“The MIT Group of Institutes has lost a family member,” says Mangesh Karad, trustee and secretary of MAEER’S MIT Group Pune. The sprawling campus, almost 30 km from Pune, traces its ancestry to the Kapoor family of Mumbai, especially Rishi Kapoor, the actor who died on Thursday.
“The land used to belong to them. When we were negotiating its sale with the Kapoor brothers, Rajiv, Randhir and Rishi, I remember that Rishi stepped up and said this land was going for a good cause. That’s how we got it in 2002,” Karad says.
The actor last visited in 2009-2010 and did not hide how surprised and impressed he was at the brisk pace of development. “He said he thought it would take 15 to 20 years,” Karad says.
The land, Rajbaug, where a memorial to Raj Kapoor still stands, is at the heart of the Kapoor family lore in Pune. Cousins and friends would get together a couple of times every year and films such as Prem Granth and Prem Rog were shot here. This is where Rishi would talk and listen to stories about the family’s beginnings in Pakistan; the Kapoor Haveli in Peshawar, where Prithviraj and Raj Kapoor were born.
All through Thursday, old friends and film lovers shared anecdotes of Rishi’s visits to Rajbaug or his friend’s places in Pune.
“He would ask my wife to cook him rice and some Maharastrian-style fish or mutton. He was fond of Maharashtrian non-veg food and loved to visit Pune,” says Subhas Sanas, whose family has had a long association with the Kapoors.
Raj Kapoor had inaugurated Jawahar hotel, owned by Sanas on Tilak Road. One of the most glamorous events at Ganesh Kala Krida Rangmanch in 2018 was ‘Rishi Kapoor Live’, organised by Sanas, when the actor launched his autobiography Khullam Khulla: Rishi Kapoor Uncensored.
One of Rishi’s essential pilgrimage sites was also in Pune. Kashyapsingh Chudasama, trustee of Pune Festival, has accompanied him for 10 years to Dagdu Seth when the actor went for darshan.
“He would attract a huge crowd of fans but he was always friendly. I remember how, when we were sitting in a car, he would strike up a conversation with the driver. He would ask, ‘Kahan rehte ho? Kitna kama lete ho? (Where do you stay? How much do you manage to earn?)’ He always made people feel comfortable, as if you had met him 100 times. I noticed that the Kapoors also referred to their servants as sahab as a mark of respect,” says Chudasama.
Vishal Shinde, deputy director of Pune International Film Festival (PIFF), met Rishi at the opening ceremony of PIFF when, in the presence of Jabbar Patel, the Kapoor brothers had handed over the negatives of Raj Kapoor films to National Film Archive of India.
“He was a friendly and cheerful person,” he recalls. After the event, the Bobby actor held a masterclass at City Pride in which a member of the audience asked him if he chose the films that Ranbir Kapoor did.
“Ranbir chooses his own films,” he had said, adding, “in our family, we believe in the freedom to make our own choices.”
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