Rishi Kapoor’s family has been at the head of Hindi films since the 1920s and he grew up in the inner sanctum of an industry that specialises in sycophancy. Over the years, portraits of the actor have described him as reserved (or at least not a typical garrulous Kapoor), shy and private. Yet at 62, Kapoor is a digital warrior ready to spill his thoughts in real time and to take on anyone who interferes with his motto of live and let live.
In an age that’s rapidly becoming characterised by the death of dissent, Kapoor is the lone gunslinger from mainstream Hindi cinema who fires casually (and always impolitely) at whoever or whatever happens to irk him on any given day via his twitter handle @chintskap (his pet name is Chintu), blocks people who abuse him and/or names and shames them. “Don’t worry guys. You have to embarrass these type of abusive idiots in front of the world. This is the only way. Let their heads hang in shame,” he tweeted to reassure us last week. The evergreen hero has been refashioned yet again for a zero-privacy age. It’s almost like the nature of this invasive yet confined-to-a-screen medium allows him to be more than himself.
The meat ban guys got it big time. “I am angry,” Kapoor tweeted on March 15. “Why do you equate food with religion?? I am a beef eating Hindu. Does that mean I am less God fearing than a non eater? Think!!” That tweet resulted in 1,000 retweets and lots of abuse. A few days earlier, he had pointed out that if the problem lay simply in the fact that Indian cows were holy, the government should just allow the import of beef.
Kapoor was quickly introduced to the basics of online abuse. This past year he has gone from an innocent (“Who and what are trolls? Pardon ignorance”) to understanding the essence of social media: “Think on Twitter people wait for you to make an error then screw you” and “Most on Twitter have no sense of humour. You don't take things/tweets so seriously and literally, this is also a fun thing. Enjoy!” In May he threatened to quit the medium but, luckily for us, was convinced to stay put.
His own man
Kapoor drinks Black Label whiskey, seems to share a bond with Abhishek Bachchan and watches sports (especially cricket) and prime-time news. He has the capacity to laugh at himself and still hasn’t figured out what to call Twitter users (my favourite is “tweetums”). He has been spotted looking for an alternative to Literati after Yahoo shut down that popular game. He has a point of view on everything from the Land Acquisition Bill and self-styled god woman Radhe Ma to news anchor Arnab Goswami and the legalities of defacing Indian currency notes. He has already advised controversial Film and Television Institute of India chairperson Gajendra Chauhan to retire. Kapoor has always believed in friendship with Pakistan – RK Films’ Henna starred him alongside and that country's Zeba Bakhtiyar – and doesn’t get why Pakistan-bashing has become so popular in the film industry these past few years.
Between the rants, he shares his love for food and drink. He has a limitless capacity for alcohol jokes: (Drink but drink wisely, not like me!; Anyone a Black Label for a Blue Tikka? Some fan just asked, Do you drink occasionally or regularly? I honestly replied, Occasionally. But the occasions come regularly!!!). He tweets when he’s had a good meal he thinks you should know about. Crab claws at the JW Marriot, Italian food at The Leela, Mumbai, the “extraordinary” food at Bombay Canteen or great meals at London restaurants such as 8 Mount Street and La Petite Maison. Japanese restaurant Wasabi at the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai is a favourite. When chef Hemant Oberoi left, he was sad: “Many a time been fed by you.Your retiring will now make me lose weight. Last night Wasabi”.
Old times' sake
Kapoor is big on nostalgia. He tweets birthday greetings to people he’s loved and lost such as director Manmohan Desai (with whom he made Coolie, Naseeb and Amar Akbar Anthony), singer Kishore Kumar, music director RD Burman and actor Farooq Sheikh. He watches reruns of his old films, remembers anniversaries (26 years since the release of Chandni; 35 years since he shot for Karz in the ballroom of Fernhills Palace Hotel in Ooty; 35 years since he made it to the cover of an HMV record). He loves old photographs (wild holi parties at RK Studio when his father Raj Kapoor was alive; wife Neetu Singh and him on the sets of Rafoo Chakkar; images of his legendary on-screen sweater collection; the shirt he wore in Khel Khel Mein; the time he posed with Nawaz Sharif in Pakistan during the making of Henna).
Kapoor still remembers the price of things (cinema tickets, a litre of petrol) from 40 years ago and he makes sure to update us on the goings-on in the Kapoor family such as his granddaughter Samara’s fourth birthday or son Ranbir Kapoor making it to dinner with his parents on time or a Dadasaheb Phalke award for his uncle Shashi Kapoor. “Third Padma Bhushan and third Phalke award in the family. Prithviraj Kapoor and Raj Kapoor being the other recipients,” he tweeted earlier this year.
Kapoor has bared his soul about certain aspects of his life even before the birth of the internet. In her book The Kapoors, Madhu Jain talks about how in the 1990s, film journalists couldn’t get enough of his private life. “His marriage, temper, drinking bouts were all fodder for an increasingly intrusive press. Analysing this particularly unhappy junction of his life, he admits that he hit ‘male menopause’, fears and insecurities making him irritable and snappy,” Jain says in her book.
Who would have forecast that two decades later that temper – which has acquired new relevance on a new medium – would be invaluable to us.
Watching Henna the first film on Indo-Pak friendship made by us. What with all those Paki bashing films made for commerce. Shame! We are one
— rishi kapoor (@chintskap) March 7, 2015
Ye pandit maulvi sab chodo! Karo dil ki baat. Man ki baat. Ban on food? Unheard of by Idiots!!! Politics!!
— rishi kapoor (@chintskap) March 15, 2015
Please save Aarey greenery as this is the only place where celebrities can take their lovers in their car as not to be seen.I Protest for it
— rishi kapoor (@chintskap) March 23, 2015
Hear hear!How can someone ask you for a selfie when u at the airport public lavatory doing your job?And then they say I am rude and arrogant
— rishi kapoor (@chintskap) April 6, 2015
Another thing. I am Not and repeat NOT Ranbirs Post Box that you can drop messages or post them. Thank you,I remain yours truly-Rishi Kapoor
— rishi kapoor (@chintskap) April 21, 2015
By acquiring land for industrialisation,we will kill the farmer.We need to reinstate him. Insure him.Ensure him.Think of alternatives please
— rishi kapoor (@chintskap) April 23, 2015