After a long battle with cancer, Bollywood actor Rishi Kapoor passed away in Mumbai on Thursday. He was 67. Mesmerising audience with his performances over the years, the actor had also never minced words when it came to speaking on various issues. He displayed a similar candour and honesty when talking and writing about his life.
In his biography, Khullam Khulla, published by HarperCollins, India, and co-written by Meena Iyer, the actor made several revelations but not with the intent to shock but with a rare honesty to confide. Other than talking about his own father, Raj Kapoor, the many brawls he have had and the many friendships he made, he also dedicates a chapter to Neetu Kapoor, his wife. He further reveals how their engagement was in fact “plotted”.
Until the time I finally got married, my parents continued to receive proposals for me, many from very distinguished families. When I started dating Neetu, I didn’t formally speak to them about it but they sensed where I was headed. My father tactfully fended off all proposals by telling the families that I was seeing someone and that they presumed I would be marrying her.
Even though I was silent about my relationship with Neetu, my family knew about it and quietly and wholeheartedly accepted it. There was never any doubt that I was madly in love. But if it seemed like Neetu was the one head over heels in love with me and not the other way around, there were good reasons for it. When I was going steady with Yasmin, I used to be petrified. that my father would find out. That fear of being caught out remained with me as I grew older. Even when I started dating Neetu, I couldn’t muster up the courage to tell my parents that I wanted to marry her.
For some reason, I was terrified that my father would find out I was spending time with a girl. I was so full of doubts and complexes that if I spotted my parents while walking with a girl, I would instantly abandon her and walk away. I had no sense of chivalry whatsoever. Looking back, I wonder if I should have turned to a psychiatrist for help to work out my feelings. Although my brothers knew, my parents knew, and pretty much the whole world knew, I could never voice my intentions to Neetu or to them. I wasn’t even sure if I was ready for marriage. I was twenty-seven years old and still living with my parents in Chembur. Today this may seem like a very young age to get married, especially for a man, but in the 1980s, few men remained single past their mid-twenties. Still, I couldn’t make up my mind.
Given how committed we were to each other, nobody could fathom why I wasn’t popping the question. How could they know that I was battling a million demons in my head? I had serious misgivings about the effect of marriage on an actor’s longevity, given how Rajesh Khanna’s career went on a downward spiral post marriage. What if his story repeated itself with me, since I was also a romantic hero and was marrying an actress? I often think I may never have married Neetu, or we may have got married much later than we did, if it weren’t for my sister Ritu. Left to myself, I may never have taken our relationship to the next level.
But we made headlines when I went to Delhi for an engagement in my sister’s family and came back to Mumbai with a ring on my own finger. I hadn’t a clue that Ritu had been plotting and planning along with my friends Gogi (film-maker Ramesh Behl) and Ravi Malhotra (father of Karan Malhotra, the young director of Karan Johar’s 2012 film Agneepath). At the airport in Mumbai, as I waited to board my flight, I met Saira Banu and Dilip Kumar, who asked me where I was going. When I told him I was headed for Delhi to attend an engagement, Dilip sa’ab joked, ‘Don’t pull a fast one on me. Aren’t you going there to get engaged yourself?’ How prophetic Dilip sa’ab’s words turned out to be.
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