MUMBAI, India – Bollywood mourned a second loss in as many days as celebrated actor Rishi Kapoor, whose career spanned half a century, died Thursday, April 30, aged 67 after a prolonged struggle with cancer.
His death came as a severe blow to the Hindi movie industry and film lovers, who were already reeling from the passing Wednesday of Irrfan Khan, one of the country’s most feted actors, aged 53.
“Our dear Rishi Kapoor passed away peacefully… today after a two-year battle with leukemia,” his family said in a statement.
Fellow actor Amitabh Bachchan was among the first to mourn his death, tweeting: “I am destroyed”.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also paid tribute, calling him “a powerhouse of talent”.
Born September 4, 1952, into the prolific Kapoor dynasty – which has produced four generations of actors including his son, Ranbir – he made his debut in the 1970’s epic Mera Naam Joker (My Name is Joker).
He received India’s National Award for best child actor for his performance in the film, which his father Raj produced, directed and starred in.
But it was his later persona as a romantic lead that won him legions of fans.
They flocked to cinemas to see him sing, dance and charm his way into their hearts in films such as the 1973 superhit Bobby and the 1975 thriller Khel Khel Mein (While Playing).
His trademark look – a sweater tied around his shoulders as he courted chiffon sari-clad leading ladies in the Swiss Alps – became shorthand for Bollywood romance.
He was frequently cast opposite actress Neetu Singh, who he later married and raised two children with, jewellery designer Riddhima and Bollywood heartthrob Ranbir.
Bona fide Bollywood royalty, Kapoor churned out hits as a solo hero, playing a lovelorn youth in the 1976 romance Laila Majnu and a rockstar in the 1980 musical thriller Karz (Debt).
But he also felt secure enough to take second billing to other actors in blockbusters such as the 1977 comedy Amar Akbar Anthony – starring Bachchan and Vinod Khanna – although he’d frequently steal the show.
He enjoyed an easy chemistry with male and female co-stars, playing Bachchan’s younger brother in the 1981 melodrama Naseeb (Destiny) and his son in the 2018 film 102 Not Out.
As Kapoor grew older the romantic roles dried up, allowing him the opportunity to display greater versatility.
He terrified audiences as a human trafficker in 2012’s Agneepath (Path of Fire) and won applause for his portrayal of a cantankerous porn-watching grandfather in 2016’s Kapoor & Sons.
His forays behind the camera were less successful.
A 1999 directorial debut Aa Ab Laut Chalen (Come, Let’s Go Back Now) was panned by critics, becoming the last movie produced under the R.K. Films banner established by his father.
In a 2016 interview with talk-show host Simi Garewal, he praised Bollywood’s younger generation for taking more chances with their work.
“We in our times never got a chance to (do) one film at one time… we survived,” he said.
He was never afraid to speak candidly, whether about his movies – most of which deserved to be forgotten, he joked to Garewal – or about his struggles with alcoholism.
In recent years he won a legion of new and younger fans with his frank, and often funny, tweets.
After being diagnosed with cancer in 2018 he sought treatment in New York, but was looking to resume work shortly with plans to film a remake of the 2015 Hollywood production The Intern.
He was forced to return to hospital this month, where, his family said, “the doctors and medical staff… said he kept them entertained to the last.
“He was grateful for the love of his fans… they would all understand that he would like to be remembered with a smile and not with tears.” – Rappler.com