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An Evening With The Legends

Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor invited the media for an informal chat on their new movie 102 Not Out, their journey and friendship. Bhakti Mehta from Team Box Office India recalls the evening she spent in the company of these legends

If I needed any validation of my career choice, I received it on Thursday. After all, it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bask in the presence of legends like Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor, listen to them talk about their journey together for the last 44 years and their upcoming film 102 Not Out.

For someone who grew up watching Chupke Chupke, Karz, Naseeb, Amar Akbar Anthony, Ajooba and Kabhi Kabhie, the idea of being in the same room as these two superstars was unthinkable. But, it was happening. These two powerhouses made sure they would give this privileged group of media persons an evening we would never forget.

It was 6 pm. After battling an entire day at the office, and the heat and traffic of Mumbai, I reached the Royal Opera House. Just like everyone else, I too cursed the fact that the event was being held so far from the usual star-media meeting venues in the suburbs that were much more convenient. My complaints and doubts vanished as soon as I stepped inside the Opera House and marvelled at its grandeur. The feeling escalated when guests of honour Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor walked in, expressed their gratitude for the standing ovation they received and shared stories on why this venue was special to them.

Rishi Kapoor said it was on this stage that his grandfather, Prithviraj Kapoor, found out that he had become a grandfather. Big B revealed that it was here that he watched his first-ever Hindi film and fell in love with cinema. Suddenly, the Royal Opera House became even more historic.

The entire evening was peppered with anecdotes such as these as both Kapoor and Bachchan relived some of their fond moments in the film industry. The legendary artistes made the audience laugh with stories of how they are uncomfortable with retakes because, at a subconscious level, they still believe movies are being captured on film. 

“I remember introducing myself to Rajkumar sahab, a superstar of that generation. He would look at you and gauge your acting calibre. He would say, ‘Jaani, 75mm ke Mitchell lens mein close-up leke dikhao.’ That camera was huge and was positioned right in front of your face, and you had to say a romantic dialogue. That was a test for us. We are of that generation,” said Mr Bachchan.

Going back to the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, the two veterans also shared the moments when they first got to know about each other even without the other person knowing them. 

I might not be familiar with that era but being a film buff and a journalist, I was aware of stories about Yash Chopra’s love for beautiful locations, Manmohan Desai’s confidence in the overly dramatic and anecdotes about their co-stars like Shatrughan Sinha. 

Kapoor narrated stories about Nargis Dutt bribing him with chocolate on the sets of Shree 420 and, years later, finding out at the dinner table that his father, the late great showman Raj Kapoor, wanted him to act in Mera Naam Joker. “I didn’t react to the revelation that I would be starring in the movies. I just kept eating. My mom was concerned about my studies but little did she know that it would hardly matter. I finished my meal, set my plate aside, went to my room and took out a full scape sheet of paper from the study table. And on that, I started practicing my autograph!”

The duo also spoke about their film 102 Not Out; what it was like to be back on a film set together after 27 years; choosing an unusual story, where a father tries to send his son to an old-age home; and pulling director Umesh Shukla’s leg for asking them to give retakes while shooting.

When the floor was thrown open for questions, there were so many that came to my mind. I kept raising my hand for the mic but I was also afraid that, maybe, just maybe, I would freeze when the moment arrived.

Since there were so many hands raised, unfortunately, I did not get a chance to field my questions. But, both veterans promised to meet the media after the release of the film, in a similar, informal setting. I hope I get to interact with them then, to ask my questions and, more importantly, to thank them for the laughter and smiles that will stay with me for days to come.


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