Khullam Khulla – Rishi Kapoor Uncensored By Meena Iyer


I wanted to read Khullam Khulla when it first came, for I find Rishi Kapoor’s career in Bollywood quite unique. He was one of the few examples of a consistent career graph in an industry that changes fortunes every Friday. He was charming and I had a personal connection as I shared my nickname with him. I had the book in my library since it came but somehow it was never on top of the reading pile.

Khullam Khulla Rishi KapoorWhen I heard of him passing away at a time when most of his family and friends could not even say goodbye to him due to ongoing pandemic, it was time to read it. Pulling out this book was my way to pay tribute to the artist who entertained us, made us fall in love, portrayed, and lived a dream life. I enjoyed his twitter timeline too – straightforward, blunt, witty, nationalist, and apolitical. One of the few people who are not afraid of being politically incorrect.

Earlier I have read biographies of his uncles Shammi Kapoor & Shashi Kapoor. I enjoyed reading about the life of Shammi Kapoor as I knew nothing about him besides his screen image. He gave me insights into the making of his hit songs and the amount of effort he, singers, and musicians used to put in it. In Shashi Kapoor’s biography I learned about his international repertoire, that not many of us in India know about. So, I was also looking for some more insights into the industry from someone who was born into it and spent all his life there.

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Rishi Kapoor remains outspoken in his book. He talks about his pampered childhood, his filmi family, growing up with a successful father and & his idiosyncrasy, surrounded by rich and famous people. He does not hesitate to talk about the affairs of his father with Nargis and Vaijayanathi Mala. For the latter he even talks about his mother’s reaction and wonders why the actress denies it publicly. Interestingly, he casts his grandfather Prithviraj Kapoor as a saint, who chose to live during his last days. The way he speaks about the rest of the members of his family brings out his affection and respect for them.

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In his career, most of what he speaks is well known. However, you admire his courage when he admits that he paid Rs 30,000 to Filmfare to get the award for the best actor for his debut film Bobby. He does not mention the name, but it is more than obvious. His competition that year was none other than Amitabh Bachchan in Zanjeer. Now, if awards were being sold way back in 1974, you can imagine the rot that the whole award economy is.


There is a long section on his Filmography, which is expected but is really like a chronicle. There are not many anecdotes that shed light on his journey or the industry. He just remembers all possible people he worked with. Sometimes there is a small incident here and there but that is more of personal memory. He talks about his friendships that came into his life. It seems he was a very neighborhood person, he liked his friends closeby. He talks fondly about his elder brother and it seems he was very close to him, both as a brother as well as a friend.

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He talks about his first girlfriend and then getting close to his wife and then co-star Neetu. Her epilogue at the end of the book is the best-written chapter of the book. She writes well and talks more from her own emotions and experiences. The main book seems more like a chronicle of events that could have been written much better. Foreword by his son seems forced by the publishers to tap into his huge audience.

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Overall Khullam Khulla has few insights but nothing much, probably that is how his life was. The book could have been written better I think. Language is simple, subjects jumbled with a lot of repetition.

Read it if you like Rishi Kapoor, else skippable.

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