Thursday, February 9, 2017

Book Review: Khullam Khulla: Rishi Kapoor Uncensored

Title: Khullam Khulla: Rishi Kapoor Uncensored 
Author: Rishi Kapoor & Meena Iyer
Publisher: Harper Collins India
Pages: 284  
Price: Rs 599
Genre:Autobiography / Films
Rating: 6/10
Format: e-book 

About the book [from the publisher's website]
Only, Rishi Kapoor was and is so much more. Few actors in Hindi cinema have had this sort of a career arc: from the gawky adolescent pining for his schoolteacher (Mera Naam Joker, 1970) to the naughty ninety-year-old (Kapoor & Sons, 2016), Rishi Kapoor has regaled audiences for close to fifty years. He won a National Award for his debut, became an overnight sensation with his first film as a leading man (Bobby, 1973), and carved a niche for himself with a string of romantic musical blockbusters in an era known for its angst-ridden films. He was the youth icon that is still the toast of the satellite TV circuit. The songs he lip-synced are the bread and butter of all radio stations even today. Then there was the second coming after a brief hiatus in the 1990s – as one of the finest actors in mainstream Hindi cinema with powerhouse performances in films like Do Dooni Chaar, D-Day, Agneepath and others. Characteristically candid, Rishi Kapoor brings Punjabi brio to the writing of Khullam Khulla. This is as up close and personal a biography as any fan could have hoped for. He writes about growing up in the shadow of a legendary father, skipping school to act in Mera Naam Joker, the workings of the musical hits of the
era, an encounter with Dawood Ibrahim, his heroines (their working relationship, the gossip and the frisson that was sometimes real), his approach to his craft, his tryst with clinical depression, and more. A foreword by Ranbir Kapoor and a stirring afterword by Neetu Singh bookend the warmest, most dil se biography an Indian star has ever penned.


Bollywood biographies attract a lot of eyeballs and interest, especially if you are a Bollywood buff. Rishi Kapoor may not have been part of any path-breaking cinema but by virtue of being part of Bollywood’s supposed first family, his biography was anticipated to be interesting.  

As the book promises, Rishi Kapoor is candid about his life. He talks about growing up as Raj Kapoor’s son and how they were always allowed to drop in on their studio, how he dropped out of school to be part of the movie business, his debut, his years as the rich lover boy on the celluloid; he accepts that he never experimented, never prepared for any role, never went out of his way to work with anybody. He just kept on doing what he was offered. 

He writes “For decades, I had breezed through a steady line-up of romantic roles. It came so naturally to me that except for choosing a new jersey, there was little pre-shoot work to do.”

He is also unafraid of ruffling some feathers in the way he points out his grievances with colleagues like Amitabh Bachchan or Rajesh Khanna, or with friends like Rakesh Roshan and Jeetendra. 

The biggest charm of this book is its candor and openness, as if he is unafraid of being judged. Otherwise about his life or filmography, there isn’t any insight. 

The book also lacks a structure; though he writes about his father and grandfather, his brothers and sisters, his children, his wife, his movies; yet the stuff somehow does not seem organized in a logical way.

He has also written about his family. There is no new revelation apart from the fact that may be his daughter also nursed a desire to be an actress but let her ambitions bite the dust because her father was protective (?). Most fathers are protective. But to not let your daughter pursue her dreams is selfish. 

As a boyfriend, he was difficult and extremely possessive. Neetu Kapoor keeps on saying that she dreamt of having a family and not of stardom. But he admits that he never went out of his way to encourage her to pursue acting. As a father, he always remained an unapproachable guy like his dad used to be. He never questioned the kind of relationship a father and son must share. He did not bring his personal approach to the relationship.

The biggest revelation is to accept as Raj Kapoor’s son of the former’s affair with Nargis and Vyajantimala. And another thing note-worthy in the entire book is what Naseeruddin Shah told him once -
‘Why don’t actors, male and female, understand that hands have been given to us by God as a biological part of the human body? Why do they have to do all kinds of weird things with their hands when they don’t know what to do in a scene?’ 

It is not an exciting read, it is not unreadable either (I finished it in a day!). It is just an open account of Rishi Kapoor’s life. Do you get to know him as a person? Yes, you do. I don’t know if the expected outcome was positive but to me, he came across as snobbish, even selfish a lot many times.

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