How Rishi Kapoor managed to dance without learning to
The actor will be missed by many and much will be written on him but few know how much an original he was to us in the dance film world.
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Rishi Kapoor claimed he couldn't dance. He never learnt any and all he did in his long career was impromptu. He was actually shy, and being not so tall, he created small, short steps, a la Bhagwan, who was a well-rounded character artiste of yesteryears.
Rishi was accessible and humble. Once while he was being interviewed at Nehru House, London, his second most favourite city after amchi Mumbai, painter-editor Alka Raghuvanshi asked him to come and see her paintings being exhibited downstairs and he just went and joined without fuss.
I saw him shoot in 1985 in Kanishka hotel lobby (then under ITDC, now Shangri-La, on Janpath roundabout) and it was the song from Karma (1986). Even after five takes the director wasn't satisfied and asked Rishi to go jump. He did and that became a dance move to show youth angst.
Dafliwale, with Jayaprada, was another hit where he had to sing, dance and play the beat on the dafli. Chintu — as he was fondly called — just sailed through in one take. When dance director Rao from Hyderabad asked him if he had rehearsed, Rishi disarmingly said, "That's for professionals. I just do."
Dafliwale, with Jayaprada, was a hit where Rishi Kapoor had to sing, dance and play the beat on the dafli. He managed it in a single take! (YouTube screengrab)
From maiden Mera Naam Joker (1970) as a child artiste in awe of Simi - remember her? The beauty who remained youthful forever - to a young chocolate-faced hero in Bobby (1973) to Khel Khel Mein in 1975 (with an oversized guitar and chamkila dresses), to Karma in 1986 (with heart-sized pendant), to Amar Akbar Anthony (1977), to Chandni (1989), he was a natural artist. Actually, people forget the actor in the star: Zehreela Insaan (1974) and slow-motion steps with Moushumi Chatterjee in O Hansni make him share his real mettle, a glimpse of which was also seen with Rishi as sardarji in Namaste London.
Remember his Rafoo Chakkar (1975) - a whodunnit mystery? To remain in one drag queen costume for 80 per cent of the film was no mean feat in those days of non-AC studios, vanity vans and real train journey shootings. He made a side actors career by agreeing to the choice of Paintal. Together they danced from coach to coach.
The feature in National Geographic on stars of India with Rishi at the centre-spread, with huge drawing room with white and gold sofa, is a memorable feature of the last royal star. He was truly a Kapoor, loving his Bacchus as much as bachas.
Rishi and Neetu's wedding was the most lovable on-screen romantic team translating to real life. They gelled so well together and both danced in tandem. Their roles in many films is a must study for any film buff. 12 films together and then like a true royal Kapoor lady, she retired from films to bring up two lovely kids — Ridhimma and Ranbir.
Rishi and Neetu Kapoor — the most lovable on-screen romantic team translating to real life. (YouTube Screengrab)
Rishi Kapoor had the longest-lasting college boy looks from the 1970s to 1990s. For 20 years his boyish charm remained frozen. From the 92 films he did, 36 were box office hits. His was an enduring image, a chubby, happy go lucky Punjabi, lovable kid whom anyone would like to take home as a son, lover or father.
Ranbir and Ridhimma are blessed to have had such parents. Ranbir's genes show a natural flair for acting and dancing.
Rishi Kapoor was moody, but all great artists are. He was a professional too, for once a shot was ready, especially an extensive dance sequence, on dales or hills, he knew the production realities and costs, so just danced along.
I'm sure he is now dancing up in heavens and making others move to his tunes. Rishi Kapoor will be missed by many and much will be written on him but few know how much an original he was to us in the dance film world. His last waltz is not over yet. And to think he was humble enough to say he had never learnt the dance. It was all "cinema ka kamaal". He was the wonder boy, eternal college-lover of Hindi cinema. May his soul dance on...