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Tracking Rishi Kapoor's cinematic journey, second innings

The Kapoor & Sons actor is 64 today and rivals all the young actors working in the industry today with his enthusiasm and dedication towards each film.

Kapoor as Rauf Lala in Agneepath (2012)

Sonal Pandya

Rishi Kapoor’s Twitter bio reads, “Son of a famous Father-Father of a famous Son. I am the hyphen in between them.” He’s grossly underestimating himself here. As the grandson of Prithviraj Kapoor and the son of Raj Kapoor, he has largely delivered despite all expectations placed on him.

Rishi made his debut at 15 when he acted as the younger version of his father’s character in Mera Naam Joker (1970). In 1973, the 21-year-old made a splash when he debuted opposite another newcomer, Dimple Kapadia in the hit Bobby. Within a few years, he was appearing in hits like Khel Khel Mein (1975) and Kabhi Kabhie (1976).

In the 1970s, his pairing with Neetu Singh (who he married in 1979) quickly established both of them as one of the popular pairs in the industry. He remained the favoured choice amongst producers and directors despite the popularity of actors like Amitabh Bachchan and Vinod Khanna at the same time.

But according to Rishi (fondly called Chintu), for the first 25 years of his career he only romanced the heroine. Most of the songs in the films that he acted in were hits, even if the movie wasn’t successful. Even in the 1990s, he acted as the romantic lead opposite heroines like Divya Bharati and Madhuri Dixit.

With Anil Kapoor and Juhi Chawla in Karobaar (2000)

With the new millennium approaching, he gave it up briefly to direct his first film Aa Ab Laut Chale (1999) starring Rajesh Khanna, Akshaye Khanna and Aishwarya Rai. Karobaar (2000), with co-stars Anil Kapoor and Juhi Chawla, was the last time he played the romantic lead.

Bucking against the middle child syndrome, Rishi had become the most successful of Raj Kapoor’s sons. That success followed him when he kick-started the second phase of his career, taking on roles that would redefine him as an actor.

Rishi began by playing father to everyone from Kajol to Saif Ali Khan in films like Kuch Khatti Kuch Meethi (2001) and Hum Tum (2004). But slowly, he came unto his own. In 2009, Rishi Kapoor took up Chintu Ji (2009), a film based on part fact, part fiction where he basically played himself. The same year, he was outstanding as Romy Rolly in Hindi film producer in Zoya Akhtar’s Luck By Chance.

He reunited with his wife Neetu, on Do Dooni Char (2010) directed by Habib Faisal. Rishi and Neetu transformed themselves into Santosh and Kusum Duggal, a middle-class husband and wife from Delhi who are struggling to get by. The National Award-winning film won the couple much acclaim from critics and audiences alike and Kapoor picked up the Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actor for his performance.

Kapoor in Student of the Year (2012) and Do Dooni Char (2010)

Rishi evolved further when he played the depraved Rauf Lala, rival to drug lord Kancha, in Karan Malhotra’s Agneepath (2012). He initially turned down the Agneepath remake because he felt he wasn’t right for the role. In a televised interview, he revealed that as he applied the kajal on his eyes for a look test on Rauf Lala, he felt confident that he would be able to pull it off.

In Karan Johar’s Student of the Year, he took on the role, with minimal fuss, of Yogendra Vashisht, the gay dean who has a huge crush on his sports coach (Ronit Roy). The self-confessed natural actor is bewildered that others can visualise him as a villain. In Nikhil Advani’s D-Day (2013), Rishi showed off a menacing side with his portrayal of Goldman, a fictionalised Dawood Ibrahim.

In the same interview, he said, “I’ve tried to reinvent myself by playing a baddie, I did that in Agneepath or if I did a D-Day or I did an Aurangzeb as a baddie, or I did a Luck by Chance which is a comic role or a social film or Patiala House. Recently in Kapoor and Sons, I played a 90-year-old man. I have no qualms about playing my age or anything.” Rishi does all this while his son Ranbir is one of the most sought after actors in the industry.

As Amarjeet Kapoor in Kapoor & Sons (2016)

The actor who openly calls himself “a misfit in today’s times” has come a long way from his initial chocolate boy days. For his latest role, Rishi dug deep to play the 90-year-old Amarjeet Kapoor, a mischievous curmudgeon who comically fakes his own death. He endured nearly five hours of prosthetic make-up to add 30 years on him. After 46 years in the industry, the third-generation Kapoor isn’t resorting to complacency.

Hollywood actor Michael Caine recently commented on his career in a roundtable interview: "I don’t get the girl, I get the part now”. That, in a nutshell, describes the second coming of Rishi Kapoor. He gets the parts now.