To watch Rishi Kapoor being interviewed is a fascinating experience. His face speaks volumes about his life and career. Ordinarily, he's hugely affable, beaming and joking, delivering a succession of super-cool one-liners, giving the people what they want. His smile, his openness and generosity reveal a man who is exactly where he wants to be, a filmstar who appreciates his status and privileges. Then sometimes, when the questions get too tawdry or silly, you'll see a flash of fire in those eyes, a sudden rage that tells of a long road hard-travelled. Because our cute Chintu ji of all Bollywood's biggest stars, has probably endured the toughest route getting there. Getting a personal invite from Excel Entertainment to meet Rishi Kapoor at their Bandra office for the promotion of Zoya Akhtar's Luck BY Chance proved to be lucky in more ways than just one. Our correspondent met the ever so jovial and ever so energetic Rishi Kapoor and spoke in depth about luck, his happy-go-lucky role, his lucky film Bobby and how every time he has been at the right place at the right time to do the right film.
We hear you play an old school type of a naughty ziddi producer in Luck By Chance.
It's a take on a producer. When I was narrated this part of a producer by Zoya which was written by Javed saab, it came to me as an interesting role. In my 35 years of working in the Indian Film Industry, I've worked with several film producers. Some of them have been happy, some decent, some eccentric, some were weirdo's as far as their dressing, speaking and their way of thinking was concerned. So what I did was, I amalgamated all those characters to paint one character called Romi Rolly, which is my name in the film.
So what does the weirdo Romi do?
(laughs) He believes in astrology, numerology and all the "logies" you can think of, more than his ability. Romi is running on luck just like all the films are running. Romi's films work on luck and if his stars are correct. The way he functions as a producer is by bullying a new comer because he does not want to pay him as much of money. I am also a weirdo who is passionate about films and food.
And what about your attire. I'm sure that was inspired by someone.
You're right but he wasn't a producer. I wouldn't name anyone but he was my co-actor. In one of the publicity pictures, I'm seen wearing a kaftaan. But that scene from the film is cut off. It'll be there in the DVD. But imagine someone wearing a kaftaan. That in itself speaks volumes (laughs). My fellow colleague used to wear that while coming for work. Can you believe it? I was inspired from him. Even Juhi Chawla has taken inspiration from some producer's wife in our industry and she is playing that role. But having said that, it's a good take on each of them because they are sincere people.
How was your interactions with a first female director you've worked with.
Good research. This is my first film where I have worked with a female lead director. Zoya Akhtar is a very focused girl. A girl who is absolutely living on her film. I was told that she wanted to make Luck By Chance since the last two years. She stuck on to it and never gave up. She has been sincerely involved in making this feature and with the able support of Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani, she has excelled with Excel. I am very happy to work with her because she knew clearly what she wanted to extract from me and others. Though I should say, she has been painfully demanding which is why I am always fighting with her. She won't leave me till the time she is not absolutely satisfied. She does allow you to be spontaneous and gives you that space but she is very much there while you want her. What she wants, she gets. That's Zoya for you.
Is LBC a serious take on the Hindi Film Industry or a laugh riot which is going to pull everyone's leg?
It's an interpretation. It can be funny at times and also serious. It's about a struggler trying to make it. In any field or sphere, luck plays a vital role. To be there at the right time at the right place is essential. In films too, it is very important how and where things happen. It's happened with everybody. If Rajkumar had said 'yes' to Prakash Mehra for Zanjeer, how would have Amitabh Bachchan risen from the same film? If Danny and Premnath would have said 'yes' to Gabbar's role, how would Amjad Khan come in? So that element of luck played a very important factor.
What about you? Were you lucky at the right time at the right place?
I may be. May be all the time or may be none of the time. I refused Yash Chopra's Darr. The film was a turning point in SRK's career. When Yashji came to me with Darr I told him that my earlier film Khoj where I played a negative character didn't do that well. So I told him that he should not take me in Darr. Before that, I had worked in Chandni which worked very well and I wasn't going to play a second role in Darr. I wasn't happy doing that. It had to be in SRK's favour. That is Luck By Chance.
But Bobby proved lucky for you, isn't it?
Absolutely right. If Mera Naam Joker would've been a super hit, my father would've made part two of it which was supposed to be made. But Mera Naam Joker flopped and my father was in problems. So inspired by the first love story of Mera Naam Joker, he made a teenage love story called Bobby. That was my luck. I was just twenty years of age. I was made a star by luck. Raj Kapoor didn't make Bobby to launch me as an actor, he made it for himself. He proved to the world that he didn't need a star face to make a hit. Bobby had Dimple and me who were nobodies. Wasn't I lucky then?
Your part as a producer must've made you interact with all your co-stars. How was the experience?
Yes, I did. But I must say this. In the whole film I don't have a single shot with Konkana Sen Sharma. I have never even met that girl who is working with my son Ranbir in his next film. There is no common platform in the film with her. My interactions were more with Hrithik Roshan and Farhan Akhtar.
Tell us honestly. Is Luck By Chance your best film in the last decade or so because we haven't seen you in such a mood before.
In my long career I was only singing songs and doing romance. Perhaps, from Namastey London time and now Luck By Chance, it has given me a chance to showcase my actual talent. Not that I wasn't talented. I became a hero in three rupees fifty paise, my son became a hero in two hundred rupees. People who can afford to buy two hundred rupees ticket are not of the same sensibilities as that of the auto rickshaw drivers. So one is making a film keeping in mind those sensibilities. It's 2009 and we are not making redundant films like we used to make in the 70's and 80's. The socio-economic structure has changed of India and so has our audience.
So you're employed again?
Of course. People like me who are fifty plus are getting employed again because such kind of subjects are being made. There are different stories coming out. Father is no longer a father. He has become a friend now. Predominantly, Hindi films are youth oriented. By the time the hero gets forty plus and fifty plus, he retires. Whereas in the West, you peak only after fifty. Here unfortunately we have to retire. By the time I have honed my acting skills, I have to retire in this industry. But no more.
What do you have to say about Farhan Akhtar?
Farhan is a multi-tasker. He started off as a producer and a director, then an actor and a singer. I haven't worked with him under his direction. But I have worked with him as a co-star. He is easy on the eye and doesn't try to project himself as an actor. He is a kind of guy who comes from the same thinking school as I do, like being spontaneous, being casual about acting. He puts in that extra effort in his acting to make his performance look effortless.
But it's not only luck Rishi ji. What about talent?
Of course that's important. SRK and Akshay Kumar had no godfather. They've come up on their talent first. There must be some kind of a projection in you too. By saying 'LUCK', I also mean that you get the right film. That film that works for you.
Do you call yourself a struggler?
I am always a struggler and a beginner. Today when I'm giving you this interview, I'm giving it with passion. You're interviewing me and I am learning. Everyday teaches me. What has gone has been forgotten. Now I am waiting for what's ahead of me. I am waiting for my reactions to Luck By Chance, Delhi 6 and a small film titled Chintuji.
What is Chintuji all about?
The film is directed by Annu Kapoor's elder brother, Ranjit Kapoor. He is a theatre personality. The film is about me, about Rishi Kapoor. It's a film which is part illusion, part reality. The film has a great message. People from all over the different corners of India come to Mumbai city to make money. The idea is, if you make your town or city or village that is much self sufficient or capable, they'll never come to Mumbai. It's about how I was born in a place and I come to Mumbai. I was a star and retired and now want to become a politician. And how my home town calls me to contest elections from there and how I change the system there forms the story of Chintuji.
You're also doing a film with your beloved wife Neetu Kapoor titled Do Duni Chaar. Brief us please.
The film is about a teacher and a family of four. I play the teacher in the film. I have my own Vespa and can only dream of having a car. My daughter is shy to go to the school on my scooter, my son does what all youngsters do to make a fast buck. The mother is always in the kitchen from day to night. The film is about how a teacher should get paid sufficient money so that they do not take bribe to pass the students. If you do wrong to give wrong marks to students, you are spoiling the future of your country - your students. The ones who make the future of our country get underpaid. That's ridiculous.
Any message for your fans?
Do not let success go to your head and do not let failure go to your heart. That is what I tell my son Ranbir too. I thank my audiences for where I am today. I've chased girls all my life, I leave that to Ranbir now to do. Let him chase the chicks (laughs).