Rishi Kapoor died on Thursday from cancer in Mumbai. Over five decades, the 67-year-old actor rolled out the hits, featured in numerous chart-busting songs, and aced character roles. Where do we even begin to pick from such a long and fruitful career?
Mera Naam Joker (1970)
Rishi Kapoor’s first full-length role was in his father Raj Kapoor’s Mera Naam Joker in 1970. The movie follows the travails of circus clown Raju (Raj Kapoor). Raju’s first love is as a teenager, when he falls for his teacher (Simi Garewal). The fake joy Raju summons up at his teacher’s wedding comes handy when he begins a life under the Big Top.
Rishi Kapoor’s first leading role was once again handled by his father. In Raj Kapoor’s Bobby (1973), Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia were perfectly cast as young inter-faith lovers throwing caution to the winds.
Among the movie’s most popular tunes is Hum Tum Ek Kamre Mein Bandh Ho. Although this evergreen hit is about two lovers trapped in a room, the song takes the characters out to green valleys, dark forests with tigers, and snow-capped mountains.
‘Oh Hansini’, Zehreela Insaan (1974)
Sporting a thin moustache, Kapoor looked much older than he was in Zehreela Insaan. But the command with which he enunciates every word of this slow romantic song, and expresses the right emotion on the right beat, does not give a hint of his age.
Rafoo Chakkar (1975)
The Some Like It Hot-inspired comedy stars Kapoor and Paintal as musicians who witness a murder and dress themselves up as women to save themselves. This was already Kapoor’s third film with Neetu Singh, and it’s hard to tell who was prettier. The movie has ghastly make-up, questionable drag-themed comedy, peppy songs (including Kisi Pe Dil Agar) and crackling Rishi-Neetu chemistry.
Khel Khel Mein (1975)
More Rishi-Neetu magic and nifty footwork in this crime thriller that inspired the Abbas-Mustan-directed Khiladi years later. Khel Khel Mein is packed with great songs, including Ek Main Aur Ek Tu, Humne Tumko Dekha and Khullam Khulla Pyaar Karenge.
By the time of Khel Khel Mein’s release two years after Bobby, Kapoor had come into his own as a singing-dancing romantic hero. In Ek Main Aur Ek Tu, Kapoor is jauntier and more confident in his expressions.
Humne Tumko Dekha, among Kapoor’s earliest guitar-on-stage songs, showcases his shimmying skills and ability to hold centrestage without an accompanying heroine.
Khullam Khulla Pyaar Karenge is a step forward: a rebellious declaration of love in an inebriated state. Witness Kapoor’s ability to command attention throughout a seemingly unchoreographed song.
Laila Majnu (1976)
This stirring version of the Laila-Majnu tragedy pairs Kapoor with Ranjeeta. Kapoor is well-suited to play the young Qais, whose love for Laila makes him lose his mind – he becomes a “majnoon” – and wander in the desert.
Parda Hai Parda, Amar Akbar Anthony (1977)
Kapoor is Akbar, one of three brothers raised in different faiths. Manmohan Desai’s manic comedy explores Amitabh Bachchan’s comic timing and Vinod Khanna’s brawniness, but Kapoor has many moments and the movie’s best tunes.
Parda Hai Parda, the quintessential Rishi Kapoor qawaali song, gets the actor to dial up his charm to 100 and beyond. He reasserts his power as the ultimate loverboy in the eight-minute song sequence, imploring his lover to lift up her veil and accept him. Of course he succeeds.
Bachna Ae Haseeno, Hum Kisise Kum Nahin (1977)
Kapoor is in his element as a showman in the super-duper Bachna Ae Haseeno from Hum Kisise Kum Nahin. Trumpet in hand, Kapoor sprints from one end of the stage to another and uses the space to communicate the zest and vigour of the song that declares, “Beauties, beware, for I have arrived.”
Dafaliwale Dafali Baja, Sargam (1979)
Rishi Kapoor and Jaya Prada matched heartbeats and moves in K Viswanath’s remake of his Telugu film Siri Siri Muvva. Dafli in hand, a smile on his lips and a twinkle in his eyes, Kapoor proved yet again that he was an all-round package.
The most popular song from the movie, Dafaliwale Dafali Baja, has Lata Mangeshkar’s voice and Jaya Prada dancing up a storm with a dafli-wielding Kapoor.
Subhash Ghai’s reworking of the Hollywood film The Reincarnation of Peter Proud showcases Kapoor’s many talents. Kapoor plays Monty, the reincarnation of a wealthy man who has been killed by his wife (Simi Garewal).
The song Om Shanti Om encapsulates what Rishi Kapoor meant to the movies. Here he is, a one-man-charm-army, regaling a theatre full of audiences clapping and hooting, while he advises them on love as if he’s a veteran in matters of the heart – which he was, by this point.
In Dard-e-Dil, Kapoor’s charisma is so strong that you might not notice that he is strumming a cordless electric guitar. Kapoor seamlessly moves from emotion to emotion, cheerful one minute and gloomy in the next.
Prem Rog (1982)
One of Raj Kapoor’s most affecting films, Prem Rog explores the plight of a widow. Kapoor plays Deodhar, the orphan who dares to love Rama (Padmini Kolhapure) and is ready to face whatever is thrown his way. Kapoor often played a romantic rebel, and this movie is one of the best examples of the character type.
Hoga Tumse Pyara Kaun, Zamane Ko Dikhana Hai (1981)
Kapoor was the prototype and playbook for whatever Shah Rukh Khan did with romance in the nineties and the noughts. In the song Hoga Tumse Pyara Kaun from Zamane Ko Dikhana Hai (1981), Kapoor dances on top of a train to soothe his upset lover.
Ramesh Sippy cleverly updated the Rishi Kapoor-Dimple Kapadia pairing in Bobby for Saagar (1985). Although it was billed as Kapadia’s comeback film, and had a scene-stealing Kamal Haasan, Kapoor stood his ground – not the first time he would demand and get attention in an ensemble film.
By the time of Saagar’s release, Kapoor had put on some weight, the malleable features of his face had hardened and his gaze became steely. In the Chehra Hai Ya Chand Khila Hai song, Kapoor doesn’t have to do much. He is relaxed and simply lets his eyes do the talking.
Ek Chadar Maili Si (1986)
The closest that Kapoor came to starring in an arthouse film. After her husband’s sudden death, Ranno (Hema Malini) is forced by custom to marry her brother-in-law Mangal (Kapoor) – whom she regards as her son.
JP Dutta’s acclaimed Mumbai-set crime drama has a heavyweight cast led by Dharmendra. Kapoor has a lovely role as Saimulla, a musician and the younger brother of Dharmandra’s gangster who wants to have nothing to do with the family business.
Yash Chopra’s 1989 blockbuster is all about its heroine, played by Sridevi. And yet, we also remember the men who loved her – played by Rishi Kapoor and Vinod Khanna. All three of them must be up there somewhere singing songs of longing to each other.
Bol Radha Bol (1992)
After multi-starrers and love triangles, Kapoor was back in the saddle for David Dhawan’s comedy. Kapoor excels as the good-natured Kishan and his evil lookalike Tony.
Hum Dono (1995)
In this buddy comedy, Kapoor and Nana Patekar came together as estranged brothers forced to tolerate each other in order to gain their father’s inheritance. Kapoor was always a large-hearted actor, never hogging the screen or upstaging his co-stars. This movie is further proof of his generosity.
Luck By Chance (2008)
One of Kapoor’s most delightful roles was in Zoya Akhtar’s Luck By Chance (2009). He played the wonderfully named Romy Rolly, a veteran Hindi film producer who struggles to understand the ways of the new generation.
Do Dooni Chaar (2010)
Habib Faisal reunited Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh for a sweet comedy set in Delhi. Kapoor played a middle-class school teacher who is stretched beyond his means when his family demands that he replace his trusty scooter with a car.
As the pimp Rauf Lala in Karan Malhotra’s Agneepath, Kapoor is nastiness personified – a rare turn towards villainy and an astute casting choice. The song Shah Ka Rutba is a throwback to Kapoor’s qawwali hits.
Another inspired casting choice, this time in Atul Sabharwal’s crime drama Aurangzeb (2013). Kapoor plays a corrupt and venal police officer.
In Nikkhil Advani’s D-Day, Kapoor is a scream as a Dawood Ibrahim-inspired gangster who is holed up in Karachi. A team of undercover Indian intelligence agents works on getting him back to India. One of the agents is played by Irrfan.
Kapoor & Sons (2016)
Shakun Batra’s observational comedy is groaning with talent – Fawad Khan, Alia Bhatt, Ratna Patak Shah, Rajat Kapoor – and Rishi Kapoor, as the cheeky grandfather with a thing for the actress Mandakini from Ram Teri Ganga Maili (an in-joke, since that film was made by Raj Kapoor).
One of Kapoor’s last and most substantial roles. In Anubhav Sinha’s Mulk, Kapoor movingly plays a father forced to deal with his son’s turn towards terrorism and the Islamophobia that follows.
102 Not Out (2018)
Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor were in several films together. In Umesh Shukla’s 102 Not Out (2018), they play father (Bachchan) and son (Kapoor). The conceit barely works, but any opportunity to watch these stalwarts together, right?