I just realised that Rishi uncle was only five years senior to me. I always felt that he was one of my father’s (Nasir Hussain’s) favourite actors because he would render the characters that dad would write so well – his acting ability, personality, flamboyance was a perfect fit for them. Rishi uncle was enthusiastic, too, and fond of playing those roles. He and Shammi Kapoor – the two famous Hindi film romantic heroes – were dad’s favourite. His passing away is a sad and big loss for the industry.
He was going to be cast in Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na (2008), along with Dimple Kapadia, as the parents of Manjari Fadnnis, the girl Imran Khan’s character initially falls for. Since I was in the production team, I spoke with Rishi uncle, but sadly, it didn’t work out. I met him last when he had come to Coonoor to shoot for Kapoor & Sons (2016, my daughter Zayn Khan, was a junior AD of that film. On hearing that he was the senior-most in the casting crew and the biggest star in the film, she was thrilled as well as shit-scared, but soon she became his favourite on the set). One day, he came to my farm (Acres Wild) and we shared old memories. He said, he felt personally responsible for Zamaane Ko Dikhana Hai (1981) not doing well commercially, that he’d let dad down and thus avoided taking my father’s calls. Even Pancham (RD Burman) uncle told him to speak to daddy (the other Nasir Hussain film he starred in — Hum Kisise Kum Naheen in 1977 — was a huge hit, but another film Zabardast that was to star Kapoor and Dilip Kumar got shelved).
Any good director does not play with characters. I told him that my father never felt that the responsibility for his films fell on anybody else, it probably would have been his own misjudgment of what the audience wanted, and not Kapoor’s fault. He said that he had never felt this relieved.
Even before Rishi came into acting, dad was writing such flamboyant, rom-com roles, in Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957) and Dil Deke Dekho (1959), except in Baharon ke Sapne (1967) and Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988), which were serious movies. Over the years, the youthful loverboy icon moved from Shammi to Rishi Kapoor to (my cousin) Aamir Khan. But my directorial debut QSQT was meant to launch Aamir. Dad was clear that he wouldn’t write it in his earlier, classical style – Aamir’s character is sober and timid, not like Rishi uncle’s confident, brash, up-on-things, humorous characters who get the girl.
My father had already begun ZKDH’s shooting when I had returned from the US (doing bachelor’s in computer science in Cornell University and MIT). In ZKDH’s song sequence (Bolo bolo-Poochho na yaar), dad wanted to reproduce the synchronised lighting from John Travolta’s dance sequence in Saturday Night Fever (1977), where he hits his foot on the ground and the floor lights come on, on the beat. My IIT friend Anil Pal did the technical light effects, and I was coordinating it. It was a done thing that songs were used to reveal emotional plot point; my father would add in flashy glamour and flamboyance – qawwali sequence, mirrors, lights running. I was a very different kind of director, I sought realism.
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During ZKDH’s shoot, I used to be extremely introvert, didn’t like the world, and never imagined that I would go on to direct a film. Rishi uncle had a fabulous rapport with Pancham uncle and my father, and loved dad’s humour and leg-pulling, whether on the set or when they came over for dinner at home. I would be pretty much in the background, hanging in the shadows, hang around the set, and listen. My father, worried that I was going to waste my life, thought the cool, easygoing Rishi uncle was inspiring me to do something. Rishi uncle would ask me why don’t I make friends (in the industry), it was so hard for me to explain to him that I never wanted to make friends.
Mansoor Khan is the director of Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak
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