The Kapoor who will make you laugh the loudest

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The Kapoor who will make you laugh the loudest

Mapping the personal and professional arc of Randhir Kapoor, the most jovial member of Hindi cinema's first family


Khalid Mohamed

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Published: Fri 28 Jun 2019, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 5 Jul 2019, 1:19 PM

Unfairly, he's always been 'the other Kapoor'. The eldest of the three sons of showman Raj Kapoor has been taken for granted. Reason: he has never connived to be in the forefront of the glam-game and, partly, because he's been exceedingly self-deprecating. Besides, he's been laidback, resting on his laurels, taking life and career as they come.
That's Randhir Kapoor aka Dabboo, whose chief assets are his ribald sense of humour and congeniality. He retired prematurely as a director after helming a set of entertainers - his debut-making Kal Aaj Aur Kal (1971), which also co-starred his father and thespian grandfather Prithviraj Kapoor, Dharam Karam (1975), and the box-office smash Henna (1991). Since then, he has never gone behind the camera. Perhaps Randhir Kapoor is a realist who is aware that he can never top Henna, the musical romance pleading for peace between the partitioned India and Pakistan.
Like it or not, there's no doubt either that his younger brother, Rishi Kapoor, is a superior and versatile actor. The youngest brother, Rajiv, meanwhile, has chosen to retreat into a shell ever since his attempt at direction, Prem Granth (1996), an adaptation of Thomas Hardy's novel Tess of the d'Urbervilles, showcasing Madhuri Dixit. It was thumbed down at the ticket windows.
If there has been any sibling rivalry between the trio, it has never surfaced. Indeed, last year, they jointly resolved to sell the famed R.K. Studio, where a fire had gutted a part of the sprawling property, besides ravaging the memorabilia - posters, costumes, props and more - which had been preserved there since the 1950s.
Through vicissitudes, the brothers have remained irrevocably bonded. When their mother, the late Krishna Kapoor, had moved out of their Chembur house to a hotel suite over differences with their father, they stood by her firmly, till Raj Kapoor had to end his romance with the Sangam heroine, Vyjayanthimala.
Come to think of it, Rishi Kapoor once asked me, "How come no one has ever thought of penning an autobiography on Dabboo? He knows more details than I do. And for sure, he's the most frank and the best raconteur I know, inside or outside our family. But yes, there's a catch. He would feel self-conscious at the very idea of a book. He's cool and casual, only when he's cracking jokes at his own expense." This aspect of Randhir I saw for myself. The day the film Super Nani (2014), toplining Rekha with him in the supporting cast, tanked big-time, he had walked into Rishi's house for a dinner soiree and jested, "Do you know your security guards wouldn't let me in? Because the film has bombed. But why blame me? It's Rekha whom your guards shouldn't allow into the premises." Followed uproarious laughter from the guests, while the actor kept a straight deadpan face.
Jovial and with a flair for comic timing, the actor has featured in some 40 films, excelling particularly in the light-hearted dramedies: Raampur Ka Lakshman (1972), Haath Ki Safai (1974), Jawani Diwani (1972), Hamrahi (1974), and Kasme Vaade (1978) for which he was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Filmfare Award. As a knee-high child, he had been seen in a couple of walk-on parts in Shree 420 (1955) and Do Ustad (1956).
With the mounting popularity of the angry young man in the mid-1970s, epitomised by Amitabh Bachchan, the feel-good, fun-time hero became an anomaly. Randhir's films, Harjaee (1981) and Jaane Jaan (1983) went under the cracks as it were. Realising that the time of the classic jolly-good-fellow was over, he quit instead of hanging on by a thread. In his occasional senior character roles, he's been called upon to provide the laughs. The most successful examples: Housefull (2012) and its sequel two years later.
Although his private life did go through a rough patch, he hasn't allowed that to stymie his spirit. At the age of 24, he had married his Kal Aaj Aur Kal heroine Babita Shivdasani but separated. A reconciliation was effected by their two daughters, Karisma and Kareena, around 2007, after which they've been seen together at public events, besides family birthdays and anniversaries. If there was any bitterness over the separation, Randhir has hidden that behind his ubiquitous smile.
On her part, Babita has been correctly lauded for strategising the careers of her daughters. Breaking free from the orthodox Kapoor tradition, she ensured both Karisma and Kareena wouldn't only become financially independent but artistes of the calibre who'd do the R.K. family proud. Indeed, at the outset of Karisma's career, Randhir was miffed that his daughter was joining films. Steadily, he came to terms with Karisma's chosen path and began to attend the premieres of her films. A changed man today, he looks content while posing with Karisma's children Samiera and Kiaan, and Kareena's son Taimur. Some say that Taimur has inherited his maternal grandfather's amiable genes, waving out cheerfully to the pesky paparazzi.
Not the sort to settle down for in-depth interviews - given his impatient personality - however, Randhir does handle the media tactfully. When Rishi was rushed to New York for treatment of cancer, he updated the press with brief statements, exulting with joy when his brother was finally diagnosed as cancer-free.
No one in show business has a nasty word to say about him. At the age of 72, he seems to be satisfied with whatever he has achieved. When I once asked him, isn't ambition essential for an actor-producer-director, he had placed his palm on my forehead, "Do you have fever or what? Why on earth should I be ambitious or competitive? I'll live only once, and I want to enjoy myself while it lasts."

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