Neetu Kapoor: Back where she belongs

Neetu Kapoor in Jugjugg Jeeyo. Courtesy: Hype PR

She first appeared in a non-credited small role as a kid in the 1966 action drama Suraj, followed by Dus Lakh as Baby Sonia. Neetu Kapoor, however, stole the thunder from lead players Biswajeet and Mala Sinha in the 1968 hit Do Kaliyan, adapted from Walt Disney’s The Parent Trap, as the twins Ganga and Jamuna. Waris and Ghar Ghar Ki Kahani were among her later releases as a kid.

Her lead debut as Neetu Singh was in 1973 opposite Randhir Kapoor in Rickshawala, followed by a guest appearance in the song Lekar hum deewana dil in the blockbuster Yaadon Ki Baraat. After that came hits and blockbusters like Deewaar, Khel Khel Mein, Kabhi Kabhie, Dharam-Veer, Amar Akbar Anthony, Parvarish, Jaani Dushmun and more.

Neetu quit films after her 1980 marriage to Rishi Kapoor, but later ventured into four movies opposite her husband between 2009 to 2013. But she now returns to movies with Jugjugg Jeeyo. We meet up at the Dharma Productions office, and excerpts from an interview follow.

How did you decide on this comeback and what does Ranbir Kapoor think about it?

It was actually Ranbir’s idea! When my husband passed away, we all were sad, and one day at dinner, Ranbir asked me, ‘Mom, what will you do now? Why don’t you start working?’ That day, Karan (Johar) was at our dinner table and he immediately told me, ‘I am getting a subject for you!’ He came the very next day with Raj Mehta, the director, and the script was so good! Coming back with such a film was like some good balm on my wounds, and I am thankful that it helped me overcome my sadness. Today, I have the confidence to do more work, if people like me. I have even accepted a web series for which I start shooting in October.

My life was about my husband and children, but now, this is the best thing to do, to keep myself occupied. But if I do not get good roles, I will stay home or go on vacations!

Was it easy getting back to a shoot?

Initially, it was damn scary! Look, I am going to turn 64 in July and thanks to my age, I am no longer as good at remembering long dialogues! I was nervous but somehow I managed, especially the two long scenes in the film. Thanks to Covid, the shoot for one of them got postponed by a year, but by that time, I had done a lot of shows and was in a better space, confidence-wise! I was actually looking forward to do it and it was okayed at the first take! (Laughs)

You did four films when you first returned, but all with Rishi Kapoor-sir.

They were all done actually for him—I did my husband a favor! Of them, I only liked the script of Do Dooni Chaar. I don’t even count Besharam. As for Jab Tak Hai Jaan, there was only one scene, and there was just one shot in Love Aaj Kal! But today, I want to work!

Is it true that you were offered Kal Ho Naa Ho by Karan?

Yes, that was Jaya Bachchan’s role! But I was not into that frame of mind then.

Why was it necessary for you to quit work after marriage?

Well, my husband never forbade me to do films. But like my mom, he was very possessive about me, and would go crazy even if I went out somewhere. So I could not imagine what he would do if I was away for, say, two months! The poor man would have become so miserable, and probably had four drinks instead of two!

The fact that your acting talent was never acknowledged—did it not rankle?

I hardly put it any significant performances for that to happen!

Seriously, you were so good in Priyatama, Doosara Aadmi, Chorni…just three examples.

But those movies did not do too well. You are recognized only when you perform well in a hit.

I think my USP was simply my energy and youth, as I was unaware of things and remained natural rather than fake. My mindset then was to just work to the best of my ability. I understand movies more now. I can really work on my roles. Let us see whether people like me or not. One you know and understand scenes and the dialogues, it is easy.

Your husband had complained to me that directors started noticing his acting skills and range too only at a far later stage.

I think Amitabh Bachchan and he were always considered the finest actors of their generation. My husband would inspire directors to work with him.

Today, when you have begun work, how do you feel about Rishi Kapoor’s absence from your life?

As I said, both mom and he were possessive about it and I loved it. That was because of their great love for me. I miss them and wish they were there. I would not have had this freedom, but I still liked their possessiveness. Even today, I feel that he is blessing me, his hand is over my head, and that the love I am getting from everybody is all him.

He wanted Ranbir and Alia to get married.

Yes, he would keep telling them to get married. A fun part is that when he was in the intensive care, and we would be sitting outside the whole day, he actually reprimanded them for being velle (without work)!

How do you look at Ranbir and Alia?

Oh, they are too talented, and both are in a league of their own among their generation! They are something else. And I couldn’t have thought of a better daughter-in-law than Alia!

How is life together after their marriage?

There has been no time! Ranbir is in Spain and she is in London since they got married! Whenever I call, he says he is in a shot. He is returning on the 24th, so I asked him if he would like to watch a trial of Jugjugg Jeeyo. His reply was that was packed on that day! But both Ranbir and Alia are very happy that the film folk who have seen my movie have liked it, and me also, and they forward the complimentary messages they have received to me.

You worked with your son in Besharam. How did you react to his talent?

You know, it is very strange, but when the camera switches on, you forget everyone else! That’s when you enter your role, and so, whether it is husband, son or anyone else in front, you are focusing only on your work!

Any dream co-stars now in future films?

Of course! Ranbir and Alia!











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