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Raj Kapoor was a great teacher: Rahul Rawail on learning the ropes from master filmmaker


At the Diorama International Film Festival, Randhir Kapoor pointed out that the legacy in discussion was actually that of Prithviraj Kapoor, the acting powerhouse who was the first member of the Kapoor family to become a professional actor.

Rajiv and Randhir Kapoor in conversation with Rahul Rawail at the Diorama International Film Festival 2019.

Sukhpreet Kahlon

The first of the coffee chat sessions at the Diorama International Film Festival in Delhi began with a session on the Raj Kapoor legacy. Moderated by filmmaker Rahul Rawail, who began his career by assisting Raj Kapoor, the other speakers at the session were Randhir Kapoor and Rajiv Kapoor, the actor-filmmaker's sons of Raj Kapoor.

At the outset of the discussion, Randhir pointed out that the legacy in discussion was actually that of Prithviraj Kapoor, the acting powerhouse who was the first member of the Kapoor family to become a professional actor and thus lay the foundations of the first family of Hindi cinema — the Kapoors.

The current generation that includes actors Karisma, Kareena and Ranbir Kapoor are continuing in this tradition and keeping the family name alive in cinema. He also mentioned that though his great grandfather made an appearance in Awara (1951), he was not a professional actor. Incidentally, Awara features four generations of the Kapoors — Prithviraj's father, Prithviraj, Raj and a young Shashi Kapoor.

Reminiscing about the times when Raj Kapoor was making his films, Randhir said, “The time when Raj Kapoor was making his films, India was emerging as a nation. We were less materialistic and more idealistic and our cinema reflected those times. The socio-economic situation can be seen in dad’s films and that of his peers. There was more emotion and heart in those films. Now, it’s different. There is more brain in today’s films.”

Randhir and Rajiv Kapoor at Diorama International Film Festival 2019.

While stressing on some of the exemplary qualities of the filmmaker, the panel spoke in particular about his ear for music. Rajiv said, “When [singer] Mukesh died, Raj Kapoor said, 'My voice is gone. When Mohd. Rafi died, Shammi said, 'My voice is gone'. Nowadays, that connection does not exist between the actors and singers.”

Randhir pointed out the rampant use of auto-tune today, saying, “All musicians today have become electricians, they only know how to plug in the instruments.”

As someone who learnt the ropes of filmmaking from Raj Kapoor, Rawail said, “Raj Kapoor was a great teacher. He was the greatest example of a director controlling an actor.”

He narrated his experience on the sets of Bobby (1973) when the filmmaker would enact the scenes in great detail for debutant Dimple Kapadia and get her to do her scenes. Talking about his father’s professionalism Randhir added, “We come from a family of professional actors. As an actor, Raj Kapoor never tried to overpower my thinking.”

Rawail spoke about Raj Kapoor’s immense love for cinema, where he would not care about budgets while shooting a film, despite being the producer! Describing his kind of cinema as ‘personal cinema’, Randhir said that he spent his own money in making the films that he wanted to make simply because he lived and breathed cinema. The immensely enjoyable session ended with the members of the Kapoor family expressing their debt towards their father, due to whom a certain adulation was being bestowed upon them till today.

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