Did Rishi Kapoor Buy Filmfare Award, Afraid of Big B’s Zanjeer?

Rishi Kapoor’s big revelations of having bought the Filmfare ward for Bobby just made us revisit 1973.

4 min read
Could the fear – of the Angry Young Man overtaking the yuppie teenaged boy – have caused the buying of a Filmfare award? (Photo: The Quint)

It’s funny, but you often heard someone say it at an awards show. You saw people laugh uncomfortably, act like it’d never happened.

Because someone on stage just said: “Oh, I’m finally here coz I’m sure to win. I hadn’t paid ’em enough the last few years.”

You’ve laughed too, because you’ve been convinced it’s untrue. Hasn’t Karan Johar himself, in ingratiating fashion on his talk show, kidded about it – asking visibly squirming guests whether they thought award shows were fixed?

You may have had a niggling suspicion till today, but that just got cemented with Rishi Kapoor’s revelation.

Because the veteran actor just told The Quint THIS:

I have no hesitation in admitting that I was impetuous once. I had to buy the Filmfare Award for my performance in Bobby… why’re you looking at me like that? That’s not off-the-record.
The poster of the movie <i>Bobby</i>.
The poster of the movie Bobby.

Isn’t it? Isn’t that piece of news off the record? Or is it a well-documented fact, known to everyone in the industry – except common people like you and me.

Do stars truly buy awards?

What 1973 Was Like in Bollywood

Let’s rewind to 1974, shall we? That’s the year Rishi Kapoor received the Filmfare award for Best Actor, beating out a worthy opponent like Amitabh Bachchan in Zanjeer. These were the nominees:

  • Amitabh Bachchan for Zanjeer
  • Dharmendra for Yaadon Ki Baraat
  • Rajesh Khanna for Daag: A Poem of Love
  • Sanjeev Kumar for Koshish
  • Rishi Kapoor for Bobby

Amitabh Bachchan in an iconic scene from the movie <i>Zanjeer</i>.&nbsp;
Amitabh Bachchan in an iconic scene from the movie Zanjeer

Zanjeer’s director Prakash Mehra’s take on the two movies is particularly striking. In an old interview (dating almost 20 years back), Mehra said:

Interestingly, Bobby was being released on the same day. And, believe me, I was not worried about Zanjeer though Raj Kapoor was shocked by Zanjeer’s success despite there being only three songs in the film. Someone told me that Laxmikant-Pyarelal, the music directors of Bobby, had bought out all the cassettes of Zanjeer to stop the three songs by Kalyanji-Anandji from flooding the market. I used to telephone HMV and seek the latest update on the cassette stocks.
Amitabh Bachchan as Inspector Vijay catapulted people’s imaginations to a whole new level.
Amitabh Bachchan as Inspector Vijay catapulted people’s imaginations to a whole new level.

Was Raj Kapoor really that desperate to make his film sell? Even if that were an exaggeration, Rishi Kapoor’s expose has just made us ask if that desperation translated from father to son.


“Raj Kapoor was Heavily in Debt Before Bobby”

You could rake up the old argument I know my father and his cronies must have had in 1973 (just like you and I are now fighting over Dilwale and Bajirao Mastaani) – which was the better film? A case could be made for both, with carefully crafted pros and cons for each. And they’d be well-deserved. Bobby, at the time it released, was a do-or-die situation for its director.

Dimple Kapadia in the orange bikini was one of the biggest commercial takeaways for the film.
Dimple Kapadia in the orange bikini was one of the biggest commercial takeaways for the film.

Bobby: The Complete Story tells quite the story.

His expensive, most ambitious venture Mera Naam Joker, had flopped. Raj Kapoor was down and out, heavily in debt, with the house and studio mortgaged.

And then Bobby happened.

The book also goes on to document the important difference between the two films:

Prakash Mehra’s Zanjeer heralded the rise of Amitabh Bachchan who went on to symbolise the angst of the deprived urban working classes... And then there was Raj Kapoor’s take on teenage innocence...Bobby. Thus, while Amitabh rose like a Colossus to change the dynamics of mainstream Hindi cinema, Rishi Kapoor seemed to embody the aspirations of the younger generation with his breezy romance.

How were Bobby and Zanjeer Received in 1973?

If Bobby hit it off the day it released, Zanjeer had all the makings of a sleeper hit. The movie, in fact, initially did well only in Calcutta (I am hoping my father watched it zealously) – before it took the rest of the country by storm. And once it did, there was no derailing the Zanjeer train.

As Mehra himself recounts:

Though the film clicked in Calcutta, it did not do well for the first four days in Bombay. I thought then that the film would flop. The bad time the film was having affected Amitabh so badly that he went down with a fever. But after four days, when the booking for the second week began, I happened to pass through Gaiety-Galaxy theatre in Bandra. There was a huge rush at the advance booking window. I was shocked. To this day, I have never seen such a huge rush outside Gaiety-Galaxy. When Amitabh heard the news, it affected him so much that his fever worsened to 104 degrees centigrade. He could not believe it. For now he was a star.
Amitabh Bachchan couldn’t believe that <i>Zanjeer</i> had become such a huge hit.
Amitabh Bachchan couldn’t believe that Zanjeer had become such a huge hit.

For now, he was a star.

Could that fear – of the Angry Young Man overtaking the yuppie teenaged boy – have caused the buying of the award?

It’s funny because Bobby was a much higher grosser. It was, in fact, the highest grossing film of 1973 (followed by Daag – another Filmfare nomination). Zanjeer ranked 7th.


Why, then, did Rishi Kapoor buy the Filmfare award for Best Actor in 1974?

I’m only hoping his revelation didn’t ruin Bobby for us, for good.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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