‘This is Kashmir, The Place That Made Me Whatever I Am’  

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Rishi Kapoor’s first reel success was the superhit Bollywood flick ‘Bobby’ shot in the enchanting Kashmir valley during early seventies. Since then he enjoyed his connection with the Himalayan region until he breathed his last recently.

Swati Joshi

MUMBAI — As young lover boy in colorful sweaters singing in the snowcapped mountains of Kashmir, Rishi Kapoor made his entry as a lead actor in Bollywood in 1973 with a film shot in Kashmir and went on to shot at least 14 movies in the valley.

The late star always felt Kashmir very close to his heart. Even when he revisited the valley in 2011 for Imtiyaz Ali’s brother’s wedding, he found the place as romantic as it was decades ago.

“Very few places in the world provide so much variety as Kashmir,” Rishi told in an interview. “You have so much variety here. It is a virgin beauty. This place is all about romance.

The actor had many stories when it comes to Kashmir. In one of the interviews, he said, “When we were shooting for Bobby in Pahalgam, it started snowing. So, we included that snow sequence also,” adding, “this place has so much to offer.”

The hut in which the famous song ‘Chabi Kho Jaye’ of Rishi’s debut movie ‘Bobby’ was filmed is known as Bobby Hut in Kashmir’s Gulmarg. Hotel Highland Park which owns the hut tweeted a photo of Rishi standing outside the hut expressing its grief over the demise of the actor.

Rishi at Bobby Hut Gulmarg

Rishi always appreciated the Kashmir of 70’s—serene, peaceful, and less crowded.

He was nostalgic when he visited the valley again. He took pictures of all the places and sent it to his friends and relatives. “…I was like a child taking photos from my Blackberry and BBMing all those photographs to my friends and relatives,” added the actor in the interview.

He wanted to work in the valley more often as it was the location of his first movie which was a commercial success.

“I thought these types of situations only appeared in films where a man connects to his past but see and behold all this is for real! This is Gulmarg, this is Kashmir, the place that made me whatever I am. Ever and ever in love (with Kashmir) and indebted to Kashmir. So happy Ranbir too shot in Kashmir for Rockstar!”

Kashmir also acted as a cupid for Rishi and Neetu Kapoor. The duo worked together in ‘Kabhi Kabhie’ which was shot in the valley.

Kabhi Kabhie’s Vicky was in Kashmir, rolling in the glittering white snow of Gulmarg, singing songs of love in a colorful cardigan, and then he fell in love with Pinky in reel and real life.

The star always felt that his family had a strong association with Kashmir and they are connected with the soil of the valley.

His grandfather Prithviraj Kapoor visited Kashmir for two months with his theater group. His father, Raj Kapoor, a celebrated actor and director shot his second directorial venture ‘Barsaat’ in Kashmir.

“He [Raj Kapoor] couldn’t afford to take his unit to the valley because it was very expensive, so he and the cameraman went there and just shot the exteriors,” recollected Rishi.

When action heroes like Amitabh Bachchan and Vinod Khanna were gaining popularity, Rishi as romantic hero brought another genre in cinema.

The actor created a fashion trend back in the 80s when he appeared wearing knit sweaters onscreen. He made knit colorful sweaters with geometric designs, a fashion trend during that time. His iconic looks in Chandni, Henna, Damini, or Kabhie Kabhie, to name a few, remain imprinted in minds till date.

Rishi started acting at an early age of three.

He appeared onscreen as a child actor for the first time in his father’s film “Shree 420” (1955) in the song ‘Pyar Hua iqrar Hua hai’. Later he played his father’s character as a young man in “Mera Naam Joker” (1970) for which he won the National Film Award for Best Child Artist.

He comes from a long line of Bollywood actors. It would not be an exaggeration to say that acting runs in his blood. His grandfather played a significant part in Indian cinema and theater followed by his multitalented father.

Rishi was outspoken about socio-political issues. When it comes to Kashmir, the national award winner always hoped for peace and harmony in the valley.

In November 2017 he had to face social media trolling when he wished to see Pakistan and supported the former Chief Minister of J&K Dr Farooq Abdullah’s statement that “Pakistan administrated Kashmir is of Pakistan and this won’t change no matter how many wars India and Pakistan fight against each other”.

Rishi who had an ancestral home in Peshawar, Pakistan tweeted reinforcing the Farooq’s statement, “Farooq Abdullah Ji, Salaam! Totally agree with you, sir. Accept it, I am 65-years-old and I want to see Pakistan before I die. I want my children to see their roots. Bas karva dijiye (Please make it happen). Jai Mata Di!”

The Kapoor’s ancestral home was constructed between 1918 and 1922 by Dewan Basheswarnath Kapoor, father of Prithviraj Kapoor, who was the first from the family to enter the Indian film industry. The family shifted to India after Partition.

The veteran actor breathed his last on April 30 after admitted to H N Reliance hospital. His films would always remind people of the charismatic actor and his contribution to cinema.

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Swati Joshi

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