Rishi Kapoor would have turned 71 today. The veteran actor is remembered fondly for his larger-than-life, cheerful on-screen and off-screen personality. On his birth anniversary, we are taking a look at how the star brought a more mature persona to the silver screen in `Saagar,` especially after the failure of `Karz.`
The 1970s in Bollywood were a celebration of youth. Right at the center of it all was Rishi Kapoor, whose boyish charm and impish grin danced their way into countless hearts. “Rishi Kapoor’s boyish charm helped propel him to superstardom in the 1970s.” With iconic films under his belt like `Bobby,` `Rafoo Chakkar,` `Khel Khel Mein,` `Sargam,` `Amar Akbar Anthony,` `Naseeb,` and `Coolie,` every filmmaker vied for megawatt charisma and infectious smile. Rishi himself quipped about how he “upped the youth quotient.”
However, by the time he had entered the second decade of his career in the 1980s, Rishi Kapoor slowly revealed a more mature dimension of the person behind the cinematic heartthrob – and this could especially be seen in Ramesh Sippy`s film `Saagar.` A reason for this shift in persona was the bitter sting left behind by the lukewarm audience reception to `Karz.`
For a generation that sways to the beats of `Om Shanti Om` and `Ek Haseena Thi`, it`s hard to fathom that `Karz,` despite its memorable Laxmikant-Pyarelal tunes and a fresh spin to the reincarnation trope, failed to hit the right chord with its audience. The film`s premise was gripping – a quest for vengeance from a past life, but alas! The film`s fate was sealed when Feroz Khan’s `Qurbani` released just a week later, overshadowing the musical drama. Rishi’s heartfelt confession from his autobiography “Khullam Khulla: Rishi Kapoor Uncensored” paints a vivid picture of the heartache. “I lost my nerve, sinking into a deep depression,” he wrote, describing the aftermath of Karz`s box office reception. “I would tremble on the sets and feel faint. I’d sink into my chair, go to the makeup room and ask for water.”
The agony of this professional setback was intensified by his personal life. The newlywed Rishi, fresh into his marriage with Neetu Kapoor, pondered if tying the knot was the reason behind his “diminishing fan base.” His heartbreak was palpable when he said, “I felt every ounce of confidence drain out of me. Karz had held great promise, I had thought it would do wonders for my career… When that didn’t happen, I was shattered.”
Rishi Kapoor passed away in 2020 after a two-year long battle with leukemia. After his death, `Saagar` director Ramesh Sippy recalled his professional etiquette and the fun times they had shared on the sets of the film in an interview with Mumbai Mirror. Rishi played the charming hero to Dimple Kapadia, with Kamal Haasan being the second romantic interest in the love triangle. Sippy shared how Rishi Kapoor always brought an infectious energy to the entire team and had great instincts and skills regarding dialogue delivery. According to the director, Rishi`s expressive eyes could eloquently convey emotion without any dialogue too.
“As a director to an actor, I never had any problems with him. He always understood very quickly what I needed from him. I hardly had to direct him. Whatever I wanted, he did so well that I didn`t need to say much to him. That`s how good he was. His eyes in particular were very expressive,” Sippy had shared.