Rishi Kapoor says Chintuji is half fact, half illusion. Anuj Kumar writes

“Delhi is no longer the same. It has become so humid like Mumbai…is the air conditioner on?” The AC is very much on, Chintuji. Is this a starry tantrum or is he living the character called Chintuji, releasing this Friday, which happens to be his birthday? He says it is just a coincidence, but what is not is the fact that with this film Rishi ‘Chintu’ Kapoor has dared to tread where many do not. He plays himself in a film that dissects the phenomenon of idol worship of cine icons.

“The film is, as my father’s popular song goes, aadhi haqiqat, adha fasana…half truth, half illusion. I play myself, film star Rishi Kapoor, whose career is on the wane. He goes to a utopian town Harbaheri, which happens to be his place of birth, to start his political career, but with all the wrong intentions. He is a huge brat, who throws tantrums and misuses the trust of the people of the small town for his gains.”

Isn’t it a risk to mix fact with fiction? What if people believe that is how Rishi Kapoor behaves! “I don’t care. To me it was a challenge, which as an actor I keep looking for. And if it is a risk, I feel it’s worth taking, because beneath the comic situations, the film makes a telling statement: Do these icons deserve the love and respect people shower on them? Let’s see how people react to it. But I must say I am not such a brat!” The trademark Chintu laughter, which has rendered many hearts asunder over the years, surfaces.

Spontaneous actor

His romantic image notwithstanding, Rishi Kapoor is one actor who has never been copied. You won’t find anybody mimicking him in a laughter challenge or a reality show. “Simply because I was never a stylised actor. When I entered the industry, most of the actors had a particular style. I made it a point that I would remain as natural and spontaneous…as close to the character as possible. Somehow the industry chose to carve a romantic image for me…so I kept trying to give something different to all those lover boys I played.”

He did it till 2000, when the long pending Karobar was released. Films like Khoj, where he played a negative role, are seldom remembered — even he could not recall it — but Rishi Kapoor is satisfied with what he has got in four decades. “It was not easy and it is not only my success. It is the hard work of all those producers, directors and music composers who helped sustain that romantic image. You know, some 20-22 heroines were launched opposite me.” Yes, we do. This week is no different, as Kulraj Randhwa is making her Hindi film debut with Chintuji.

“She is not cast opposite me, but I must tell you there is a scene where I try to be overly friendly with her but she shows me my position.”

The film has references to Mera Naam Joker, Rishi Kapoor’s first film, and he has talked about how Raj Kapoor asked for the permission of Rishi’s mother Krishna before casting him. “As my studies had to be managed, he asked her. When she nodded, I was so happy that I started practising signing autographs.”

It also features Kseniya Ryabinkina, who played a trapeze artist, one of the love interests of Raj Kapoor, in Mera Naam Joker. “It is a crucial role, as she brings authenticity to the plot. The credit goes to director Ranjit Kapoor for creating a situation which could not be completed without her and producer Bobby Bedi’s team which located her. I also had some contacts. She is around 70 now. Spending time with her was a great experience.”

After Prithviraj Kapoor, the first family of Bollywood has kept away from the centre of Indian democracy. “See, there are different ways of contributing to the nation. I am doing it by entertaining the people. I don’t have the aptitude to be a politician. My father was asked many a time to join parliamentary politics, but he always maintained he couldn’t shift from Mumbai to Delhi. I don’t mean no actor should join politics, but those who do should do it with honesty and conviction, because it is a matter of people’s lives. There are many who are doing a good job.”

Coming back to the iconic status that film stars get in this country, how difficult is it to maintain the balance in the face of such adulation? “It is not difficult once you realise the transient nature of fame.” Does he advise son Ranbir on these lines? “Why should I? My father never told me. He should make his own impressions of life.”

Better late…

He is making his directorial debut in films at 61, but Ranjit Kapoor is not a frustrated man. An eminent theatre personality, Kapoor has penned dialogues of films such as Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron and Bandit Queen. “I got some offers some years ago but somehow things did not work out.” Inspired by Chekov and Hari Shankar Parsai, Kapoor loves to wrap serious messages in satire. Chintuji is no different. “It was originally called Sab Theek Hai, as it is about a small town where people don’t lock their houses because there is no fear of robbery. Things change when they invite a film star to their place to represent them. He brings the evil with him.” Kapoor needed a star and feels lucky that Rishi Kapoor accepted the offer. “I went to his house with a young director for a narration with the promise that after the narration, I would talk about my film. Rishiji not only liked the idea but also agreed to lend his name to the character.” Kapoor shares an instance of the actor’s commitment. “In the climax, Priyanshu (Chatterjee) abuses the star. When the shooting began I removed the invectives from the script as I felt Rishiji might feel offended. He said, ‘Where are the ‘words’ which you told me during the narration? Bring them on, they will create the right impact.’”

Beneath the comic situations, the film makes a telling statement: Do these icons deserve the love and respect people shower on them?