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Why Rishi Kapoor was livid when offered Amar Akbar Anthony

Actor first turned Manmohan Desai down as he thought the director wanted him to play a character made famous by his grandfather.

Mayur Lookhar

Given the various intriguing disclosures he has made so far, you wonder if Rishi Kapoor runs the risk of revealing it all before his autobiography Khullam Khulla hits the bookstores. Well, we are not complaining.

Kapoor has spoken about his comical reaction when first offered the role of Akbar Illahabadi in Amar Akbar Anthony (1977).

Kapoor was in Bikaner shooting for a film when he received a trunk call from Manmohan Desai.

“I would never drink during shoots," Kapoor told Barkha Dutt of NDTV news channel. "But this was an odd occasion where I had one peg. Suddenly, I was informed about Manmohan Desai wanting to speak to me urgently. We didn’t have mobile phones in those days. We had the trunk calls, often these were made when there was some emergency.”

Kapoor went on to enact the episode on the show. "I was anxious as it was an emergency call," he said. "Desai told me he was ready with his next project Amar Akbar Anthony where he wanted me to play the character of Akbar."

The telephone reception in those days wasn’t great and Kapoor, though not inebriated, struggled to understand Desai. "When I heard Akbar, I freaked out," he said. "I thought he wanted me to play the character [Mughal emperor Akbar] that was made famous by my grandfather Prithviraj Kapoor. I thought he wanted me to play my grandfather. The line wasn’t clear and so I kept repeating how could I play my grandfather? I don’t want to play Akbar.”

The poor reception made it difficult for Desai and Kapoor to understand what the other was saying. "I couldn’t hear him, but I guess he must have told the operator that ‘yeh kya piya hai’ [is he drunk?]."

Of course, things were resolved later and Kapoor went on to play the iconic Muslim character from Desai's blockbuster.