A Strong Votary of Indo-Pak Friendship, Chintoo, Who Romanced Kashmir, Is Dead

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by Tasavur Mushtaq

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SRINAGAR: Connected with Kashmir for decades, Bollywood’s evergreen heartthrob Rishi Kapoor is no more. He was rushed to Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital on Wednesday after he complained of uneasiness. A day later, he breathed his last at the age of 67. This is the film industry’s second loss by the same disease in two days- Irrfan Khan was claimed by cancer a day ago.

File image of Rishi Kapoor

Battling with cancer since 2018, Rishi Kapoor fought a long battle against the malady. He underwent treatment in New York for almost a year. He returned to India last year but had no public appearance. “Back home! 11 months, 11 days! Thank you all,” tweeted Rishi Kapoor after his homecoming.

A part of the glamour world for last nearly five decades, Rishi had a sparkling debut in 1973’s Bobby. The musical love story of two city-bred teenagers changed Kapoor’s life. Bobby was one of the most commercially successful films of the 1970s and was extremely popular in the erstwhile Soviet Union. Girls wrote letters in blood to Kapoor; mobbed him and sported Bobby T-shirts.

“Before Bobby, Indian cinema was about men and women, but after Bobby, it became about boys and girls,” Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan once said in an interview

Mufti Sayeed with Bollywood filmmakers and actors. In this 2015 photograph, Rishi Kapoor is talking to the Chef Minster as Anupam Kher is looking on.

Before his role in Bobby, Kapoor began his career with roles in his father Raj Kapoor’s films. As a four-year-old, he appeared briefly in a romantic rain-drenched song sequence in his father’s film Shree 420 song Pyar Hua Ikraar Hua. He played a young version of his father in 1970 film Mera Naam Joker, winning the National Award for Best Child Artist for his performance.

Rishi Kapoor is survived by his wife Neetu Kapoor, son Ranbir and daughter Riddhima. Last seen in the 2019 films The Body and Jhootha Kahin Ka, Kapoor was meant to star in a Bollywood adaptation of The Intern with Deepika Padukone. However, death denied that opportunity to him.

Kashmir Connection

Rishi Kapoor’s Kashmir connection dates back to the 1970s when he had shot to fame as a young lover in super-hit Bobby. Working in more than 100 films, Kapoor shot 14 films between 1972 and 1988 in Kashmir. Those were the years when Kashmir was a prime destination for Bollywood filmmakers.

When Kapoor visited Kashmir in October 2011 after a gap of 23 years on a personal visit, he found valley as romantic as it was decades ago.

“Very few places in the world provide so much variety as Kashmir. You have so much variety here. It is a virgin beauty. This place is all about romance,” Rishi told reporters.

Delving into his experience when he would frequently visit the valley to shoot for his films, Rishi added, “When we were shooting for Bobby in Pahalgam, it started snowing. So, we included that snow sequence also. This place has so much to offer”.

Rishi had said, “Kapoor family in Bollywood has a deep association with Kashmir and were connected with the soil here.”

During his visit, Kapoor interacted with his old friends in the hospitality sector and drove around Srinagar as well.

Interestingly, the Jammu and Kashmir government re-invested in a particular hut in Pahalgam where sequences of Bobby were shot, in addition to Gulmarg. It was later marketed by the tourism department as Booby Hut.

Trolled for Kashmir

In November 2017, Kapoor was trolled on social media in mainland India for his desire to see Pakistan before death and supporting National Conference President and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah’s statement that ‘Jammu and Kashmir are ours and PoK is theirs’.

Farooq Abdullah had said, that the talk of an Independent Kashmir was wrong as it is surrounded by three nuclear powers — China, Pakistan, and India.

A scene from Bobby film in which Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia were in the lead roles. The film was shot in Kashmir.

Taking this forward and voicing his support for Abdullah, Kapoor tweeted that he is in complete agreement with Abdullah. “J&K is ours, and PoK is theirs,” the actor wrote, adding that it is the only way “we can solve our problem”. He also wrote that he wants to see Pakistan before he dies and wants his children “to see their roots” too. “Farooq Abdullah Ji, Salaam! Totally agree with you, sir. J&K is ours, and PoK is theirs. This is the only way we can solve our problem. Accept it, I am 65 years old and I want to see Pakistan before I die. I want my children to see their roots. Bas karva Dijiye. Jai Mata Di !” he wrote.

The Kapoor family hailed from Peshawar in modern-day Pakistan and migrated to India after partition in 1947.

Fashion Icon

The poster boy of teen romances, in Kashmir it is said Rishi introduced the designed knitwear. With his boyish image and the colourful designs, he made the sweaters part of ceremonies. “Those days the designed knitwear was most sought after gift shared between couples,” said Sara. His movie, she said was a must to see immediately after the marriage.

Reportedly as the cremation rituals of the actor are completed, condolences continue to pour in.

In his condolence message, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was anguished by Rishi Kapoor’s demise. ” Multifaceted, endearing, and lively…this was Rishi Kapoor Ji. He was a powerhouse of talent. I will always recall our interactions, even on social media. He was passionate about films and India’s progress. Anguished by his demise. Condolences to his family and fans. Om Shanti,” PM Modi said in his tweet.

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Congress leader Rahul Gandhi remembered him as a wonderful actor, “This is a terrible week for Indian cinema, with the passing of another legend, actor Rishi Kapoor. A wonderful actor, with a huge fan following across generations, he will be greatly missed. My condolences to his family, friends, and fans all over the world, at this time of grief,” he said.

Omar Abdullah in Kashmir also regrets the loss. “From Bobby to Karz to Zamane Ko Dikhana Hai, your movies & some of the dialogues have been such an integral part of my childhood. You made a little hut in Gulmarg an iconic place with one sing. Farewell @chintskap & thankful for the memories,” he wrote on Twitter.

He also retweeted an image that showed Rishi Kapoor standing outside the iconic hut in Gulmarg where the famous song ‘Hum tum ek kamre mein…’ was picturised on Rishi and Dimple Kapadia.

Lamenting the loss, sister of Omar, Safia Abdullah Khan said, “What a cruel month April is turning out to be. Rishi Kapoor’s films were a huge part of our childhood. RIP Chintu.”

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