Sunday, April 30, 2017

Khullam Khulla - Rishi Kapoor with Meena Iyer

There are certain illusions we carry of people and many times it is better to leave them alone. One must be wary of the same when one writes a biography - do we enhance the illusion or do we shatter it and to what purpose. I got the same feeling when I read Naseeruddin Shah's biography and I feel exactly the same way now. There is an impression I have of Rishi Kapoor - of a happy go lucky, smiling, mischievous, fun loving and harmless person which overrides everything else that we mortals are afflicted with. But now after I read the biography I find the movie slightly disappointing because I have gone with an expectation of a happy romcom and find myself dealing with resentment, insecurity and depression. Even in small parts I do not want to see that in Rishi Kapoor's life - he symbolises that part of my life and I don't want that messed with.

The good news is that there was an attempt at being honest. The bad news is that the effort is perhaps half hearted. Or that is the feeling one gets. So if one is comfortable mentioning private moments involving others that one has been privy to, one should also give away one's own. So when Rishi Kapoor says he has never had an affair in his life and has been faithful since marriage and in the same book Neetu Singh says in the afterword that she had her suspicions about it - one is more likely to believe her. Not that it matter - just that it makes the effort a little less credible.

First up, I think the family tree helped sort out many of my confusions. So to start where we all know there was Prithviraj Kapoor who had six children, three of them boys - Randhir Raj (Raj Kapoor), Shamsher Raj (Shammi) and Balbir Raj (Shashi). Raj Kapoor then had five children with three boys - Randhir Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor and Rajeev Kapoor. Shammi had non-filmi children except that his daughter married Ketan Desai. Shashi had three children all of whom dabbled in movies - Karan, Kunal and Sanjana. Randhir's daughters with actress Babita, Karishma and Kareena, seem to be the first daughters of the family to enter the industry. Rishi's son Ranbir is a huge star already. Rajeev is unmarried it looks like. There are filmy connections on the mothers side as well with Premnath, Rajendranath being uncles. Amitabh Bachchan's daughter is married into Rishi Kapoor's sister's family and so on. Between them, the family and their relatives have taken up a lot of my time and energy and money (since I spent it on them) and wonder what this relationship is that I share with them.

Rishi Kapoor comes across as the young, spoilt brat  who indulged himself thanks to the family he was born in. He seems to have had a normal, rich kid upbringing which is in tune with the characters he played in most movies too - smoking and drinking early. An early break in movies and recognition for his role in 'Mear Naam Joker' got him hooked. But the phases after the flop of 'Mera Naam Joker' when he says he would fear the arrival of his father at home late in the night, drunk and abusive give us a peep into the lives of the rich and famous. He does not mention the lady in question but he mentions that his father was in a relation with someone (Nargis, I am presuming, though he also mentions Vijayanthimala some other place). For me it was enough that 'Mera Naam Joker' was a well known movie and considered a great - but for the ones in the industry it is the financial or relative success that makes or breaks them. The insecurity started seeping in from there itself. Then Raj Kapoor made 'Bobby' to recover from the disaster and Rishi Kapoor the star was launched at around the same time that Amitabh was rising.

He confesses to having 'bought' one award egged on by his assistant. His affair and marriage with Neetu Singh - in his favour however he does come across as being totally smitten by her and Neetu for her part as being the one who would make any adjustment for him including coming home at 830 pm whatever else was happening at her shoots - is written in detail. He talks about how he and his family always had a weight issue considering their fondness for all things nice. Among his close friends he counts Rahul Rawail, Jeetendra, Rakesh Roshan. He speaks of an uneasy relationship with Amitabh and how he feels Amitabh should give more credit to the other actors for his success. He also did not like Rajesh Khanna, maybe he felt because he snatched away Dimple after Bobby and how he made sure Rajesh Khanna did not get the Satyam Shivam Sundaram role. He gives away little tidbits like how Pancham once approached him seeking work in his later years, not for money, but to keep himself busy, how once Yash Chopra in a financial mess wrote pages and pages of 'God help me please', his fight with Sanjay Khan who threw a glass at him and his face got a cut, how Shammi Kapoor and Feroze Khan once got into a fight and were thrown out and they both ended up drinking at some other spot in town. One incident when the hotel they were staying in was attacked and almost gutted. A couple of fan incidents. An incident when he met Dawood Ibrahim, who he found to be quite nice and who offered him help, including money which Rishi refused. What was the point of dragging the names through this? How will it enhance his story?

Apart from all these tidbits what interested me was that he confessed to never having paid much attention to the craft until his second innings now. He would just go and do whatever he knew and he would pass because the audiences were so forgiving. How he tried hard to get out of Kabhie Kabhie and how it somehow became one of the best movies he had done to date. What hits you most apart from the commonplace pettiness and resentment and stuff is the hard core stuff - the depression he sank into after Karz did not do as well as he thought it should. So bad was his depression that he would not turn up for shooting and instead drank himself away. The insecurity of stars is something we never can understand because we think a movie has been made, like it or not and that's over for us. But they carry it deeply and think they have been rejected.

A whole chapter is dedicated to his heroines and there is a whole list of them - some 30 odd I guess staring from Dimple, Kajaj Kiran, Jayaprada, . He launched many new faces and most of them did well. He seems quite pleased with that fact. One chapter dedicated to his wife, one to his children. One to music and melody and here he talks of how he sometimes failed to recognise great music and was quite abusive with the music composers only to be corrected later.

For a book that could have had far more impact for the sheer content available, the biography I felt is not well presented. It is a series of incidents that are related as he perhaps told it to the writer with no attempt to uncover the why, the real person beneath what we know. And that is what makes what could have been a far more interesting book, fall short. Was it shortage of time, was he not available and was it just lack of effort one does not know but the book suffered, A small example is the way the photos are presented. They are just dumped together at one lot that one gets tired after a few pages and skips all those beautiful people we know and have watched for years. In contrast, when I read Mehboob's biography by Bunny Reuben, the pictures comes every few pages at relevant places and add to the entire experience. For this, just this lack of effort, one gets irritated. Call it arrogance or just lack of caring for the reader, but it put me off like nothing else. In fact a nine year old like Anjali said the same thing - why are these pictures just dumped here like this? I take away his depression, his insecurity, his coming of age now as he feels blessed and is experimenting with roles as parts that left an impact on me. There was an effort to be 'Khullam Khulla' but it is one of those things where he was better off being chupke chupke and one would have laughed along with him even if he was not khullam khulla. That would have been more honest. But if one promises Khullam Khulla one should deliver and if one does not, the audience feels let down. Anyway who knows better than Rishi Kapoor that the audience will switch off the moment they experience something not right.

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