What memories come to mind when you think back to the time you worked with Rishi Kapoor?
Chintuji used to get irritated when fans came to meet him asking for an autograph or a photograph and would push their bawling children in front of him and say, “
Humare bachche ko aapke saath photo leni hain.’’ Those kids had no idea who Chintuji was and had no wish to click a photograph with him. Chintuji had devised a way to drive them away. He would start speaking in English, using words no one had heard of and did not make sense, non-stop for two minutes and that too with a straight face. The fan would look gobsmacked at Chintuji. And after the two-minute person, he would ask the person of they understood him to which the person, who was by then frightened, would agree and would run away from the set. I would watch this and laugh, knowing that it was his trick to drive them away.
How was he on the sets?
In those days, most of the shootings would happen at Kamalistan or Chandivali studios. Actresses take a long time getting dressed so I would reach the shoot location early and be ready before Chintuji came on set. He would be on time and did his make up outside the make-up room. His make-up man Shashi dada would set a table under a tree and a small transistor would be kept on while the make-up was being done. In 20 minutes, he would get irritated, get up, take the sponge, rub off his make-up and ruffle his hair and shout out that he was ready for a shot. I would be there watching him. He was really funny.
How different was he from ‘Bol Radha Bol’ to ‘Luck By Chance’?
We worked again in ‘Luck By Chance’ which was a brief role and we played a Punjabi couple. It was Zoya’s (director Zoya Akhtar) first film and the shoot would go on till late at night. But I knew Chintuji had a set time of packing up from the sets. I didn’t have the guts to tell them and knew that Chintuji would not stay back. But then I saw he was having a nice time on set till late night. Maine kaha Chintuji ko kya ho gaya hai (I wondered what has happened to Chintuji).
How was he as a co-star?
There were times when Chintuji would tell me that, “I have been a star since I was 16 years old. What would one expect from me?” When you say he was a brat, it was just the way he was, very unique and approachable. But I would keep a respectable distance as he was my senior, which slowly eased out once I established myself and had little more confidence in myself. He was a thorough professional, always on time and always ready. I don’t remember him taking more than two takes for any shot. He was a very accomplished actor.
He also loved to play Scrabble…
We used to play Scrabble in between shots. I would do my best but he would just demolish me game after game. I would win one of the 10 games but I promise I would put up a really good match. I wasn’t dumb but he was really good at it. Working with Chintuji means playing Scrabble. When I was going to work with him in ‘Sharmaji Namkeen’, I found a book called ‘101 Ways to Win Scrabble’ which I was going to read cover to cover to beat him but it couldn’t happen.
What do you think of his son, Ranbir?
Chintuji was always effortless and charming on-screen but I told him that Ranbir is fantastic and even better than him!
Any other anecdote you want to share?
Another very nice memory of him is when we were shooting the climax of ‘Chalk N Duster’. Shabanaji (Azmi) requested Chintuji to do this role for us, where he is the anchor for our quiz show in the end. It was like KBC, and he anchored it. I can’t tell you how fantastic he was. He brought so much life to that part of the film. Shabanaji, Divya, Arya Babbar, Chintuji and myself have all worked together in many films. We only gossiped, shared kisse-kahaniyan of old days.
Which is your favourite Rishi Kapoor film?
With Chintuji, I don’t think I have one favourite film. I have many. ‘Bol Radha Bol’, ‘Luck By Chance’ are my own films starring him which I love. ‘Sharmaji Namkeen’ would be another favourite. It is such a sweet story and he fits his role so beautifully. When I heard the script I could see him and hear him in this role. It is a sweet, heart-warming film. Apart from my films, I really liked him in ‘Chandni’, ‘Henna’, ‘Prem Rog’ and all the films in which he played Amitji’s younger brother. Oh yes, another favourite is our film ‘Daraar’. There are so many moments that stay in my mind with Chintuji. And of course his tweets. He was a clever, witty, and smart observer. Kahaan chale gaye Chintuji (Where have you gone, Chintuji).