From Bobby To Deewana, Rishi Kapoor Taught Bollywood the Meaning of Romantic Hero

When Bollywood was just emerging from the gangster dramas, crime thrillers and angry young man movies, Rishi Kapoor started a trend of drama-romances in the ’70s. Incredible music, emotional dialogues, beautiful locations and dramatic storylines were a staple in almost every Rishi Kapoor romance.

The actor was a delight to watch on screen.

The winning of hearts began right from his debut film Bobby (1973), which remains one of his most successful films to date. An icon among romantic films, Bobby was directed by his father Raj Kapoor, and also marked the debut of Dimple Kapadia. The film was a huge hit and a trendsetter. It introduced to Bollywood the genre of teenage romance with a rich-versus-poor clash as a backdrop. Numerous films in the following years and decades were inspired by this plot.

His 1974 film Zehreela Insaan did not do well, but the song O Hansini, sung by Kishore Kumar, has remained a popular romantic track.

Time and again, the actor has had new actresses cast opposite him, to match his youthful looks. After his pairing with Dimple became a hit, Rishi went on to star with another up and coming Bollywood heroine, Neetu Singh, in Khel Khel Mein (1975), the first of their many films together. Although a suspense thriller, the film stands out for the chemistry between Neetu and Rishi and RD Burman’s songs. Especially Ek Main Aur Ek Tu, which remains a popular romantic number even today.

Every romantic filmography ought to have some version of the legendary story of Laila Majnu, and Rishi Kapoor starred in his version in 1976 opposite Ranjeeta. With songs by Madan Mohan and Jaidev, this film was also a musical hit.

Rishi stood out in the romantic subplots of several dramas and suspense thrillers. Multi-starrers like Hum Kisise Kum Nahin and Amar Akbar Anthony were big hits in 1977 and solidified Rishi’s place in Bollywood as an actor. Parallely, the Rishi-Neetu pairing was repeated in films like Doosra Aadmi (1977), Jhoota Kahin Ka (1979) and Dhan Daulat (1980).

Sargam, the 1979 film starring Rishi and Jaya Prada, another debutante in Bollywood, is one of the most popular romantic musicals that he is known for. Laxmikant Pyarelal composed the memorable songs and Anand Bakshi wrote the lyrics. Dafli Wale, the song from Sargam, remains one of the most iconic dance numbers from Rishi’s film career.

The reincarnation romance thriller Karz (1980) is another iconic film in his kitty. So is Prem Rog (1982), with an ensemble cast and a heartbreaking storyline. This film almost recreated the innocence of romance on screen, which we had seen in Bobby about 10 years before.

Yeh Vaada Raha (1982) starred Rishi with Poonam Dhillon and Tina Munim. It was based on Danielle Steel’s novel which was made into the American film The Promise. The song Tu Tu Hai Wahi was added to Rishi’s iconic romantic songs list.

After Prem Rog, Rishi starred opposite Padmini Kolhapure in another tragic romance – Yeh Ishq Nahin Aasaan (1984).

He reunited with his debut film partner Dimple Kapadia in Saagar (1985), playing one part in a love triangle. This was another rich boy falls in love with poor girl story. Every song in the film was a smash hit, including Chehra Hai Ya Chand Khila Hai and Saagar Kinare.

Nagina (1986) and Chandni (1989) are two of the biggest hits starring Rishi Kapoor with Sridevi. The former was a supernatural drama, the success of which proved to be a major watershed moment in Indian cinema. Chandni is a Yash Chopra classic, with Sridevi playing a young effervescent woman who is torn between two suitors – Vinod Khanna and Rishi Kapoor.

The huge success of the Chandni and its soundtrack were instrumental in ending the era of violent action films in Indian Cinema and rejuvenating the romantic musical genre, which formed a significant part of Rishi’s career.

Henna, the film planned and started by Raj Kapoor, released in 1991 to critical and commercial success. Bol Radha Bol (1992) directed by David Dhawan and starring Juhi Chawla and Rishi Kapoor, was a big hit. The film is perhaps best remembered for the hit track Tu Tu Tu Tu Tara.

Rishi’s romantic filmography sort of comes to a head with the 1992 hit Deewana. He starred in the first half opposite yet another newcomer Divya Bharti. Shah Rukh Khan took over the reins in the second half of the film.

With that, it was as if Rishi handed over the sceptre of the Bollywood romantic hero to Shah Rukh, who then established himself as the king of romance with multiple films. Although he moved on to more age-appropriate and relevant roles in his later years, Rishi will always be remembered as the delightful actor whose dreamy eyes, curly hair and charming smile made many a woman’s heart flutter.

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