Karisma Kapoor: The First Kapoor Girl turns Golden

Karisma Kapoor. Photo: Instagram / Karisma Kapoor

Among the First Family of Hindi cinema—the Kapoors—she was the first woman to enter cinema. On June 25, Karisma Kapoor turns 50. And so it is a great occasion for the Kapoor khandaan that their first—and only one of two female entrants—has now completed five decades, and a full 33 years in the film industry.

One of the highest-paid actresses of her time, Karisma is the recipient of a National Film award and four Filmfare awards.” The National came for Best Supporting Actress in Dil To Pagal Hai (1997), and the four Filmfares (out of eight nominations) for Best Actress in Raja Hindustani (1996) and Fiza (2000), Best Supporting Actress for Dil To Pagal Hai (1997), and Best Actress (Critics) for Zubeidaa (2001).

Virtually the only blot in her life has been an unsuccessful marriage to industrialist Sanjay Kapur in 2003. The couple divorced in 2016. They have two children—Samaira and Kiaan Raj. Before that, Karisma was said to have had a fling with Ajay Devgn in the early 1990s when they were shooting for Jigar, and was in a relationship with Abhishek Bachchan, her co-star in Haan Maine Bhi Pyaar Kiya. They were also engaged but decided to break off their engagement for undisclosed reasons. 

Karisma Kapur in 2012. Photo: Rajiv Vijayakar

The making of a star

In my only interview with the actress in 2012, she had told me, “I was 16 when I started out, thanks to the firm backing of my mother (1960s-70s star Babita) and the support of my father (Randhir Kapoor). I am happy that I have grown with every movie. My father and our entire Kapoor clan believe in the dictum of hard work and that we must keep entertaining the audience with every film. Awards have never been so important to us. I have followed that too. Even (younger sister) Kareena (Kapoor Khan)’s doing that and she has been spectacularly successful because of the same reason.”

Karisma was keen on pursuing acting since childhood. While growing up, she regularly attended award ceremonies and accompanied her parents to film sets. But initially, despite the family background, her father disapproved of women working in films, because he believed it conflicted with traditional maternal duties and family responsibilities of women in the family. This led to a conflict between her parents and they separated in 1988.

The two sisters were raised by their mother, who worked several jobs until Karisma made her debut in films. Her parents reconciled in 2007, after living separately for several years. Much before that, her father decided to support Karisma’s career choice and she first signed Pramod Chakravorty’s Deedaar (1992) with Akshay Kumar: the veteran had directed mom Babita in the 1969 Shammi Kapoor hit, Tumse Accha Kaun Hai. However, thanks to Beginner’s Luck, her second signed film, D. Rama Naidu’s Prem Quaidi (1991), co-starring Hareesh, became her first release and became a hit.

As with all the Kapoors, especially grand-uncle Shashi, discipline was Karisma’s middle name and the popular buzz in the film industry was that you could time your watch with Karisma’s arrival.

When we met on the eve of her first attempt at a comeback, Dangerous Ishhq, she had also said that she had only taken a sabbatical as she wanted to look after her kids, then seven and two years old respectively. “I have been and am a normal, hands-on, full-time mother. I do everything that all moms do! I wake up early and make their meals, give them a bath and take them out, play with them and look after Samaira’s studies too! But now, I thought that I should do the occasional film without letting their needs suffer. The only change is that I am late for an occasion like this, which I cannot help, and I really apologize for coming late. Samaira asked me today why I was dressing up and going at this time of the afternoon, and I had to tell her that it was because I had to meet people about my film!”

She had continued, “I must say that everyone—family, friends, colleagues, my fans as well as the press—were always wanting and also encouraging me to return to films, and they are all happy that I am doing a film again, but I was very clear that I would concentrate on my family in these past few years. Dangerous Ishhq was the right film at the right time. The film I chose had to be worth the time I would have to spend away from my kids, had to be something I had never done before, and thirdly, as a mother, there are always things that I may not want to do anymore as an actor. I play a determined, strong woman of today. My fans should come to watch the Karisma Kapur (her married name then) of 2012 and not the actress I was!” For the record, four years into movies, Karisma had decided to do substance-oriented rather than ornamental roles.

However, Dangerous Ishhq was not successful and Karisma had to wait until 2020 to make her first attempt on the web—Mentalhood, in which her performance was applauded. With this film, Karisma also became the first Kapoor to debut on OTT. In 2024, she was appreciated despite an inconsequential role in Homi Adajania’s Murder Mubarak, a film released on OTT. As Homi had said then, “Karisma had been a friend since schooldays and I was shocked when someone suggested her name for the character she plays, because I wondered why I had never thought of her!”

But not many are aware that Karisma has played the protagonist and her lookalike (in her only dual role) in Sahara TV’s 262-episode serial, Karishma—The Miracles of Destiny (2003-2004), in which her character’s on-screen age went up to 67!

Karisma Kapoor enacts Le gayee from Dil To Pagal Hai. Photo: Video Grab

The ‘Hit’ Girl

A favorite with all the top heroes of the 1990s and 2000s, Karisma formed a special combination with Govinda (especially in David Dhawan rom-coms like Raja Babu, Coolie No. 1, Saajan Chale Sasural, Hero No. 1 and Haseena Maan Jaayegi besides Khuddar and other films), Salman Khan (Andaz Apna Apna, Jeet, Judwaa, Biwi No. 1 and more). Akshay Kumar (Deedaar, also his first signed lead role, Dil To Pagal Hai,  Jaanwar, Ek Rishtaa et al), Ajay Devgn (Jigar, Suhaag, Dhanwaan), Suniel Shetty, Saif Ali Khan, and older stars like Sunny Deol, Anil Kapoor, Jackie Shroff and Sanjay Dutt besides Bobby Deol and Nana Patekar.

A slew of female contemporaries also worked with her, mainly Tabu (five films!) and also Raveena Tandon Thadani. A self-confessed admirer of Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit Nene (and their biggest competitor as well!), Karisma had limited but memorable associations with both of them! She was the female lead in Shakti: The Power (2002), a film produced by Sridevi, and had a great time shooting for Dil To Pagal Hai with Madhuri.

The actress had an array of blockbusters, thanks to her shrewd acumen in selecting scripts, probably inherited or guided by mom Babita, 12 of whose career’s 19 films had been successful! Karisma’s first hit, Prem Quaidi, was quickly followed by Jigar, Police Officer, Muqabala and Anari. The mega-hits included Coolie No. 1 (1995), Raja Hindustani, Judwaa, Hero No. 1, Dil To Pagal Hai and the two biggest hits of 1999, Biwi No. 1 and Hum Saath Saath Hain.

In an unusual case, Karisma was also a key part of 2011’s biggest hit, Bodyguard, her only 100-crore grosser, to go strictly technical! As she had put it when we met, “Oh, that’s an interesting story! There were a few comic sequences in which Kareena’s character fools Salman Khan’s by changing her voice on the ‘phone. Salman insisted on my doing that dubbing to make it believable, as he said that he wanted a voice that was similar yet somewhat different to Kareena’s. In fact, he just called me up one day and summoned me to the dubbing studio immediately! I came to know what he wanted only when I reached there!”

In a success story with not many equals, Karisma has two unfulfilled dreams: she would love to do a remake of her mother’s greatest hit, Farz, and can only imagine Salman Khan in Jeetendra’s breakthrough role, and a fun movie co-starring sister Kareena.

Do we have any takers?

Karisma Kapoor in one of her biggest chartbusters, Pardesi pardesi jaana nahin from Raja Hindustani. Photo: Song Video Grab

Six Karisma-tic Chartbusters

Bholi si soorat—Dil To Pagal Hai

Chalti hai kya nau se baarah—Judwaa

Le gayi le gayi—Dil To Pagal Hai

Main to raste se jaa raha tha—Coolie No. 1

Oonchi hai building—Judwaa

Pardesi pardesi jaana nahin—Raja Hindustani












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