Filmfare recommends: The best films of Rishi Kapoor as a leading man

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Rishi Kapoor started life in films as a child seen in the song Pyar hua iqrar hua hai from his father’s film Shree 420 (1955). He was just three at the time. He made his debut as an adult with Bobby (1973) and one of the most formidable romantic heroes got born with the film. He romanced girls on screen for the next 30 years and looked good doing it. His charm, his personality never faded. He was battling with cancer for the past two years and though he came back after spending a year in New York, good health seemed to have deserted him. He passed away suddenly this morning, leaving all of us bereaved with his loss. As a tribute of sorts, we present a list of his best films down the years where he played the leading man. He may no longer be with us in body but he’ll forever remain with us in spirit through his movies…

Raj (Rishi Kapor) is the son of a rich businessman (Pran), while Bobby is the daughter of a fisherman (Prem Nath). It’s love at first sight for both Raj and Bobby but his father frowns upon it, thinking that Bobby and her father are after his wealth. The two teenagers decide to run away and are captured by Prem Chopra, who wants to earn the bounty put up by Raj’s father. After being rescued from him, they want to end their lives and jump together in a waterfall. While Bobby’s father saves Raj, she’s saved by his dad, and the differences get reconciled. The film was a musical hit by Laxmikant-Pyarelal and songs such as Hum tum ek kamre mein band ho, main shayar to nahi, and Mujhe kuch kehna hai are still popular today.

The film followed the basic plot points of the American hit Some Like It Hot (1959) and had both Rishi and Paintal appearing in drag. One must say both looked as pretty as the girls. Two out-of-work musicians Dev (Rishi Kapoor) and Salim (Paintal) witness a murder in a graveyard and are spotted by the villains. In order to save themselves, they decide to disguise themselves as girls and get themselves registered with an all-girl band which is going to Kashmir on a train. Reetu (Neetu Singh) is a singer in the band and wants to marry a rich man, and Dev pretends to be a millionaire to impress her. Meanwhile, an actual millionaire, Rajendra Nath, falls for Salim. After having many misadventures, they are able to save themselves from the clutches of the villains and also get to serve some revenge.

Ajay (Rishi Kapoor), Vikram (Rakesh Roshan) and Nisha (Neetu Singh) are collegians. While Vikram is always upto some mischief, Ajay is more studious but slowly he also joins Vikram in his pranks. They write a fake extortion letter to a rich man hoping to pump him for some money. However, first, the rich man and the Vikram both end up dead. It transpires that Vikram and his girlfriend were running an extortion racket and she also gets killed. Now, Ajay and Nisha are being hounded by the police on one hand and Vikram’s boss on the other. They have to utilise all their resources to prove their innocence and catch the real killers. How they go about it forms the crux of the story. RD Burman gave the music and the film has frothy numbers like Ek main aur ek tu, Khullam khulla pyar karenge and Hamne tumko dekha.

Director: Harnam Singh Rawail
Cast: Rishi Kapoor, Ranjeeta Kaur, Danny Dengzongpa, Aruna Irani, Asrani, Raza Murad

The film is based on the legendary Arabic tale of Layla and Majnun. Laila (Ranjeeta) and Majnu (Rishi Kapoor) have loved each other since they were children. Their love was divinely ordained in the sense that if one was hurt, the other would immediately feel the pain. They were separated because they belonged to different clans and brought up in different places. After having grown up, they meet by chance and immediately fall in love once more. Majnu is exiled when he avenges his father’s death by killing Laila’s brother. She’s married off to a prince. The two lovers look fated to be denied a union in life. Madan Mohan passed away, and Jaidev finished the film’s score. The film was a musical hit, with songs like Tere dar pe aaya hoon, Hoke mayoos tere dar se, Ab agar hum se and Llikh kar tera naam zameen par ruling the airwaves.

Kabhi Kabhie (1976)

Director: Yash Chopra
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor, Raakhee, Waheeda Rehman, Rishi Kapoor, Neetu Singh

A poet, Amit Malhotra (Amitabh Bachchan), is in love with Pooja (Raakhee). But Pooja’s parents arrange her marriage to an architect, Vijay Khanna (Shashi Kapoor). A heartbroken Amit joins his father’s business and later marries Anjali (Waheeda Rehman), has a daughter named Pinky (Neetu Singh) from a previous relationship. Another daughter Sweety (Naseem) is born out of this marriage. Rishi Kapoor plays Vicky, Pooja’s son who flirts with both Pinky and Sweety but loves Pinky. She wants to get united with her birth mother but Anjali doesn’t acknowledge her, fearing for her marriage. What follows is a storm of emotions that threatens to engulf everybody. Rishi brought a touch of fun and froth to this otherwise heavy-duty romance. The film has two of the best ghazals of Sahir, Kabhi kabhi mere dil mein khayal aata hai and Main pal do pal ka shayar hoon. Khayyam composed the music.

Doosra Aadmi (1977)

Best films of Rishi Kapoor

Director: Ramesh Talwar
Cast: Rishi Kapoor, Neetu Singh, Shashi Kapoor, Raakhee

The film explored the concept of obsessive love. Nisha (Raakhee), a known name in advertising, accepts young buck Karan’s (Rishi Kapoor) job offer in his new agency because he reminds her of her dead boyfriend (Shashi Kapoor). It would have been alright if Karan was single but he’s newly married and their growing closeness threatens to break his marriage with Timsi (Neetu Singh). The film begins on a high where Karan is seen beating a boy black and blue after he misbehaves with Timsi during Holi. All Kabir Singh lovers, take note. The end, however, is kind of tragic, with Karan desperately wanting Nisha to be in his life and she resisting his pleas as she doesn’t want his marriage to shatter. It was one of the most realistic portrayals by the actor until then.

Amar Akbar Anthony (1977)

Best films of Rishi Kapoor

Director: Manmohan Desai
Cast: Vinod Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan, Rishi Kapoor, Neetu Singh, Parveen Babi, Shabana Azmi, Nirupa Roy

It’s a classic tale of three brothers separated since childhood and brought up to follow different faiths, getting united upon growing up and exacting revenge on the people who had harmed them. It had romance, action, comedy in equal measure and this something for everyone approach contributed big time towards the film’s stupendous success. Rishi played the youngest brother, who is a musician and hence the onus of providing the musical aspects to the film fell on his shoulders. He had three qawwalis, the frothy Tayyab ali pyar ka dushman, the romantic Parda hai parda, and the Sufi, Shirdi wale Sai Baba, filmed on him. His comic timing with Bachchan was worth noting as well. 

Sargam (1979)

Best films of Rishi Kapoor

Director: K Viswanath
Cast: Rishi Kapoor, Jaya Prada

Jaya Prada became an overnight sensation after the release of this musical. Her classical beauty was compared to Ajanta statues. It was a remake of K Viswanath’s earlier Telugu film Siri Siri Muvva (1976). Rishi Kapoor played the lead actor in the film. Jaya Prada reprised her role of a mute dancer in the film. She bedazzled the Hindi film audience with her classical-based dances. Laxmikant-Pyarelal gave many wonderful songs in the film. The Dafli wale song — where Rishi apparently played the instrument for real — sung by Mohammed Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar became hugely popular and hasn’t lost its magic even now.

Karz (1980)

Best films of Rishi Kapoor

Director: Subhash Ghai
Cast: Rishi Kapoor, Simi Garewal, Tina Munim, Raj Kiran, Prem Nath and Pran

This thriller was inspired by the Reincarnation Of Peter Proud (1975). It was a true blue musical, despite its macabre theme. Laxmikant Pyarelal’s songs such as Om shanti Om, Ek haseena thi, Dard-e-dil, Main solah baras ki are still popular today. Rishi Kapoor played a pop singer and him dancing on a revolving disc-like stage was pure kitsch. The reincarnation theme proved a hit with the audience, as did Rishi-Tina’s jodi and Simi Garewal’s portrayal of a scheming gold digger, who seemingly refused to age. The film offered chills and thrills in equal measure.

Prem Rog (1982)

Best films of Rishi Kapoor

Director: Raj Kapoor
Cast: Shammi Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor, Padmini Kolhapure

The film struck a blow against age-old customs and preached that one should learn to move in tandem with the changing times. Devdhar (Rishi Kapoor) is an orphan brought up by Bade Thakur (Shammi Kapoor). He’s sent to Bombay for higher studies and upon coming back finds that his childhood friend Manorma (Padmini Kolhapure) has blossomed into a beautiful young woman. He falls in love with her but due to the class difference is unable to air his feelings. She’s married off to another Thakur, who unfortunately dies a day after marriage, leaving her widowed. She’s raped by her brother-in-law and later sent to live with her parents. Her vibrant personality takes a 360-degree turn and at this point, Devdhar re-enters her life in order to bring a smile back to her face.

Tawaif (1985)

Best films of Rishi Kapoor

Director: BR Chopra
Cast: Rishi Kapoor, Rati Agnihotri, Poonam Dhillon, Deepak Parashar

It was a Muslim social which propagated the rehabilitation of the prostitutes in the society. Dawood (Rishi Kapoor) is in love with upcoming writer Kaynat (Poonam Dhillon). Due to certain circumstances, he ends up giving shelter to Sultana (Rati Agnihotri), who is a prostitute by profession. Soon, he’s asked to claim that Sultana is his wife. She wins everyone over with her charm and intelligence and takes to this new role like a duck to water, knowing that it’s not going to last long. She soon develops feelings for the naive Dawood, who too starts liking her. The question is will society accept her after knowing her reality? Rishi didn’t play a typical Hindi film hero but a common man caught up in extraordinary circumstances, and that must have been a refreshing change for him.

Saagar (1985)

Best films of Rishi Kapoor

Director: Ramesh Sippy
Cast: Rishi Kapoor, Dimple Kapadia, Kamal Haasan

Saagar brought the Bobby pairing of Rishi and Dimple back again after 12 years. The film was a love triangle with Kamal Haasan playing the man who loved her from afar since childhood. Rishi plays the scion of a rich family who falls in love with her at first sight and vice versa. Dimple was a delight to watch and looked sexy as ever even after a gap of twelve years. There is a tastefully done blink and you’ll miss it topless scene of hers in the film. While their chemistry was far from a perfect film, the performances and RD Burman’s sublime music makes it a must-watch even now.

Ek Chadar Maili Si (1986)

Best films of Rishi Kapoor

Director: Sukhwant Dhadda
Cast: Rishi Kapoor, Hema Malini, Kulbhushan Kharbanda

The film is based on a novella by Rajinder Singh Bedi having the same name. Bedi got a Sahitya Akademi Award for it. It’s based on the practice of getting a woman married to her brother-in-law after the death of her husband. Hema Malini played the bhabhi while Rishi played her young devar. At first, they find it hard to accept the new reality but later adjust to it. It was a film which went up and down the emotional scale and gave Rishi a chance to do something different than the lover boy rules he was getting. The change of equations between him and Hema is brought out through his emotions quite subtly.

Nagina (1986)

Best films of Rishi Kapoor

Director: Harmesh Malhotra
Cast: Rishi Kapoor, Sridevi, Amrish Puri, Prem Chopra

India’s fascination with snakes is well known. In our mythologies, we come across snakes which can change shape. Sridevi plays one such snake in the film. Rishi Kapoor falls in love with her when she is in human shape. He marries her and all is well for a while. But then Bhairo played by Amrish Puri comes along and recognises her true form. He wants to enslave her because she has knowledge of a secret jewel which can make him the king of the world. He captures her and tortures her but Rishi comes along to rescue and it all ends well. The film was campy as they come but the masses lapped up the supernatural content.

Chandni (1989)

Best films of Rishi Kapoor

Director: Yash Chopra
Cast: Vinod Khanna, Rishi Kapoor, Sridevi, Waheeda Rehman

The film is a classic love-triangle but told with such sensitivity that it doesn’t appear jaded. Rohit (Rishi Kapoor) meets Chandni (Sridevi) at a wedding and instantly falls for her. He woos her relentlessly and she finally says yes to being married to him. He meets up with an accident and gets paralysed from one side. Seeing that he can’t be a good life partner to her any longer, he sends her away. She starts working in a travel agency where her boss, Lalit (Vinod Khanna), a widower is smitten by her. He too pursues her and after much reluctance initially, she finally says yes. Lalit goes to Switzerland where he meets Rohit, who is undergoing treatment there and they become friends. Rohit, upon getting completely fit, wants Chandni back in his life. When he learns she’s engaged to his friend, he suppresses that desire. He again meets with an accident and seeing Chandni distraught by the whole thing, Lalit guesses the truth that she’s still in love with Rohit. He sacrifices his own happiness for hers and she and Rohit eventually get married.

Khoj (1989)

Best films of Rishi Kapoor

Director: Keshu Ramsay
Cast: Rishi Kapoor, Naseeruddin Shah,Danny Denzongpa and Kimi Katkar

It was a thriller based on the British film Chase A Crooked Shadow (1957). Ravi (Rishi Kapoor) comes to Kathmandu with his wife Anita (Kimi Katkar) to spend some time together. When his wife goes missing he files a complaint with the police. Inspector Balbir (Naseeruddin Shah), who is in charge of the case, starts his investigation. Ravi gets a call from Father Anthony (Danny Denzongpa), from a nearby convent telling him that his wife is in the convent. Both Ravi and Balbir go to investigate. Ravi denies that the woman is his wife but all the evidence gathered by Balbir points towards the fact that the woman is actually Ravi’s wife. It’s a whodunit that will keep you sitting on the edge of your seats till the end.

Henna (1991)

Best films of Rishi Kapoor

Director Raj Kapoor, Randhir Kapoor
Cast: Rishi Kapoor, Zeba Bakhtiar, Ashwini Bhave

The film was conceptualized by Raj Kapoor who even started shooting for it but after his untimely death, his elder son Randhir completed the film. It’s a cross border Romance between an Indian man and a Pakistani girl. Chandra Prakash (Rishi Kapoor) lives in Srinagar and is to be married soon to Chandni plate by Ashwini Bhave. On the very day of the engagement, he meets with an accident and falls into a river which takes him to the Pakistan occupied portion of Kashmir. He loses his memory and is cared for by Henna (Zeba Bakhtiar) and her widowed father. Henna falls in love with him and wants to marry him. Their marriage is arranged but on the day of marriage, he regains his memory. Upon hearing this, the kind-hearted villagers want to create a safe passage for him to go back but his attempt is foiled by a jealous suitor of Henna who brands him as an Indian spy. Henna ultimately gives up her life to bring about freedom for her beloved.

Ajooba (1991)

Best films of Rishi Kapoor

Director: Shashi Kapoor, Gennadi Vasilyev
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Rishi Kapoor, Dimple Kapadia, Sonam

Ajooba was a superhero film made with Russian collaboration. show the superior CGI work for the time that you see in the film is all thanks to the Soviet CGI wizards. The film had a masked superhero called Ajooba, played by Amitabh Bachchan, who writes against the forces of darkness and battles the evil. Rishi Kapoor played his trusted friend who aids him in every battle. Together they fight The evil forces of the Vizier and woo Dimple and Sonam. Flying carpets, monsters, supernatural entities, magic swords and also a dolphin whom Ajooba considered as his mother. The film had all sorts of fantastic elements. And was a truly never seen before phenomenon indeed.

Deewana (1992)

Best films of Rishi Kapoor

Director: Raj Kanwar
Cast: Rishi Kapoor Divya Bharti, Shah Rukh Khan, Amrish Puri, Mohnish Bahl

Ravi (Rishi Kapoor) falls for Kajal (Divya Bharti) when he first sees her he was her ardently and finally they get married. It looks like they were all set for an ideal life but then tragedy strikes. Ravi’s greedy uncle Pratap (Amrish Puri) and cousin Narendra (Mohnish Bahl), arrange for him to get killed. Kajal becomes a widow and her life seems to be over. They leave their city and settle somewhere else. At this juncture, another young man, Raja (Shah Rukh Khan) comes into Kajals life. Raja wants to marry her and has no issues with her being a widow. She has the blessings of her mother-in-law and soon starts a new life. But Ravi hasn’t died and has been searching for his wife and mother ever since. He understands the situation and gives his blessings to the union. When his uncle threatens to destroy their lives again, he sets himself up for the ultimate sacrifice to bring peace to his loved ones.

Bol Radha Bol (1992)

Best films of Rishi Kapoor

Director: David Dhawan
Cast: Rishi Kapoor, Juhi Chawla

Rishi Kapoor played a double role in this film. and was appreciated both as Kishan Malhotra and Tony Braganza. Kishan goes to seek business opportunities in a village and falls in love with a village girl, Radha. He starts bringing reforms to the village and even starts teaching people in the night. When he goes back home he gets the shock of his life. His mother has passed away and worse there is a stranger who has planted himself there pretending to be him. It’s all his cousin Bhanu’s ploy. How Kishan with the help of Radha outwits the villains and turns the table on them forms the crux of this comic thriller.

Do Dooni Chaar (2010)

Best films of Rishi Kapoor

Director Habib Faisal
Cast Rishi Kapoor, Neetu Singh

The film marked Habib Faisal’s debut as a director. It also had Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh coming back as a pair in films after a gap of around 30 years. The film centres around a middle-class school teacher who wants to buy a car for the happiness of his family. He is offered money to pass one of his students and almost takes up on the offer before the conscience pricks him. His honesty earns him the respect of the student’s grandfather who is a rich merchant and who gives him money in advance to teach his grandson maths. That money is now used by the maths teacher as the down payment for his new car. But there’s a catch. The car gets stuck in the Delhi traffic and he fondly remembers his old scooter which helped him cut through traffic easily.

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