Rishi Kapoor, Legendary Bollywood Actor, Dies at 67

Rishi Kapoor - Getty - H 2020

Best known for his romantic dramas, he starred in nearly 100 films over a career that stretched five decades.

Rishi Kapoor, beloved Bollywood star of the 1970's and 80's and scion of the famed Kapoor acting family, has died. He was 67.

His death was confirmed by his brother Randhir, who told Indian news agency PTI, "He is no more. He has passed away." Kapoor had been battling cancer for the last two years and had also undergone treatment in New York last year before returning to Mumbai. On Wednesday night, he was admitted to hospital complaining of breathing problems.

Born in Mumbai into the Kapoor acting dynasty, widely considered the first family of Bollywood, he was the son of legendary actor-director Raj and grandson of iconic theatre and film star Prithviraj. His brothers Rajiv and Randhir also became actors while his uncles included the actors Shashi and Shammi. Kapoor married the actress Neetu Singh, with whom he co-starred in several films, and their son Ranbir, the fourth generation of the clan, is presently one of the leading stars in Bollywood. Similarly, Randhir Kapoor's daughters Karishma and Kareena have also taken the family name forward with their respective careers.

Kapoor made his film debut as a child actor in his father's films starting with 1955's Shree 420 followed by a notable turn in Mera Naam Joker in 1970. His big break as a leading man came in 1973 in the blockbuster Bobby, directed by his father, and he quickly became one of India's biggest film stars over the next two decades.

Kapoor was known for his romantic roles, and he went on to deliver a string of hits such as Amar Akbar Anthony, Laila Majnu, Rafoo Chakkar, Sargam, Karz, Prem Rog, Chandni, Heena, Bol Radha Bol and Saagar, among many others. In all, he starred in almost 100 films. 

After decades as a leading man, Kapoor switched to supporting roles in the 2000s and featured in films such as Fanaa, Love Aaj Kal and Namastey London. Even in his later years, he was quite active and recently starred with Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan in 102 Not Out, with both actors reuniting after almost three decades. Kapoor's upcoming projects included the Bollywood remake of The Intern, which was supposed to begin production this year, co-starring actress Deepika Padukone.

His last onscreen appearance was in 2019's The Body, an official remake of Spanish film El Cuerpo while Kapoor was in the midst of filming Sharmajee Namkeen.

News of Kapoor's death has shaken Bollywood, particularly as it came a day after the death of the equally revered star Irrfan Khan. Bachchan tweeted, "He's gone. Rishi Kapoor, gone, just passed away. I am destroyed."

Aamir Khan tweeted, "We have lost one of the greats today. An amazing actor, a wonderful human being, and 100% a child of Cinema. Thank you for all the joy you brought to our lives. Thank you for being the actor and human being that you were. You will be badly missed Rishiji."

Akshay Kumar tweeted, "It seems like we’re in the midst of a nightmare...just heard the depressing news of #RishiKapoor ji passing away, it’s heartbreaking. He was a legend, a great co-star and a good friend of the family. My thoughts and prayers with his family."

With India currently under lockdown due to the novel coronavirus, the Kapoor family issued a statement to urge fans not to publicly gather to pay their respects to Kapoor as is the tradition in the country. "In this hour of personal loss, we also recognize the world is going through a very difficult and troubled time. There are numerous restrictions around movement and gathering in public. We would like to request all his fans and well-wishers and friends of the family to please respect the laws that are in force," the statement said. 

Kapoor is survived by his wife Neetu and children Riddhima and Ranbir.