'My father loved only his wife': Love, loss and tears with Rima Jain

·Contributor
·8-min read

She’s got the Kapoor genes bang on. Light eyes, robust complexion and characteristic candour. But the spate of recent tragedies – the loss of mother Krishna Raj Kapoor, sister Ritu Nanda, brothers Rishi Kapoor and Rajiv Kapoor all within two years – have caused a dent in her otherwise buoyant spirits.

Being part of Bollywood’s prestigious First Family, the memories are too magnificent to wither. It’s the silence left behind by her dear departed siblings that’s hard to come to terms with.

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In a heart-to-heart exclusive, she reminisces about her Showman father, ‘Showgirl’ mother, ‘second mother’ Ritu, the Tom to her Jerry – Rishi Kapoor and kid brother Rajiv Kapoor. “Jaane kahan gaye woh din…,” she sums up wistfully. Yet... nothing can interrupt the legacy of their cinema, which will thrive through the timelines.

Read her account in Rima Jain’s own words…

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It’s been more than three decades since my father (the late Raj Kapoor) passed away on June 2 1988. But the memories are still fresh. One that makes me most nostalgic, especially during the monsoons, is of him bringing mogras, growing around his cottage in Chembur, and placing a generous bunch in my mother’s room and mine.

Every time I see Black Label, his favourite drink, I’m reminded of Papa. My husband (entrepreneur and investment banker Manoj Jain) enjoys the same drink. The aroma takes me back to those many evenings I shared with Papa and the conversations we had...

Papa was soft on us girls (referring to older sister and late entrepreneur Ritu Nanda and herself). He wanted us to be lady-like. He was firm we possess the right values. Yet, he was loving and protective towards us. Being musically inclined himself, he encouraged us to play the piano and learn ballet.

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He wanted the boys (Randhir, Rishi and Rajiv) to have fire and ambition. His father (late filmmaker/actor Prithviraj Kapoor) kicked him in the butt and said go make your life. Papa would tell us, “You children are born with a silver spoon. I was not.”

We were not aware of his stature at home. We sensed it when we stepped outside. The way he was loved by people and how we were loved because of him. Kisi ki muskurahaton pe ho nisar… (Anari 1959) sums up his philosophy. He wanted to put a smile on people’s faces and make them forget their worries through his films. But at the same time, he made them socially aware with relevant subjects like crime and poverty (Awara 1951), the surrendering of dacoits (Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai 1960), widow remarriage (Prem Rog 1982) ... and many more.

I happened to spend the most time with Papa as I only got married after he passed away. Sure, we had grrreat fights! He drank too much sometimes and would get nasty. He’d pass one wrong statement and we’d be at loggerheads. I’d bang the door on him and go off to my room. I was the only one who could do that. The others were petrified of him. But he was soft on that. He never got offended.

Then he would send me these little notes saying sorry. He’d write things like, “Right now you are upset with me. But when I’m no more you will remember me.” That’s exactly what’s happening right now (breaks down). Perhaps, alcohol enabled him to say things he couldn’t otherwise. For him everything was about emotion. 

Also, he had a premonition about things. Like he’d always say, ‘If… I live to see your wedding’. The ‘if’ was uncanny. I only got married six months after he passed away.

He was extremely passionate about his work. “My mind tells me to race up that mountain. But my body cannot,” he’d say during the shooting of Ram Teri Ganga Maili (1985). Then he’d make Dabboo (Randhir) climb up the mountain and take the shot he wanted.

My relationship with my mother (late Krishna Kapoor) was a usual mother-daughter one. She’d always be like, ‘Do your hair like this’. ‘Don’t’ sit like this’. 

What Papa and I shared was much more beyond that.

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Papa first saw mom in Jabalpur, her home, which he visited with Premnathji (Krishna's brother). There from the window, he saw a lady in a white saree playing the sitar. To him she appeared pure like Goddess Saraswati. The sublime image stayed with him. He wanted his leading ladies to reflect the same purity. Hence, he dressed them in white. My mother always wore white sarees though her salwar kameez were coloured.

Papa was the Showman. But the Showgirl was my mother. She was the behind-the-scenes mover and shaker. He threw lavish parties, which served terrific food, with drinks flowing... But it was my mother, who gave personal attention to every guest while he just sat on the swing and greeted everyone.

Sometimes, he’d fight with her after drinks but he always respected my mother’s sense of integrity. 

For instance, once he called us to the studio to see the climax of Ram Teri Ganga Maili. The sequence showed Ganga (Mandakini) dying. Mom thought it was ridiculous. She remarked why don’t you show Ganga rising above it all. Papa was angry and said, “Tum mujhe direction seekhaogi?” Mom retorted, “Mujhe direction nahin aata! But I understand emotions of the audience.” Then he called the projector operator and said, “Doosra reel dikhao!” 

Smartly, he'd shot two climaxes. In that Ganga lives. Papa valued her opinion and hence showed her something he wasn’t sure of.

Regarding the rumours linking him with his heroines… it’s normal for any woman… when you hear rumours about your husband, you’re going to fight, you’re going to move away for a while…but one thing was certain - my father loved his wife.

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Papa was selfish about his work. He was obsessed with his work. And the leading ladies became an obsession because they were part of his work. Being wonderful artistes, they also gave a lot to him. But Papa was never in love with anyone but his wife. He always went back to her.

Papa would be relaxed when he was with Dabboo or Chimpu (Rajiv). But never with Chintu (Rishi). He had huge respect for him as an artiste. He’d say Dabboo will be a good producer, Chimpu will be a director (Prem Granth 1996) but Chintu will be a director’s delight – a fine actor. Chintu had the same ear for music as Papa.

It’s a happy coincidence that every family member – from my father to my boys (actors Armaan Jain and Aadar Jain) and my nieces Natasha (Nanda), Riddhima (Kapoor) can play the Devil’s March on the piano without ever learning it.

A lot has happened in our lives in the past two years. It first began with the passing away of my sister's husband Rajan Nanda ( Escorts Group Chairman) on 5 August 2018. Next my mother passed away on 1 October 2018 (the same time when Rishi Kapoor left for New York to undergo treatment for leukaemia). My older sister Ritu (she was battling cancer too) passed away on 14 January 2020. She was my second mother.

Rima Jain with late sister Ritu Nanda
Rima Jain with late sister Ritu Nanda

During my son Armaan’s marriage (to Anissa Malhotra) in February 2020, Chintu was critical – it was a touch and go situation. Sadly, he passed away a few months later (30 April 2020). I miss him every single day. 

Chintu would call me up every night at 10 pm after his fourth drink – even if I was at a friend’s place for dinner. He’d try to act smart and say, “Haan bolo!” I’d say you have called, “Tum bolo!” The day I’d be at home, he’d say in jest, “Aaj booking (dinner invitation) nahin mili kya? Tu toh roz bahar jaati hai. Tera cooking gas toh bachh jaata hoga!

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For 10 to 15 seconds, Chintu and I would be nice to each other. Then we’d have a fight and bang the phone down on each other. We were like Tom and Jerry. But we loved each other. I’d tell him ‘You are in awe of me. That’s why you run after me. Why do you have to only call me at 10 pm?’ In fact, in every childhood photograph of ours, he’s looking at me.

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My younger brother Chimpu’s passing away (at 58),10 months later on 9 February 2021, was just too tragic. He had a passive heart attack. I’d spoken to him a night before. We discussed Dabboo’s birthday dinner for 13 February. He mentioned what Chinese dishes Randhir and he’d like to order from Ling’s Pavilion.

He was excited about his upcoming film, Toolsidas Junior, Ashutosh Gowariker’s production. Uncannily, he’d said, “Before I die, I will do one film.” My son, Armaan often told him to lose weight as he could still do films.

Chimpu was always about food. Yes, he loved to drink. Yes, he abused the system. It’s such a big curse on the family. Dhang ki peeyo toh theek hai na. Their excitement was only about drinking, lunch and dinner… of course not to take away from the work they did.

I only have Dabboo now. When he was admitted to hospital being Covid positive, I was nervous. He was in the ICU for 14 days. 

By God’s grace he’s home now.

Within a span of two years, I lost my mother, my sister and my brothers Chintu and Chimpu during the pandemic. Like pins they all fell. The strong army has gone. When do I heal? 

These tragedies have made me aware of the value of family. I’ve always been a strong and carefree girl. I’m not a weakling even now. But somewhere the losses have crushed my strength.

Yahoo Tragic Tales series:

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