own moves. “It was the biggest lesson of my life. He said a dance master would teach me to do what had already been done, but he did not want me to copy Rajesh Khanna or Amitabh Bachchan but rather to develop my own style.”

Starry tantrums started young said Kapoor while recounting a story that his uncle Shashi Kapoor often brought up. Apparently, as a naughty child, he was often spanked. The story goes that while wailing miserably, he would go to the mirror to see how he looked while crying! “The first thing I did when I heard that I would be acting in my father’s film was to go to my room and practise my autograph,” he said. While Dwyer asked her questions in English, Kapoor chose to reply mostly in Hindi and — much to the amusement of the audience — he followed his replies with a — “Do you understand?”

Talking about his second innings, Kapoor said that it is only in the last six years that he has had the chance to act. “For the first 25 years of my career, I did nothing but sing and dance. In my second innings, I have got the chance to act. I’ve been fooling you guys for the first 25 years,” he joked.

Rishi Kapoor discussing his memoir Khullam Khulla with cinema scholar Rachel Dwyer at JLF 2017

Kapoor admitted that while he never approved of or understood his son, actor Ranbir Kapoor’s choice of unconventional roles — Rocket Singh and Barfi among them — he is glad his decisions paid off.

His quick wit was also on display. When an audience member shouted something incoherently, he asked with a deadpan expression, “Are you gargling?”

Kapoor was later joined on stage by wife Neetu Singh who spoke about their courtship and about becoming a Kapoor daughter-in-law.

Much to the delight of the adoring crowd, the session ended with Kapoor singing a few lines from Main Shayar Toh Nahin, the classic Shailendra Singh song picturised on him.

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