My Dear Kapoors: Part 2—The Proud Lineage Continues

Ranbir Kapoor with parents Rishi and Neetu Kapoor. Photo: Publicity Photo 

The Kapoors merely don’t possess on-screen charisma or the X-factor in heaps. They are a true-blue pedigreed breed where the genetic structure not only provides external classy looks but also innate beauty of temperament. After Rishi Kapoor and Shammi Kapoor, here’s looking at my briefer associations with Shashi Kapoor, Randhir Kapoor, Rajiv Kapoor and the younger Kapoors who have done the clan proud—Karisma, Kareena and Ranbir.

With his favorite composer Anandji—Shashi Kapoor. Photo: Anandji Shah

Shashi Kapoor

He was my mother’s pet hero, and so I ended up seeing each and every one of his movies from childhood to adolescence! But I never interviewed him after I became a journalist, so one fine day in the late ‘90s or so, I called him up—the absence of mobiles then actually made stars accessible as someone always picked up landlines!

After I told him that I wanted to do his interview, in the sweetest manner possible, Shashi replied, “But I am not an actor anymore! Why do you want my interview?” I told him my reasons. He chuckled and replied, “I have stopped giving interviews. Please excuse me. I am so sorry! Thank you so much!”

This was the sweetest refusal I have ever had in three decades of journalism, and unlike in other cases, though I was very disappointed, the dominant emotion was how sweet this man was!

In 2006, the picture changed when his father Prithviraj Kapoor’s centenary was coming up. I called up Prithvi Theatre, the institution set up by his wife Jennifer (Prithviraj’s favorite daughter-in-law, revealed Shashi!) and him and now looked after by their daughter, Sanjana. An appointment was given pronto, and Shashi talked about his father for a full 45 minutes, pacing his study like a lion as he spoke. At intervals, I again gave pointers on why he should also talk about himself and his illustrious career as actor and filmmaker. After all, I said, he was India’s first international star as well!

He ended up by presenting me with his classic coffee-table tome, The Prithviwallahs, and as he saw me off, promised to meet again after the centenary celebrations were over, for a chat about his own innings.

But after that, it was the same story repeated: I could not get past the Prithvi theatre PRO (who had organized our meeting so quickly!) because I had revealed the reason for my second interview. It was never to happen!

Rajiv Kapoor (left) with composer Laxmikant and brother Randhir Kapoor (right). Photo: Publicity Photo

Randhir Kapoor

Randhir Kapoor was fun and candidness personified when we met up at RK Studios some years later. “I am the greatest guy in India!” he grandiloquently twinkled—which became my headline in Screen, for which I had met him.

In the two hours we spent chatting, the smile never left his face, unless supplemented by laughs, chuckles and guffaws, and he only time he turned serious was when he asked whether he could get me a second cup of tea! But within the happy-go-lucky Daboo (his pet name) is also a rare intensity that makes the most extroverted of Raj Kapoor’s three sons a unique amalgam of a delightful copy for the press and ideal company, say, for a vacation!

“Do you know that I have been paid in multiples of what I was as a hero for my tiny cameo in Housefull (2010)? I was amused by that! But where is the value of the rupee today?” he chuckled. The positive actor even said, “Look at the economic progress Hindi cinema has made. Our budgets were peanuts, yaar! We had a crew of 50, these people have 350!”

He had smiled and stated, “I envy today’s stars. They are so choosy, do one film at a time and take pride in taking a year off to relax. But we were different—if we did not work, there would be no money to run our houses, pay our bills and get our kids educated! We were like potatoes and onions, commodities to be sold every day! We would shoot round the year, doing indifferent films to keep our kitchens running. We would make money only from films. Today’s stars have shows and endorsements!! My daughter Kareena even has different managers for movies, events and ads! Maybe our working style was wrong—I don’t know!”

He had guffawed after this remark: “All my life and for my biggest films I have shot either in Mumbai or for specific sequences in the rest of India. I have shot a minimum 10 songs at Mumbai’s China Creek or National Park. But if I ask Kareena if she knows where China Creek is, she will probably say that it is somewhere in China!”

Candidly, he had said that in the 1970s, heroes, while remaining good friends, would become paranoid about starring with other heroes. “I remember Nasir Husain offering me Vijay Arora’s role in Yaadon Ki Baraat, but I wondered what I would do in an action film starring Dharmendra! And when I was a big star, no one wanted to do a parallel role in my film Haath Ki Safai. Feroz Khan, Sanjay Khan, Navin Nischol and even Mahendra Sandhu turned down the role that ultimately got so many accolades for Vinod Khanna!”

His most quotable quote remains on his daughters Karisma and Kareena, the first actresses from the Kapoor khandaan with the support of his wife Babita: “They have done the Kapoors proud and have conducted themselves with honor and dignity. They are superstars and are so successful they can adopt me! Along with them, Rishi’s son Ranbir has taken the family name to a great height!”

Rajiv Kapoor

The late Rajiv Kapoor never made it big as actor, and branched into direction with Prem Granth. When I met him for a Mumbai tabloid, Mid-Day, after the film was launched, he gave me a nice, staid interview. A few days after the interview had appeared, in those pre-mobile days again, I received a call on my residential landline! It was Rajiv, calling to thank me and also appreciating that I had written exactly what he spoke: he had called up the Mid-Day office and got my landline number! “Your writing is very cultured!” he announced. The glow that remark gave was one of the early highlights of my career!

Kareena Kapoor Khan and Karisma Kapoor—the first female Kapoor stars. Photo: Publicity Photo

Karisma & Kareena Kapoor

The two girls were exactly like the rest of the Kapoors: very cultured too! Of them, Karisma, though fun-loving, remains the more serious of the two, while Kareena has a sharper sense of wit and humor. I met Karisma only once, and late—at the time of her comeback film, Dangerous Ishhq—and her warmth was transparent all along.

As for Kareena, as per her own statement, she had wanted to be a lawyer. “I wanted to fight cases, but the size of the textbooks was like tomes and that discouraged me!” she had laughed.

There was also an interestingly humorous angle to her wanting to work with first cousin Ranbir: “He is such a huge talent. But my mother simply put her foot down as he is my first cousin!” she said ruefully! A short while later, they were offered Dil Dhadakne Do as brother and sister, but after Ranbir turned down the film (Ranveer Singh did the role), Kareena did not take up Priyanka Chopra’s role either!

Ranbir Kapoor

He is, inarguably, the most well-mannered star from the post-Hrithik Roshan generation. His eyes mirror his wonderful nature and genuine humility as much as everything he says. In our last of so many meetings (for Tu Jhoothi Main Makkar), he took me aside and asked me how many years I had been in the profession and respectfully smiled appreciatively when I answered.

His grounded and pedigreed nature comes to the fore again when he had said, “I would say that is very fair that an actor is primarily blamed for a flop film, because we get the bouquets too when a film does well! And an actor is as good as the last film: if actors understand this, they will have less of egos!”

And Ranbir practices that. Unlike most stars, he is off social media and wants to be seen and heard only when a film is on release. He has gradually improved upon his individualistic approach to his career, when his father disapproved of most of his choices, to realize that “Hit hai to fit hai!” But he has made it his funda, like father Rishi and mom Neetu, that irrespective of the film’s fate, his performance in it must be standout.

And the Kapoors always do!







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