By Jyothi Venkatesh
Today, it is exactly a year since Rishi Kapoor, my dear grumpy old friend for the past four decades passed away though he had emerged victorious after battling with Cancer for almost a year in the US. Though I was quite friendly with the Kapoors especially Raj Kapoor with whom I used to drink occasionally in the evenings as well as his Loni Farm House, it was Rishi Kapoor who I used to call Chintu affectionately who was my dear friend as we belonged to the same age group. What’s more, both Chintu and I were born the same year- 1952 .
I remember before his marriage having asked Rishi whether he had any qualms about losing his evergreen bachelor image when he was all set to marry his sweetheart Neetu. Even before I could finish asking the question, he interrupted me halfway with, “I care a damn for the image. Did my father Raj Kapoor or for that matter Dilip Kumar or Ashok Kumar lose their bachelor image just because they got married? On the contrary their fans knew that they were all happily married and yet fell for them. Rishi paused for a moment, winked at me and quipped, “Why, my father was the biggest lover boy among all the leading men of the 60’s in spite of the fact that he was then the father of all four of us-Dabboo, Chimpu, Reema and I.”
Has he thought of his marriage and the trail of responsibilities that his marriage would bring along with it? I asked Chintu. Hr replied, “Mujhe jyada farak nahi padne wala hain” and then went on to elaborate, “I agree I have to care more for home and cannot have late nights like these days. But then even nowadays, whenever I keep late nights, I inevitably spend them with Neetu besides me. After marriage too, I may spend late nights but the only difference will be that I will be spending them with Neetu inside our home.”(Chintu winked at me).
Chintu confessed to me that actually he wasn’t at all prepared for an early marriage with Neetu and was more eager to consolidate his career of the moment. “People ask me if I had to encounter problems in convincing my parents about Neetu. On the contrary, it was my parents, who sprang a pleasant surprise on me at Delhi where I had gone to attend the engagement of Rajendra Kumar’s daughter Dimple. They asked me to ask Neetu to rush up to Delhi and forced me to get engaged to her. I tell you, Neetu has worked her way to the hearts of my parents.”
The last time I had Whatsapped Chintu was when he celebrated his 67th birthday in New York. Within minutes of my having wished him, Chintu Whatsapped me back, “Thank you Jyothi. 11 months 6 days here today in NY and hopefully will be back soon.”
Once, I bumped into him at PVR Juhu where I had gone to see a Bengali film as the journalist turned director of the filmhad invited me personally and I bumped into none other thanChintu who had come to see a Hollywood film there. Chintu called the F&B Manager of the multiplex in front of me and while he was paying him in cash for whatever he had fetched him from the snacks counter, he winked at me“I insist on paying for what I buy and never try to use my clout as a star.”
I remember I had written to him on whatsapp that there were rumors that his father the late Rajji had lifted a foreign tune and rehashed it as his own in the film Awara and he quickly had retorted, “You should brush your knowledge about foreign filmsThis song was in a film which had been made after my dad had released Awara. How could he have rehashed a foreign song as his own? It is high time that you retired from journalism my dear Jyothi.”
Chintu had every right to chide me becausewe had made our debuts in the industry together – he as an actor and I as a journalistalmost around the same time after he had made his debut with the film Bobby. Yes. You can call Chintu my senior because he had already acted in Mera Naam Joker
I will now miss the good old days when Chintu and I used to sit at his bungalow and drink Black Label and he used to narrate interesting anecdote after anecdote to me till both he and I were totally drunk. Where will I get an actor friend like Chintu today when every other actor is selfish to the core because times have changed for the worse and a star will not talk to me if I do not have an appointment with him through his PR guy or Manager or for that matter his secretary?