Excerpts from the conversation that transpired:
Let’s take it from the time when Rishi Kapoor and you started gelling on the sets of ‘Khel Khel Mein’…
I think we got along very well because we both had a similar nature of being frank on the face. You know I stopped going for special screenings and premieres simply because I can’t lie. Woh chehre pe dikh jaata hai agar main sach nahi bol raha (It shows on my face if and when I’m faking it). It is fine to honestly tell a person that your film is good if it is good but very difficult for me at least to fake it when I haven’t.
So yeah, we were very thick and met at the first opportunity. I used to really look forward to meeting him because he was a very open-hearted person. Jeetendra, Rishi and I used to catch up either at each other’s house or some restaurant.
Sun-n-Sand at Juhu every Sunday was the favourite…
No, Rishi never came there. He preferred Bandra’s Otter’s Club.
You’ll played cards there…
No, and anyways Rishi never liked to play cards except on a solitary occasion at Diwali. We friends- Jeetendra, Sujit Kumar and I- hit the hotel’s Health Club and went for a walk at the Juhu Beach. Hum teeno ki dosti was something that everyone speaks of, even today. We never gossiped about anybody.
And, let me tell you that Rishi and Jeetendra both were doing very well then as actors and I was not- but I never told them that they should try and get me a role in their film. Neither did they compel me to cast them when I started producing and directing films.
So what did you’ll speak on the phone or when you’ll ate and drank?
We did speak about the movie world but only in terms of movies- ‘Yeh film kaisi lagi? Woh film kaisi lagi?’ Today, I can see Rishi everywhere with me but we can’t talk to each other.
Successful actors do recommend…
Well, ho sakta hai ki inhone bhi kiya hoga lekin mujhe nahi bataya; shayyad producer ne mana kar diya hoga (maybe they did and a producer said ‘no’, hence perhaps they didn’t tell me).
You still maintain your earlier perspective that if he hadn’t gone for an outdoor shoot of ‘Sharmajee Namkeen’ in February 2020, he wouldn’t have suffered a cancer relapse?
In hindsight, let me say that jo hona hota hai woh toh hota hi hai (Fate cannot be changed). But yes, Rishi had asked me before leaving for the shoot outside Mumbai. I told him to avoid it but he said that the film’s shooting had got stuck and he needed to be present there.
And what did you tell him in return?
I couldn’t say anything other than ‘Be careful’.
Did you and your wife go to meet Neetu Kapoor, Riddhima and Ranbir after Rishi passed away?
Yes, my wife Pinkie and I did go. We met Neetu, Ranbir Kapoor and Riddhima. And we didn’t make the ambience gloomy. We were there for 2 to 3 hours and we reminisced Rishi; I kept telling Ranbir my stories with Rishi when we were young. I can never forget the outstation family holidays we took- both Hrithik and Ranbir were with us; they were kids then. I wish to see Hrithik and Ranbir together in one film.
Are you and Jeetendra in touch now frequently?
Of course, but mainly on the phone. Due to COVID times, we both avoid going out. And of course again, we miss Rishi very much.