10 essential rishi kapoor films

How wonderful is the idea of a Rishi Kapoor marathon? The only hiccup is paring down his vast and diverse filmography into a mere 10 films. So while that’s not possible, we do our best to present a selection of movies that celebrate Rishi Kapoor through the ages and are available legally on streaming platforms.

Rafoo Chakkar (Sony Liv)

Rafoo Chakkar was an adaptation of Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot which is about two struggling musicians who witness a murder and then must disguise themselves as women to escape the bad guys. The idea of two men dressed in drag of course lends itself to a comedy of errors and it’s fun to watch Kapoor and Paintal (both have excellent comic timing) lie their way through tricky situations. This movie released in 1975 and a lot of it may not sit well with you today. If you can look past that, this is an enjoyable ride. 

Chandni (Amazon Prime Video)

Rishi Kapoor always reflected on his career with unusual candour. He was particularly critical of a phase in the 80s and 90s where he was only cast in love stories with younger heroines. It was also the phase when he began to put on weight, so to cover the flab he wore sweaters in every imaginable print. “I was stuck with the identity of a lover boy in colourful sweaters singing songs in Ooty and Switzerland. I wasn’t given enough challenging roles,” he once said. But the actor made the most of these limiting circumstances. His sweater phase gave us one of the most sweeping Yash Chopra romances – Chandni. Kapoor and Sridevi had crackling chemistry (aided by great music) in this love triangle that also starred Vinod Khanna. 

Hum Kisise Kum Naheen (Zee5) 

Rishi Kapoor had some of the best songs in his movies, and he did complete justice to each one. To date, no one can lip-sync a song like him. He brought such honesty, charm and spontaneity to his pretend-singing that you didn’t care if he was playing the piano all wrong, or holding the trumpet incorrectly. He sang his heart out and drew you in. And that’s why, while Hum Kisise Kum Naheen may not be his best film, it deserves to be rewatched. Kapoor performs to some of RD Burman’s most loved songs. There’s a 10-minute sequence in the film where Kapoor, in white bell bottoms, enters a dance off with a rival. It’s pure joy. 

Karz (Zee 5)

Rishi Kapoor as the pop star Monty, burning up the dance floor in gold and silver outfits is simply magical. Monty is not only a music sensation but also an avenging son in Subhash Ghai’s gripping reincarnation thriller. Kapoor combined flamboyance with sentimentality and was utterly convincing, both as a super star and a loving, devoted son.

Amar Akbar Anthony (MUBI, Amazon Prime Video) 

In his autobiography Khullam Khulla: Rishi Kapoor Uncensored, Kapoor wrote that when filmmaker Manmohan Desai called him to offer the part of Akbar over the phone, he very nearly turned it down. He said, “Thank you very much, Mr Desai, but how can I play Akbar? My grandfather played Akbar [in Mughal-e-Azam]!” Kapoor pictured a bizarre plot featuring Amar, the eternal lover, with a flute, Antony (Marc Antony) of Caesar and Cleopatra fame, and Akbar from Mughal-e-Azam. “I did not put anything past Manmohan Desai,” he writes. We’re extremely grateful that he agreed to play the loveable Akbar in this bizarre and hugely entertaining film about three estranged brothers. In fact, a film like Amar Akbar Anthony may just be the tonic we need right now. 

Agneepath (Amazon Prime Video)

In the latter half of his career, Rishi Kapoor began to have fun with parts – attempting characters he was perhaps never offered when younger. In the 2012 Agneepath remake he played the evil, kohl-eyed Rauf Lala. Getting the sweet-faced Kapoor to play a villain was an inspired casting choice. In fact, he later said that it was such an outlandish thought that for the first time he agreed to give a look test for a part to check if he could pull it off.

Luck By Chance (Amazon Prime Video, Netflix) 

The remarkable thing about Rishi Kapoor’s versatility was that there was rarely a visible “transition” phase between his first, second, third and tenth winds. In Luck By Chance, he outdid internet-skit parodies before they even existed. Romy Rolly has remained a symbol of the traditional Bollywood single-screen veteran trapped in a changing system – a perfect hybrid of old-school caricature and industrial rootedness. Rolly is remembered for his inimitable energy (“vul-cano of talent!”), but Kapoor brought great gravitas to the single emotional scene in which he confides to feeling like a nobody after a young heartthrob rejects his new film.

Do Dooni Chaar (Netflix)

Habib Faisal’s bittersweet portrait of middle-class Delhiism is driven by a modest but deceptively nuanced turn by Rishi Kapoor. As de facto family chief Santosh Duggal, Kapoor, along with reel and real wife Neetu Kapoor, turns the self-effacing little film into an authentic morality tale – one where his persona as a teacher clashes with his diminishing domestic status. Duggal is the sort of Bollywood everyman often seen on the periphery of films as a parent or a pushy relative; this is one of the rare instances where we see him leading a story, with Kapoor’s retro-hero charisma effortlessly evolving into a bodily humanization of the very ‘masses’ that movies are made to entertain. 

Kapoor & Sons (Since 1921) (Amazon Prime Video, Netflix)

On the surface, Amarjeet Kapoor a.k.a Dadu is a crowd-pleasing movie character – the kind of nutty old man acutely aware of his politically incorrect social skills. He teases nurses, smokes joints with his grandsons and pretends to have heart attacks for kicks. But his behavior is actually rooted in a desire to dissipate the heavy tension plaguing his dysfunctional family in Coonoor – he pretends to die because deep inside he hopes it’s the only way the family will be forced to unite in grief. Rishi Kapoor transcends the distracting facial prosthetics to excel as a perceptive patriarch, whose personality is a reactive consequence of who he lives with. 

Mulk (Zee5)

Anubhav Sinha’s second innings was kicked off by a stoic Rishi Kapoor performance. As an embattled Muslim man who is forced to reclaim his family honour in court after his nephew takes to terrorism, Kapoor is not the social fulcrum of the film – Taapsee Pannu takes over – but his face is a study in silent grief. He represents an entire community without hitting a single false note, repelling the communal gaze with his eyes alone, even as the noise rages around his dignified presence. There is anxiety, betrayal, sadness, anger, tenderness and uprightness writ large on his forehead at once – a stage where words can’t be his weapon despite him being a lawyer. 

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