'I'm a stronger person than Rishi'

Neetu Singh prefers to shun the limelight but this yesteryear actress, who lit up the breezy musicals of the 1970s, including many with husband Rishi Kapoor, comes across as a candid and no-nonsense person

SHE CAN just go on and on about her son Ranbir Kapoor and his debut film Saawariya. "Both my husband and I were very nervous. But since I'm the stronger person I kept it inside while he was a nervous wreck. He wouldn't even be here for the release of 'Saawariya'. He went off to Chandigarh for a two-month outdoor shooting," said Neetu Singh.

She dismisses the thought that Ranbir had it easy. "I pampered my daughter Ridhima. Ranbir had it much tougher. I never gave him anything on a platter. Ranbir still gets fixed amount as pocket money. Even when Ranbir is earning in millions I'd like to continue giving him pocket money."

Neetu speaks in a no-hold-barred interview on Ranbir, Rishi, life and being a Kapoor.

You were surprisingly sporting the other day on the music contest 'Voice Of India'.

Yes, when one of the contestants called me on stage I went and enacted the veil-lifting scene from the song 'Purdah hai purdah'. To relive all our songs was such a nostalgic experience. My husband's films had very good music. My God! We got so many SMSs after the show. Since we don't watch much television we were quite nervous about the show. We didn't know what we were in for. But it went off well.

Were you nervous about Ranbir's debut?

You could say that again! Both my husband and I were very nervous. But since I'm the stronger person I kept it all inside while he was a nervous wreck. He wouldn't even be here for the release of Saawariya. He went off to Chandigarh for a two-month outdoor shooting. I felt the same way about Ranbir's debut as I did when my daughter Ridhima got married.

Ranbir seems to be closer to you than to his father.

Isn't that the way it is with most children? Kids are a reflection of their mother. Both my kids are gentle and, in school, they never behaved like star-children. My husband's work was never at home. He never knew about homework, parent-teacher meetings and the kids' daily routines. Ranbir didn't get a chance to be close to his father until he assisted him in directing 'Aa Ab Laut Chalen'. Now that my husband has been home more often Ranbir has become close to him too. But I think he's much closer to me.

After being pampered at home, Ranbir had to work really hard on his first film.

I never pampered Ranbir! I pampered my daughter Ridhima because I always knew she was going to get married and go away, so I gave her everything. But Ranbir had it much tougher. I never gave him anything on a platter. Ranbir still gets a fixed pocket money. I like the ritual. Even when Ranbir is earning in millions I'd like to continue giving him pocket money. I've given him a good foundation in life. I've taught him to be nice to people, no matter what.

As an actress and a mother do you feel Ranbir will match up to the expectations?

How can I say? But even if he wasn't my son I'd go to the first show and whistle for him. He has his own unique style. People say he has a cute face and an athletic body. And that he's looking different from the others. He isn't a chaap (image) of his dad either. It's impossible to imitate my husband. Johnny Lever once told Rishi that he's the only actor he can't ape because he is such a natural. I have done 11 films with him. I should know.

Can you recognise any pair today as Rishi and Neetu?

Ranbir and Sonam. I think Sonam is a wonderful girl. Kitni pyari bachchi hai. She's a very warm girl. I've known her mother Sunita for years. We hang out in the same group. My mother-in-law and Sonam's grandmother interact all the time.

What do you feel about 'Karz' being remade?

I don't think you can replicate any of those classics. People are doing it. And I wish them all the best.

Did Ranbir come and tell you he wanted to be an actor?

He always wanted to be an actor. Even as a kid, he'd recite Amitabh Bachchan's dialogues. He'd always be dancing at the birthday parties. Even now when he cries or gets angry he looks for a mirror to see how he's looking. The wonderful thing about Ranbir is that he's a very calm person because he's gone after me. In his 24 years I've never seen him lose his cool. He has never gone against me. He can never hurt me. If I get angry, Ranbir looks at me and asks if I had a bad day. And I melt. His way of dealing with problems is so calming. Even at school, Ranbir sorted out all the fights among his friends. He's also very street smart. You can't fool Ranbir. He's far more worldly-wise than I am. He thinks and then acts and talks.

What's your equation with Ranbir now?

We're friends. He tells me about everything, and I mean everything, girlfriends included. I don't hide anything from him either. I guide him. But I don't force him to do anything. And I've to see him once a day. That's enough. I don't want him to sit on my lap or go to the movies with me. All three of us go out for dinner every two to three days. Otherwise I don't go out much.

And Rishi?

Oh, he can't do without me for even a minute. When I go for my weekly movies with friends he calls me constantly. That's why I don't act in movies any longer. He never stopped me. But even if I were away shooting he wouldn't be able to take it. He can't be in the house without me. Since Rishi and I grew up together and sort of merged into marriage I don't mind his dependence on me.

Ranbir has started his career with the best, any fears that other assignments won't be able to match up?

I just hope and pray that isn't true. Of course, you can't compare any filmmaker to Sanjay Leela Bhansali. It was my dream to see Ranbir launched by Sanjay. My dream has come true. And I'm indebted to Bhansali.

Have all your dreams come true?

I've done exactly what I wanted to do. I've been a daughter, wife, mother, daughter-in-law. I'm a very content person. I don't crave for anything. I'm happy with whatever I have. My happiness today is to see my kids happy. Touchwood, Ridhima is very happy in her home. I want people to love Ranbir.

Would you and Rishi like to play Ranbir's parents?

I'd like that.

And it should be a home production?

Yes, provided my husband finds the right subject. Ranbir has a director lurking within him. One day I'm sure he'll make a film and I'd love to be in it.

Why didn't your daughter become an actress?

We never stopped her from doing anything. From childhood she wanted to do fashion designing and said acting wasn't her cup of tea. I must say she's very gifted and an excellent mimic. She got lots of tempting offers, though. But she desisted. And I'm happy for that. This industry is sometimes harsh on women. Men have it easier. But a woman has to be very strong to take all that goes on.

Ranbir is constantly being written about.

I know! The other day there was a story that he was in a fistfight with someone at a public place. He came home and said, 'Mom is that really me? I just do the normal things, like go out with friends, have food at a restaurant. Next thing I know they're running me down.' I told him it's a part of being in the industry.

More news from City Times