Happy Birthday Neetu Singh Kapoor: The Lady With the Midas Touch
The first time I met Neetu, then Singh, she was an upcoming star and I was a budding journalist. My first interview with her was at her home, Sunset Heights, in Pali Hill. It was late evening and she had just returned from her shoot. When the maid led me into her bedroom, she was packing her suitcase to leave for an early morning location shoot. Dressed in jeans and her long silky hair let loose, she smiled. It was an honest smile that reached her eyes and it was friendship at first sight.
Over the decade we met again and again, sometimes at her shoots and sometimes, for our regular girly sessions at her home, now a spacious duplex flat in Shailaja Apartments a few blocks away from her old home. We spoke about her co-stars, her films and of course her bratty boyfriend Rishi Kapoor.
Initially, everybody assumed it was just a link-up - they were doing too many films and spending all the time together. So when Neetu finally broke the news of her upcoming marriage to her filmmakers, they were both happy and sad. Happy that she was marrying the man she loved and sad that they would never work with her again. Particularly Yash Chopra.
Rishi-Neetu’s was the most talked about wedding hosted at RK Studio and attended by the entire film fraternity. A major portion of the fireworks we see at Padmini Kolhapure’s wedding in Prem Rog was part of the wedding. Post marriage, Neetu stayed with her in-laws for more than a year in Chembur. Randhir Kapoor and Babita had done the same and Rishi Kapoor continued with the tradition.
I remember meeting her at that time and asked her if she missed acting - she had after all, grown up before the cameras from Do Kaliyaan to her last film Priyatama.
“I don’t, probably because I never had ambitions for myself. My mother made me an actor and destiny made me a star. But I’m finally doing what I want to do and I’m happy,” she had said.
A year later came Riddhima and a few years later Ranbir, and it was time for Rishi Kapoor to build a nest outside his parents’ home. For a few years they lived at Neetu’s bungalow Kesar Villa in Pali Hill. It is here the children did their schooling. I continued to visit her whenever I was in the vicinity and we caught up on our girly sessions, which had matured over the years. Neetu now discussed marriage and responsibilities and how children make the bond stronger.
During Ganpati festival, an annual ritual for the family, it was an opportunity to interact with the children. Riddhima was always shy and obedient, while Ranbir was always charming and up to some mischief or the other. There was a brief phase when Neetu dabbled with fashion designing in partnership with a friend, but soon gave it up because she wasn’t passionate about it.
More years passed by and Rishi Kapoor’s family moved to another home, the palatial bunglow, Krishna, designed by the city’s top architect and designer. It is here that Neetu blossomed as a homemaker and super mom to her kids. We have spent most of the time in this house overlooking the garden and the outhouse, Rishi Kapoor’s favourite spot to entertain his friends.
It was here that Riddhima got married, that Neetu-Rishi became grandparents to Saamara, and Ranbir Kapoor made his debut as an actor in Sawaariya, and experienced his rise and fall and rise as a box-office star. It was here that Rishi Kapoor redefined his career and became the most sought after senior actor in pivotal roles.
The last time I met her at the bungalow, it was on the verge of being demolished. “It is always difficult to bid farewell to memories but to reconstruct, you have to give it time. It will take a few years and till then, life is full of surprises,” Neetu had smiled.
(This story was first published on Neetu Singh Kapoor’s birthday on 8 July, 2016. It is being republished on the same occasion in 2017)
(Bhawana Somaaya has been writing on cinema for 30 years and is the author of 12 books. Twitter: @bhawanasomaaya)