Aditya Raj Kapoor was born to Shammi Kapoor and Geeta Bali in 1956
Geeta Bali passed away in 1965 at the age of 34. She was gone in just 15 days. Aditya had gone with her on a location in rural Punjab where she contracted smallpox. It was for a film called ‘Rano’ starring Dharmendra and Geeta Bali, which was later made with Rishi Kapoor and Hema Malini as ‘Ek Chadar Maili Si’. Shammi Kapoor was doing ‘Teesri Manzil’ then.
So what is Aditya Raj Kapoor doing these days? What was his relationship with his father? Did his father give him time? Does he know about his father’s whirlwind romances with Nutan, Mumtaz, Bina Ramani and Nadia – some beforeGeeta Bali and some after? Did his father inform him that he’s marrying Neela Devi? How did he and his sister Kanchan take to the entry of Neela Devi in his life?
This Sunday’s #BigInterview is Aditya Raj Kapoor at his candid best. We also talk RK Studios, Rishi Kapoor, Rajiv Kapoor, Shashi Kapoor and Ranbir Kapoor.
See the full conversation in the video below:
Here are the excerpts from the conversation:
Rishi Kapoor had made history with ‘Bobby’ in 1973. Around the same time, there was a lot of buzz that you would soon make your first splash in Bollywood. Why didn’t that happen?
(Smiles) I just needed to leap to the other side and everything would have fallen in place- but my guruji held my hand and said ‘dhai peedhi ke baad kuch naya kaam karna chahiye’ (It’s been 2-and-a-half generations, do something new). And I followed what he said.
Did your father Shammi Kapoor try and stop you from drifting towards entrepreneurship?
Honestly speaking, he never stopped me. Har baap kahin na koi koshish karta hai ye bolne ki (Every father tries to put that point across). But he just looked at me closely and only asked if I was sure about my decision. I think unko nazar aa gaya tha ki meri aankhonen mein jo noor hai woh kahin aur se aa raha hai (He understood the glint in my eyes had a different source).
How was your equation with your father during that time?
Arre yaar, 17/18 saal ki umar mein kis baap-bete ka equation sahi hota hai (At the age of 17-18, which father and son have a great equation)? Agar sahi hota, toh yeh word ‘equation’ hota hi nahin (If it would’ve been okay, we wouldn’t have had the word ‘equation’). He wanted me to do something but I was moving on a different track. In all fairness, Shammi ji was a very busy man. He became a star when I was just 1-year old. In just his first 2/3 movies he reached an extremely commanding position in the industry and maintained that for about 15 years. For me to expect him to be a normal father is not right. I am reminded of what Elvis Presley told his wife Priscilla in court. She asked him ‘Are you crazy?’ He replied, ‘If I was not crazy, I wouldn’t have been Elvis Presley’. Along with every successful business and especially show business comes a paucity of time and relationship management.
Do you rue the fact that your dad was unable to give you adequate time?
Have you seen ‘Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade’ starring Sean Connery and Harrison Ford? There’s a very interesting scene in that wherein Harrison Ford tells Sean Connery ‘You were never a good father’. Sean Connery shoots back ‘Why? Did I ever tell you to do homework, sleep early or brush your teeth?’ Harrison replies, ‘No, you didn’t’. Connery says, ‘Then I am a good father’.
All my friends’ fathers were around them and though he made it a point to be there on special occasions, I missed my father’s presence in day-to-day life. My mother Geeta Bali made up for it very handsomely, though. Even my second mother, Neela Devi, made up for it.
15/20 years ago, you came out and said that you will be acting now. Where do you stand on that, currently?
Between 2002 and 2011, I directed 3 movies and acted in few films and TV serials as well. I wasn’t planning to step on that track but destiny changed my decision. I was in the Middle East and my dad wasn’t keeping well that time. Those were the last few years of his life. I said to myself, ‘Let him see me on screen’- but there was no passion involved from my side. So, slowly, I withdrew.
To do what?
I started writing scripts. I am going to convert them into novels and scripts. I became an author and wrote my first book ‘Quest’. I have taken to music and composed my first album. Internet has made many things possible, which you and I never dreamt before.
I remember you saying at some point in your youth when you decided to stay away from Bollywood, that you had understood the dynamics of the industry. What did you mean by the word ‘dynamics’?
Dad had a whole lot of filmmakers hovering around him. They expected that I will definitely get into acting. I knew kis ke paas jaana hai, kya baat karna hai, kiske yahan kaam mil sakta hai (whom to approach, what to say and who could give me work). To begin with, let me tell you that I had started off in Bollywood.
I was working as an AD (Assistant Director) on ‘Satyam Shivam Sundaram’ and my uncle Raj Kapoor ji was very fond of me. I was very interested in directing and editing films. But when I decided not to enter the film industry, I just went away from his set and didn’t meet him for six months after that. I thought he would slap me. All said and done, my dissociation from the film industry was not an easy decision.
By dynamics, did you mean that you didn’t like it when you realised that true friends in the film industry are rare and they go away when you start going downhill?
Hmmm… yes, I realised that this business may not stand me for a very long time. It is a daunting profession, no doubt.
A lot has been written about the love life of your dad. The first lady in his life I know from those reports is the legendary Nutan. Shammiji and Nutan were neighbours…
I know, but that was before he got married to my mother Geeta Bali. Both were very young at that time. Maybe that was not the right move. Who’s the second one (laughs)?
Seems, you are interviewing me – but fine! The second one was a certain Nadia from Cairo. This again was before his marriage to Geeta Bali. He saw her doing a cabaret in Sri Lanka and extended his stay there. Later, she even came to India. But it didn’t work out. Why?
I don’t think they were serious about each other. My Dad was very young then; I don’t think he was able to take a decision at that time.
Post your mother Geeta Bali, there was Mumtaz. She’d told us in her interview that she was very hurt when she realised that your dad wanted someone to look after his children for which she would have to give up her career…
Mumtaz was getting ready for the big step and she had done ‘Brahmachari’ (1969) with Dad; she was just a step away from signing her first film with Rajesh Khanna. My Dad was beginning to arrive at the end of his hero days, then; nobody can remain at the top forever. Dad was extremely clear he wanted someone to look after his children. He was seeing we needed a mother. The meeting of minds did not happen. I don’t think Dad was wrong — and I don’t think Mumtaz ji was wrong either in her decision to concentrate on her career.
The fourth one was the socialite, Bina Ramani, who also like Mumtaz, came into your father’s life after your mother Geeta Bali passed away (This was 10-11 months after Geeta Bali breathed her last)…
I love your research. The relationship with Bina Ramani was a very brief and formal thing. In those times, a widower with two kids was not a very exciting proposition. Today, however, it’s ‘yours, mine and ours’.
Tell us something from your Dad’s love story with your Mom…
There’s a story behind this too. You know, I myself was very keen to know more about their love story, more than what I had heard and read. And I got to know it from Dev Anand.
From Dev Anand? How?
Once Dev saab called me to meet him. He wanted to know what I was doing in my life. I told him I was a writer. I even put a script and finances for him. He asked me if I wanted to know anything from him. I asked him to tell me a thing or two from my parents’ love story. I told him that I wanted to know more about my mother Geeta Bali. She had passed away when I was just 9 years old.
Dev saab instructed everyone else to leave his office. Only he, his son Suniel and I were left in the room.
Dev saab told me that my Dad was a rascal. When I asked him why, he said that he would come on the set of ‘Baazi’ (starring Dev Anand and Geeta Bali) and disturb him because he wanted to take my mom away.
And yes, he also told me that when he (Dev Anand) was doing ‘Baazi’ with my mother, people arrived on the sets in huge numbers to see her and not him. This compliment for my mother Geeta Bali coming from Dev saab was a very big thing. I felt so happy. And he also told me that my nose resembles my mother’s nose. I felt happier.
Trust me, the person who made my father such a big success was Geeta Bali. She gave him his style and personality. This was told to me by my Dad.
So, a lot of Geeta Bali rubbed on your father…
Yes, that’s because she was a very vivacious person. She injected her personality into my father. She died very young and had a very small portfolio to present. But it was she who put him in the driver’s seat.
Who looked after you when Geeta Bali passed away?
Immediately, Krishna aunty (Mrs Raj Kapoor) started looking after us. My sister Kanchan and I started staying with her. Dad stopped working for six months. He too was staying with us at Krishna aunty’s place. There were caretakers etc who were assigned responsibilities; there was a system in place. Only after he recovered to some extent, he resumed shooting. The set of ‘Teesri Manzil’ was lying in wait for 5 months. Nasir Hussain (who produced ‘Teesri Manzil’) refused to pull the set down until Shammi ji came back. Krishna aunty categorically told him that she won’t let him go anywhere until he gets his sanity back; he was completely lost when my mother Geeta Bali passed away. Those were the days of strong bonding, even with filmmakers.
There was only faith in those times, likha hua bahut kam hota tha (very little was written down). These are the days of corporates and banks and you can’t afford leniency. Bahut alag the woh din (Those days were very different). If my Dad threw a party, even the shikarawale (boatmen) in Kashmir attended; Shammi ji’s party was a big deal!
We went to Kashmir after Dad died; we took his ashes there. Lalit Suri Group of Hotels said they want to plant a tree in the name of Shammi Kapoor. Asha Parekh and Poonam Dhillon accompanied us. Shikarawale, drivers and so many people from different walks of life were waiting for us from 4 am at the airport. The moment we reached there, they all started Shammi ji’s songs.
Do you know Dev Anand was supposed to do ‘Jewel Thief’ and ‘Teesri Manzil’ both? Dev saab said he’ll do only ‘Jewel Thief’. Goldie saab (Vijay Anand) was directing both. There was no heartburn and Shammi ji happily did ‘Teesri Manzil’.
So yeah, those were the days of not just bonding and goodwill too.
Did your father tell you before he married Neela Devi? And how did you feel about his second marriage?
No, he did not tell us before he got married to Neela Devi. He married in the morning. We were kept at our aunt’s place. I was down here for my winter holidays. I was 13. When I met him in the evening, he told me that Neela Devi is my mother. It was as simple as that.
I went and hugged her. Ma mil gayi (I had found my mother). I was very happy. Kamaal ho gaya (It was amazing).
My second mother Neela Devi is a very compassionate lady. She decided to not have any children of her own. How many women would do that? And, to look after a crazy guy like Shammi Kapoor and his two kids wasn’t easy, I bet!
Your sister Kanchan took some time to adjust to Neela Devi…
It took her a year or two, but they settled down. I don’t blame Kanchan; she was very small then. I was 13-14 and unlike her, it was not very tough for me to understand the new dynamics. Today, they love each other very much.
A lot has happened in the Kapoor clan in the recent past. RK Studios got burnt and sold, Rishi Kapoor and Rajiv Kapoor passed away, even Krishna aunty, Reema Kapoor (Armaan Jain’s mother and Raj Kapoor’s youngest daughter)…
And Shashi Kapoor, Ritu Nanda (Raj Kapoor’s eldest daughter) too. But that’s life. That’s the way it goes. We all have to die. At least actors can leave their memories on YouTube. If one wants to meet his father, he has to go just on YouTube.
But yes, it is very sad. Rishi was about to do 10 more films. Rajiv was extremely talented and about to start his own project. The winding up of RK Studios is a practical decision. Instead of being unable to decide who will look after it, it was only sensible to sell it off and take the shares.
It’s been a year that you wrote your book ‘Quest’ for which you went globe-trotting on a motorcycle…
Talking about ‘Quest’, it is not just a motorcycling book; it is about all those people who put me in the saddle – my mother, father, friends, grandparents – all those people who have been in my life and contributed to it since I was born.
How did you write ‘Quest’ while travelling?
I wrote a journal of where all I have been. When I came back, I opened my diary. I am a computer guy; I would put that diary on my blog.
Actually, let me tell you that my mother Geeta Bali did a similar thing. She went from Amritsar-Ceylon-Indonesia-Burma-India at the age of 9. Six years ago, I started doing research on her. If she is seeing this and listening to me somewhere, she would know I remember her so fondly. She would have been very happy of my trip. I really miss her too much. I miss her the most.
What’s next that you are going to write?
I have completed my second book. It’s called ‘Born Upon The Land’. I am updating it. We shall talk about it in our next interview (smiles).
Parting shot: Who according to you is a better actor- Ranbir Kapoor or Rishi Kapoor? Most youngsters vote for Ranbir. Where does your impartial vote lie?
Ranbir has just started out. He has done some 15 films. Look at Rishi’s portfolio. Let them be on an equivalent scale first. At the moment, Rishi is far ahead.