Khullam Khulla

Rishi Kapoor with Meena Iyer

Harper Collins

Pages 269

Price Rs 599

Before rolling up my sleeves to jot down my thoughts regarding Khullam Khulla, Rishi Kapoor’s autobiographical sketch, I think, I must mention, that my first Hindi film was Khel Khel Mein — the book’s title floated from the buoyantly bubbly Khullam Khulla Pyar Kareinge song. And here, add that I learnt my first few witterings of Hindi from the stated movie and aah yes, Rishi Kapoor with his soft curly locks, liquidy brown eyes, cheeky cherubic face was my first love, the feeling which continued way into adolescence, a remnant of that snugly sentiment intact when one occasions to go back into time. That said, time for attempting to appraise Rishi Kapoor’s Khullam Khulla, with an objective head not to forget the heart part. The first line takes off, “I was born lucky. On 4 September, 1952, the planets, I am told, were in perfect alignment.” The reader then is introduced to his father, Raj Kapoor, who for the most part is everywhere in the book, at the backdrop of the filmstar’s thoughts. (Incidentally, the startling informative Foreword has been, with refreshing forthrightness, penned by son, Ranbir Kapoor and interestingly, there is an Afterword written with candid affection by wife Neetu.)

Khullam Khulla is less about Rishi and more about the larger-than- life Raj Kapoor, in every conscious and sub-conscious breath.

One fine afternoon, Emperor Akbar (Dada Prithviraj Kapoor) piled Rishi and his siblings in his tiny Opel car chauffeuring them to the resplendent sets of Mughal-e-Azam. The grandson was dazzled to the point of being bewitched by the Plaster of Paris swords, sabres and spears. Director Asif gifted little Chintu a dagger. The six-year-old was over the moon, so besot with it that ethereal Madhubala’s beauty waned in contrast; so captivated by the weapon that he did not care to witness the epic scene where Emperor Akbar attempts to stop his son, Prince Salim from going to battle against him. The Mughal Emperor had put on a lot of weight during the making of the movie and thus was consigned to a strict diet by his wife. It was on one of these dieting days when Asif dropped by for dinner; he was about to tuck into the extravagant Punjabi feast lavishly laid on the dining table when he was aghast to notice Chintu’s grandfather’s fare comprised of a diuretic drink accompanied by, what would pass off to the reader as an anorexic salad. Asif was quick on elucidating that he was not making Jodha Akbar but Mughal-e-Azam — throwing light on the fact that Emperor’s do not diet.

Khullam Khulla spills from the brim with scores of countless exceptional stories and with this immeasurable landscape, by no measure, can one fit it into a given space.  Therefore, one will have to do with touching on a handful of accounts in run-off-your-feet sentences. Raj Kapoor’s hospitality was legendary, unparalleled perhaps even today. Meticulous planning went into his birthday bash, commencing months in advance. His Holi parties were the talk of tinsel town long after the vibrant colours had worn off. The Kapoors commenced celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi with Chintu’s birth; doing so till date with their characteristic vivacity. Nargis Dutt was invited for Rishi Kapoor’s wedding and put at ease by the gracious hostess, Krishna Raj Kapoor. The nervous Nargis had stepped foot into an RK occasion after 24 years. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was flown in from Pakistan for the Sangeet which being quintessentially Raj Kapoor, went on till 6ish in the morning. It comes across as strangely heart-warming that when the Showman was flown to Sloan Kettering in New York, Sunil Dutt who had on account of Nargis’s illness, made many contacts, was of much assistance. This, despite the ardent relationship that Raj and Nargis shared, immortalised in the emblematic RK banner taken from a particularly passionate scene in Barsaat between the real and reel amorous pair. Dilip Kumar and Rishi’s father were professional rivals indeed, but yet were best of friends. Dilip Kumar was in Peshawar when he heard that Raj Kapoor was critically ill. He took the first flight to Delhi and an exception was made for him to visit his friend in the ICU. “Raj, get up, stop clowning. You have always been the scene stealer…” admonished Dilip Saab. “Mein abhi Peshawar se aaya hoon”, enticing him with Chapli Kababs they’d savour as kids. 

Years later, on his 90th birthday, an adrift, lost-at-sea, Dilip Kumar kept wanting to know why Krishna Raj Kapoor was visiting sans his friend. “Raj nahin aaya?” This his whimpering, weepy inquiry before sobbing inconsolably.  Alzheimer’s had got the better of the King of Tragedy.

The Kapoors commenced celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi with Chintu’s birth; doing so till date with their characteristic vivacity. Nargis Dutt was invited for Rishi Kapoor’s wedding and put at ease by the gracious hostess, Krishna Raj Kapoor. 

With time, the infuriation the actor-author had experienced over Vyjayanthimala’s outright denial of an affair with Raj Kapoor has ebbed. It had hurt him to hear the yesteryear’s actress state that rumours of romance had been sparked off by RK to generate publicity. Rishi remembers that his mother had put her foot down and moved out of the house with her brood. It took much wooing on his father’s part to win his wife back, this even after terminating his involvement with the dancing actress.

Ranbir had been bequeathed with an exquisite antique gold coin bearing an inscription in the Peshawari script by Grandpa Raj.  Ranbir, will have to pass it on to his grandson — by bypassing his own son as did his Dada.

While his own children were growing up, he had little time on hand, yet made it a point to keep Sundays off, take the family for an annual month long holiday abroad and in the early days to outdoor shoots where they would cart along a video player and a TV for daughter Riddhima to watch cartoons while she ate the meal prepared by the cook that was lorried along as well.

His love for his siblings and his close connection with Daboo — the Kapoors, an emotional flock — are spoken of with immense warmth. A particularly endearing chapter titled, “Neetu, My Leading Lady” vocalises, at length, his long standing relationship with his partner. Three lines befittingly sum it up, “I am a difficult man, I have many quirks and fears, my sisters and my mother have always said that Neetu deserves a medal for staying married to me and I have to agree with them’’.

One cannot but not mention revelatory chapter 5 where the author with outspoken honesty articulates a phase in his life after the release of Karz where he experienced a road block leading to a breakdown of sorts. Some of his lost confidence would be restored after a drink or two, only to return full throttle the next day. Papa or Sa’ab as he in later days addressed him was distressed; doctors and psychiatrists were ferried in for consultation. Four film crews were generous enough to keep the shoots on hold, Nasir Husain thought he was in a financial pit hole and so sent across one lakh rupees with the hope that Vitamin-M (Money) would resuscitate him. Not to sound unkind but this chronicling sounds delightfully filmi.

And so, a subjective rapturous applause.  

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