Celebrated Indian actor Rishi Kapoor has died in a hospital in Mumbai after a two-year battle with cancer – Bollywood’s second loss in as many days. He was 67 years old.
“Our dear Rishi Kapoor passed away peacefully at 8:45 am IST in hospital today after a two-year battle with leukaemia. The doctors and medical staff at the hospital said he kept them entertained to the last,” Kapoor’s family said in a statement on Thursday morning.
“He remained jovial and determined to live to the fullest right through two years of treatment across two continents,” said the statement.
Kapoor belonged to Bollywood’s most famous film dynasty with several generations of actors. His father, Raj Kapoor, was one of India’s most revered filmmakers.
His death came as a severe blow to the Indian movie industry and film lovers, who were already reeling from the passing on Wednesday of Irrfan Khan, one of the country’s most feted actors, aged 53. Khan also died of cancer.
— Mohanlal (@Mohanlal) April 30, 2020
Kapoor is survived by his wife Neetu Kapoor – with whom he had acted in nearly a dozen films before their marriage – and son Ranbir, also a popular actor, and daughter Riddhima, a jewellery designer.
Fellow actor Amitabh Bachchan was among the first to mourn Kapoor’s death, tweeting, “I am destroyed”.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “anguished by his demise” and called him a “powerhouse of talent”.
Bona fide Bollywood royalty
Born September 4, 1952, into the prolific Kapoor dynasty, Rishi Kapoor made his debut in the 1970s epic Mera Naam Joker.
He received India’s national award for best child actor for his performance in the film, which his father Raj produced, directed and starred in.
Saddened by the sudden demise of Rishi Kapoor ji & Irfan Khan sir. This is a great loss for our country & Indian film fraternity. May their soul RIP pic.twitter.com/BxWWAoGUov
— Rishabh Pant (@RishabhPant17) April 30, 2020
But it was his later persona as a romantic lead that won him legions of fans.
They flocked to cinemas to see him sing, dance and charm his way into their hearts in films such as the 1973 superhit Bobby and the 1975 thriller Khel Khel Mein.
His trademark look – a sweater tied around his shoulders as he courted chiffon sari-clad leading ladies in the Swiss Alps – became shorthand for Bollywood romance.
Bona fide Bollywood royalty, Kapoor churned out hits as a solo hero, playing a lovelorn youth in the 1976 romance Laila Majnu and a rockstar in the 1980 musical thriller, Karz.
But he also felt secure enough to take second billing to other actors in blockbusters such as the 1977 comedy Amar Akbar Anthony – starring Bachchan and Vinod Khanna – although he would frequently steal the show.
He enjoyed an easy chemistry with male and female co-stars, playing Bachchan’s younger brother in the 1981 melodrama Naseeb and his son in the 2018 film, 102 Not Out.
As Kapoor grew older, the romantic roles dried up, allowing him the opportunity to display greater versatility.
He terrified audiences as a human trafficker in 2012’s Agneepath and won applause for his portrayal of a cantankerous grandfather in 2016’s Kapoor & Sons.
His forays behind the camera were less successful.
A 1999 directorial debut Aa Ab Laut Chalen was panned by critics, becoming the last movie produced under the RK Films banner established by his father.
In a 2016 interview with talk show host Simi Garewal, he praised Bollywood’s younger generation for taking more chances with their work.
“We in our times never got a chance to [do] one film at one time… we survived,” he said.
He was never afraid to speak candidly, whether about his movies – most of which deserved to be forgotten, he joked to Garewal – or about his struggles with alcoholism.
In recent years he won a legion of new and younger fans with his frank, and often funny, tweets.
After being diagnosed with cancer in 2018 he sought treatment in New York, but was looking to resume work shortly with plans to film a remake of the 2015 Hollywood production The Intern.
He was forced to return to hospital this month, where, his family said, “the doctors and medical staff… said he kept them entertained to the last.
“He was grateful for the love of his fans… they would all understand that he would like to be remembered with a smile and not with tears.”