– By RJ Archana Pania

It hasn’t yet sunk in, and I wonder if it ever will that Rishi Kapoor ji is no more.

I first met him at the special screening of Saawariya, and he was watching his son Ranbir turn into an overnight star in the auditorium post the show. He was so concerned that his son would be manhandled by the huge crowd! I walked up to Rishi ji to share that my family and I were his huge fans, and he in his inimitable Kapoor candour with outstretched hands smilingly said “thank you” while keeping an eye on Ranbir.

I still can’t remember when our RJ to actor connect turned into friendship. During interviews at RK Studios, he would proudly show me around, and his eyes would light up while talking about his father, Raj Kapoor saahab, and his grandfather Prithviraj Kapoor Ji.

He had reservations about his own physique, and always said, “If I had maintained my weight I would give all the young guns a run for their money.” It’s not for nothing that the tag of a chocolate hero stayed with him for over three decades. His performances could very well range from an angry lover boy (Kabhi Kabhie) to the most caring sweetheart (Chandni).

In my almost two decades of a radio career, no actor brought us treats. In fact, invariably, we would be ordering food for them. Rishi ji and Neetu ji, however, came in for their film Do Dooni Chaar’s promotions and got us all at Radio City studio a huge hamper of goodies from his favourite food joint. Croissants, pastries, puffs, muffins… you name it and he got it. That’s when one could see the largess of his heart.

I had some of the best memories at his home during Ganpati celebrations. He loved the festival and had Bappa home for five days, and would say that he wanted Bappa to stay longer than that. Every year, promptly, his invitation would arrive. Post the aarti he would sit all of us down and we would indulge in some “gupp-shupp”. Poonam Dhillon ji, Padmini ji would all be in splits thanks to his candid ways of recalling the times gone by.

My most favourite memory of him is how one day he called me to scold me for using “Tu” while addressing my listeners. He said, “Let that boy (my co-RJ Salil Acharya) with you do “tu-tadaka”, you continue saying “aap” the way you do, you are from a good family.” I wondered about the kind of care that call reflected, the concern he had for people he was fond of. Sometimes, I would call him on his landline to wish him on his birthday or to congratulate him for a great performance in a film. Typically, he would first express irritation like it’s all an everyday thing. But then, he would oblige me with an interview with heartfelt involvement.

But no matter what our conversations would be about, we always ended up discussing Ranbir’s projects (where he felt Ranbir should take up more work and not work on single projects for so long) and his one smile gave away how proud he was of his son.

I am sure the legendary actor will see his legacy being carried forward beautifully by Ranbir, who has never ceased to astound us with his talent.

Rishi ji, I know you had so much zest for doing more. No one romanced life and cinema as you did on an everyday basis. Thank you for giving us countless memories and conversations to remember forever. Our industry won’t be the same after today…

Some of my favourite songs of RK ji:

Dafli Wale – Sargam
Hoga Tumse Pyaara Kaun – Zamane Ko Dikhana Hai
Chukkk Chukk Bombay Se Baroda Tak – Rafoo Chakkar
Om Shaanti Om/Kya Umar Thi – Karz
Humko Tumse – Amar Akbar Anthony
Chal Kahee Door – doosra Aadmi
Tu Tu Hai Wahi – Yeh Vaada Raha
Jeevan Ke Din Chhote Sahi – Bade Dilwale
Lambooji-Tinkuji – Coolie
Chandni – Chandni O Meri Chandni
Sochenge Tumhe Pyaar/Teri Umeed – Deewana

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