“An actor’s wife needs to have a large heart, you cannot get worked up with minor incidents. If you take them to heart, you’ll either slash your wrist, sink into depression, or leave your husband and be miserable forever.”
– Neetu Singh
Rishi Kapoor’s autobiography ‘Khullam Khulla’, in association with Meena Iyer and published by Harper Collins is undoubtedly one of the most awaited books of the year. And why not, after all, all what the Kapoor khandan does, is marked with utter flamboyance and extravaganza. Here too, the path has been laid for an intriguing read, in more ways than one. Vivid and animated with in your face honesty, Rishi Kapoor leaves you with several engaging stories predominantly about his career as an actor and then other peripheries of his life, to savor leisurely. But, if this quintessential Kapoor does justice with his memoir being absolutely Kullam khulla, well, that can be only discovered after delving little deeper into it. So, let’s begin the trail.
The Book: A glossy cover and a charismatic Rishi Kapoor welcomes you on board. And, just when you thought that the smile on the cover is worth a million, you are greeted with yet another classy ‘Kapoor Khandan over the ages’ picture on the very next fold, which will leave you ogling and gasping for more. Thereafter, you have a straight from the heart ‘Foreword’ from Ranbir Kapoor and an even more heartwarming ‘Afterword’ by Neetu Singh, that catapults you deep into Mr. Rishi Kapoor and his life. Divided into twelve chapters, this book doesn’t adhere to any chronology. The chapters are divided based on what and about whom Mr. Kapoor chose to speak. It is completely a reader’s discretion to either find this kind of chapter partition interesting or boring. Mr. Kapoor has assimilated his journey well, with mentions of his film and personal life in lieu. The pictures in this autobiography are a treat to watch. Rishi Kapoor chose the pictures quite intelligently that encapsulates his entire life quite pertinently. His father, the legend Raj Kapoor finds a special mention and had been generously used all over. While on one hand hand I felt the need for so much of Raj Kapoor stems from the influence he had on him as a father and a film maker, but I then pondered at one point that Sri.Raj Kapoor’s life was perhaps more happening than his son in many very ways. Mr. Kapoor writes about his father, “ ….He was also a man in love- at the time, unfortunately, with someone other than the mother. His girlfriend was the leading lady of some of the biggest hits of the time….Their on-screen romance pairing was not just the most sought-after of the era, but is still widely acknowledged as one of the most iconic. In short, he was in a great place with his work and in life.”
Narration: Rishi Kapoor all through the book spoke his heart out and categorically remained quite unabashed and candid. Not only that, his narration bore a heavy layer of honesty too. Whatever he decided to bring into the platter, he did it with conviction and ease. There was no mincing of words. If he bought the award from the organizers, he accepted it; if he didn’t like Amitabh Bachchan, he admitted it; if he had a painful tryst with clinical depression, he was candid about it; if he had an ugly spat with Sanjay Khan when he threw a glass on his face, he did speak about his utter resentment; if he shares a rather cold relationship with his son, he voiced it, and if he met Dawood Ibrahim, he chose to be upfront there too. And, this uncolored frankness, with occasional self validation is rather infectious in Khullam Khulla. He writes, “ Son of a famous father, father of a famous son, I am the hyphen between them”, candid at his best.
Language: Rishi Kapoor used a very simple colloquial language to say what he wants to say. It is extremely Kapoor-ish with occasional dollops of Hindi and Punjabi, which makes the reading quite fun and relatable. You can quite vividly picture Mr. Kapoor speaking to you. There is not a single corner where you will have to fumble with a dictionary to fathom his intent. This book is anyone’s read, and just like the way he was a mass hero on the celluloid, he made no mistake in carving his autobiography with an effervescent flow of language so that every person can lay his hands on it, and enjoy.
Editing: Khullam Khulla displays a decent editing, if not exceptional. The edits could have been slightly tight and prevented the narrative from being slightly repetitive time and again. However, with multiple language and colloquial flow of words, the edits deserve an applaud.
However, having said that, ‘Kullam Khulla’ remains an average read. But why? That’s because amidst all the incidents that were so theatrically presented, somewhere the real Rishi Kapoor was lost. All what I read through these 270 odd pages, most of it can be found hidden in some cine archives. Understandably, those were not the days of media honkers and paparazzi, but the incidents were related to the Kapoors and were in public glare, which was a good enough a reason to bring media attention and coverage. But, it is as if I am reading an extended interview of Mr. Kapoor, and he decides to pace back and forth, narrating the same saga wrapped in different words and contexts. It was nothing more than a vicious circle of drama! As a reader I was hungry for something more refined. I probably wanted to hear the untold. Some of the most poignant moments of his life, with his friends, family and film career, some soul stirring and life changing moments, as I see it. Sadly, I didn’t read much on those lines, which left me disheartened !
Well, I cannot conclude without mentioning Neetu Singh and her ‘Afterword’ in Khullam Khulla. Rishi Kapoor quite a number of times has mentioned what enormous effect Neetu had in his life. And, the lines penned by the lady herself testifies all of that. To me, the Afterword is the most gladdening piece in the whole book, which manages to take us few notches closer to the husband, son, father and the man that Rishi Kapoor is all about. She delved deep into craters where Mr.Kapoor was himself rather uncomfortable. She proceeded with sheer dignity and poise and penned about the man she has gratifyingly spent 37 years of her life. To me, the last 30 pages by Neetu Singh salvaged this otherwise average narrative valiantly. And, before I sign off, leaving you with few lines that perhaps sums up Rishi Kapoor and his not so ordinary life and persona, on the whole.
“ …So why I am still Mrs Rishi Kapoor, thirty-seven years after saying ‘I do’?
Because thirty-seven years is a long time. And I cannot, would not live with any other. Because once you get to know my husband, he is the most straightforward man there is. Though, admittedly, it’s not easy to ‘get to know him.”