Memoir: Nitin Mukesh on Rishi Kapoor

    “Chintoo has always been mischievous, and he is still the same! Look, now he even has the audacity to hide from me forever...” – This thought oscillates in my mind as a nightmare, over and over again. Why? Because we go back a long, long way! Our roots can be traced to our fathers’ time; our families have a bonding that extends from the early school premises to the film sets and beyond. Our fathers have been a legendary actor (Raj Kapoor) and a singer (Mukesh) – musical pair of their own golden era. I have often heard Raj uncle say, “Main toh matra sharir hu; meri atma toh Mukesh hai.” (I am just the body; Mukesh is my soul.)

    We have been creating history, a history of our own. Unfortunately, unlike our elder sisters (Ritu and Rita) and our younger brothers (Rajeev and Mohnish), who were classmates and best friends, we were not. But that does not infer our connection. Our brothers did attend Campion School together whereas I could meet Rishi only occasionally, mainly during rituals and festivals, but what joyous splendours were they! Sometime it was either Raj uncle’s birthday or anniversary, otherwise we were enjoying Holi or Diwali. Till this day, my memories related to Chembur are as vivid and shiny as a crystal – Chembur, an open house, then under construction; there we would hang out and have fun; what a childhood and how I wish to go back!

    Rishi eventually became a big support, when and how that I do not know. After my father passed away, he was there, handling my emotions that were scattered all over the place. Rishi, unwearied, stood by me, and I could do nothing more than gathering that rich experience of his care and remain grateful forever. We did not need mobile phones or internet, we could just sense our bond and meet outside the hubbubs to have long talks. The keys to our hearts were exchanged and permanently held in opposite hands.

    Our bond grew stronger with each passing day. It was strange that a mischievous, pampered, younger son of a big family could be so matured and behave like the brother in control, although he was two years younger than me.

    Chintoo was an acclaimed naughty boy; he never cared about the place, the people or the occasion. If it was Holi, he was armed with colours; if it was Diwali, he was fully prepared with crackers; if it was a normal day, he would still prank on us with something or the other. I blindly believed, “If there is mischief, there is Chintoo!” We teased each other randomly yet we never forgot our special days. No matter the hours that kept us apart, once schools were over for vacations, our families would meet without fail. We became staunch companions each day, he handpicked songs for me to record as playback – he did know that songs were my only remedy for sorrow. That was when I had just lost my Dad. Honestly, the little struggle that we had in the industry to prove our talent, made us inseparable. I thank God for that struggle and those lovely times. I thank those moments more today, as I quietly miss my dear friend.

    Rishi Kapoor was much different from all the ‘70/’80’s icons of angry young man - undaunted by the tall names like Amitabh Bachchan, Vinod Khanna or Mithun Chakroborty. While a few big stars faded away under this fiery new trend, Rishi remained rock solid with his loverboy mold. He continued as a sweet family man for every mindset during that era. From Amar Akbar Anthony to much later, Agneepath, whether he was a protagonist or antagonist, the audience admired him wholeheartedly. He was a life-size king living on his own terms, always balancing the humour with seriousness, thus making each act like none other. He did not copy anyone's style. He has only created his own with irreplaceable dedication, which inspires the younger actors till date. Chintoo never retired, his youth never faded. Even when not mainstream, his acting extraordinaire continued through Delhi 6, Mulk, Do Dooni Chaar, 102 Not Out and more. He was still the lover boy, unrequited or homely, capturing hearts instantly as he had done since decades. For me, it was not surprising that he was starring in contemporary cinema so often, with great enthusiasm. He was a talented and excited young fellow - something that age couldn't change about him.

    I have a lot of stations to halt at, as I travel down the memory lane.

    A worldwide recognised name always comes with a spiritual side to it. Rishi was an ardent believer in Ganapati and his miracles. The deity first came to his house in 1952, the year he was born, and another was at the R. K. studio. He used to go to temples, participated in pujas and lighted incense sticks there. I remember well how he agreed, over just one phone call, to come and attend a three-night katha, at the Shreenathji temple in Udaipur. At the Ganpati pujan of my home, he would drop in very early in the morning and I would have to be plucked out of my bed to greet him. Chintoo believed in the power of God and in the richness of dedication towards that strength. His devotion brought colours when his son Ranbir (Kapoor)’s Saawariya went on the floors and he won the 14th Screen Award for Most Promising Newcomer (Male). Yet, what I reminisce is what Rishi mentioned in his acceptance speech when he went up to fetch the award. He said that the award was equally shared by his other son, Neil because he was equally good. My son, Neil Nitin Mukesh (nominated for Johnny Gaddar) had got his beloved uncle’s approval and it was more than enough for us to feel ecstatic. He didn’t need to do this; but such a human being was Rishi Kapoor.

    As I pen down my recollections, my hands shake and tremble, the paper gets wet and I want to divert my attention to merrier thoughts. I recall how he wanted his daughter Riddhima’s wedding to be a replica of my daughter, Neha’s. That was his way of complimenting me. “Nitin, you gave your daughter, a princess’ wedding. I want Riddhima’s wedding to be a blueprint of this.” We actually did so, and both the daughters were sent to their matrimonial homes with great love from both the fathers. Be it during our Ganapati celebration or family weddings, I loved to see Chintoo, always playing a host, a self-motivated host. I dare say guest even now. He stayed back for nights, he arranged the events, he was in charge of every single thing, whenever he got the chance. Not only Rishi, but even Ritu (Nanda) and Krishna aunty, oh! How I miss them too. I do not know how much more I can go on telling as my heart is getting flooded with emotions. With Rishi leaving, I feel a part of my body amputated.

    My father once sang this as the voice of his father:

    Ek din bik jayega mati ke mol,

    Jag mein reh jayenge pyare tere bol;

    Dooje ke hothon ko dekar apne geet

    Koi nishani chhod, phir duniya se dol!


    This song perfectly fits the real life Rishi Kapoor – kind, generous, good hearted. When it came to his charitable givings, he has been a follower of the liberal principle of ‘ek haath ko pata na chale kya dusra haath karta hai’ (One hand does not know what the other hand does). He has always gained satisfaction by helping the needy, but he did so in silence without calling for media coverage for vain publicity. Let alone being equal, nobody can even come close to being Rishi. He always has been proud of his life, always declaring that he could not have it better; he had no enemies instead had people who only loved him, supported him and cherished him for 68 beautiful years. With his magnanimous volume of work and good deeds, he has become unparalleled and unforgettable.

    So, one day, precisely 30th April 2020, when he urged to completely disappear from this long life of mine, it was at a time when I was so far away that I could not protect him, hinder him or even bid an au revoir. He left when I could not see him leaving; my emotions are piling up endlessly without his wheelbarrow! I know I don’t need to worry, someday we will surely meet at the Judgement Day bridge, meeting up just like in Chembur, and then we will converse about all the words left unspoken and take the longer journey together. Our hearts’ keys are held in opposite hands, so he will have to wait. HE WILL WAIT.


    “With a cheer, not a tear, in your eye

    Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye.

    Give me a smile, I can keep for a while

    In my heart while you’re away

    Till we meet once again, you and I

    Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye.”




    Son of legendary singer, Mukesh, the singer Nitin Mukesh is known for his playback tracks and also his devotional songs. Nitin Mukesh is a family friend of the Kapoors and was particularly dear to Rishi Kapoor. Nitin Mukesh is the father of actor, Neil Nitin Mukesh.

    Transcripted & compiled from Tell Me Your Story’s interview with Shri Nitin Mukesh.

    Transcript by: Lovely Soni and Suraj Nair, Pursuing B. A. (English Honors), JECRC University, Jaipur, Rajasthan.

    Compiled by: Ankita Dutta.

    Ankita Dutta has completed her post-graduation in English and is currently pursuing B.Ed. She is also doing an International PG Diploma course to become an English Language Trainer. Besides English, Bengali and Hindi, she is also adept in Sanskrit. George Orwell’s 1984 is her scholarly inspiration because of the subject matter and Orwell’s narrative technique. 1984 has piqued her attention towards the craft of storytelling which effortlessly blends with the reader’s fictional reality. Ankita’s research interests lie in the English postcolonial dystopian literature and she looks forward to pursuing this for her doctoral studies.



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