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know your actor: dimple kapadia.

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know your actor: dimple kapadia.

know your actor: dimple kapadia.

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“there’s a light in a woman’s eyes that speaks louder than words.” — arthur conan doyle, the hound of the baskervilles


she married the superstar of the ‘’70s, rajesh khanna. but dimple kapadia’s life is no less phenomenal. married to both the arc-lights and a megastar in the same year she chose to give up one for the other. but dimple khanna soon grew up to some excruciating home truths. she yearned for the view outside... never mind if it meant walking down alien alleys. from there began her tryst with herself – as an actor, as a woman. a bunch of formula films later, she broke into the parallel orbit and erted her credibility as an actor. aitbaar, kaash, lekin, rudaali, krantiveer, angaar, luck by chance, being cyrus, finding fanny... dimple’s rise as an actor has coincided with her growth as a person. while mrinal sen compared her to sophia loren and described her face as ‘a landscape of desolation’, feroz khan called her a woman ‘who’s just dying to be herself on screen’. like her character shanichari in rudaali, who draws from the torment of her soul to be a professional mourner, dimple’s performances resonated the angst within. love and loss have been her close allies. be it the termination of relationships or the demise of her loved ones, she’s survived it all. while as bobby she was sheer sunlight, her wine eyes, through the years, reflect a hangover of pain. and to create what better than revisiting the manor of your own memories. here’s going through the life and times of the incredible actor...

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in bobby

that year – 1973!

amidst a line-up of a hundred young s, raj kapoor singled out the older daughter of gujarati entrepreneur chunilal kapadia and betty to be launched opposite his son rishi kapoor in bobby (1973). in fact, her introduction scene in the film was inspired from raj’s first meeting with muse nargis decades ago… where an unsuspecting nargis had opened the door to raj… running her flour smeared hands through her hair!

but before bobby could win over the audiences, superstar rajesh khanna wooed a 15-year-old dimple to be his child bride in march ’73. while this unexpected twist left his thousand female fans shattered – some even committed suicide – it was a fairytale wedding for dimple. for someone who often strolled past the superstar’s sea-facing bungalow aashirwad in bandra to walk in as the empress of his castle was a surreal moment.  “i e to know him precisely seven days before the marriage. we were together in a flight to ahmadabad for a show. he next to me but did not utter a word. just as the flight was about to land, he turned towards me, looked hard into my eyes and said he wanted me to marry him,” dimple once recalled the whirlwind romance. she was 16 to his 31.

 
the blockbuster bobby

six months after her marriage, released rk’s love tale bobby. “mujhse dosti karoge?” asks bobby braganza in the iconic scene. a cleft on a cherubic face, sherry eyes, a natural naiveté... dimple be e a teen icon. she triggered the bobby cult – the dotted and knotted bobby blouse and the earphone-hairstyle.  she won the filmfare award for best actress (along with jaya bhaduri for abhimaan). but that was the magnificent anti-climax of her aborted career. the mehndi on her hands, visible in the last portions of bobby, was a grim reminder that she was now kaka’s possession.
the rocky marriage
one can never fathom the reasons behind rajesh’s impulsive marriage to dimple. some dubbed it as ‘attention seeking’ some called it an ‘ego boost’ for the superstar who wanted to spite his ex-ladylove. sadly, by the end of 1974 when their first daughter twinkle khanna was born (she shares the same birthday, december 29, with her late father) the cracks in the marriage were evident. rajesh’s slipping stardom and his alleged alcoholism and abusive ways left his adolescent wife traumatised. still in her early 20s, in 1982, dimple, reportedly, moved into her parents’ home with daughters, twinkle and rinkie, aged eight and five then. she began working with ramesh sippy for saagar. “right from the beginning of my marriage i knew it wouldn’t work out. my biggest failing is i don’t take a stand. i let people stomp all over me. finally, when i do put my foot down, it’s too late,” she had told filmfare in july 1983.

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with anil kapoor in jaanbaaz


the eventuful ‘80s
though saagar was to be her comeback,  zakhmi sher (1984) released first. saagar premiered in august 1985 and was controversial for the scene where she was seen topless for a split second. her easy performance as mona d’silva, torn between her friend (kamal haasan) and beloved (rishi kapoor), won her the filmfare best actress award. “certainly, marriage brings security... i was mrs rajesh khanna. it takes guts to leave all that. but now that i’m earning and fending for myself, i feel more secure. there’s a hell of a difference in spending your time playing cards and acting,” she said to filmfare in october 1984.


mukul anand’s aitbaar (1985), a hitch ian thriller with suresh oberoi and raj babbar, had her play the beautiful wife of a sadistic husband.  rahul rawail’s actioner arjun with sunny deol added to her reliability just as it sparked off rumours of a liaison. while feroz khan’s stylised janbaaz (1986) is still remembered for her steamy lovemaking scene with anil kapoor. but her moment of epiphany e with mahesh bhatt’s kaash (1987). the narrative of the decline of a superstar (jackie shroff) had a familiar echo. her act of disillusioned wife and mother had flashes of brilliance. in fact bhatt was quoted saying, “i couldn’t differentiate between dimple and pooja her character… she has gone through so much in her life that.. she only has to be herself.”  the dramatic, though coarse, zakhmi aurat (1988) had her play a police officer who gets gang- d. after the judicial system fails her, she joins forces with other victims to castrate the ists. another notable film was mukul anand’s insaaf (1987). her pairing with vinod khanna was
a beauty meets brawn encounter. subhash ghai’s ram lakhan (1989) was another commercial success she enjoyed.
the offbeat ’90s
“when i do glamorous roles people say i look haggard. why can’t directors conceive me in a realistic set-up? why can’t directors like mahesh bhatt and shyam benegal sign me?” asked dimple in a filmfare interview in september 1985. and the ’90s threw open the floodgates of arthouse cinema for her. govind nihalani’s drishti (1990) had shekhar kapur and her as a married urban couple.


based on rabindranath tagore’s short story, gulzar’s lekin (1990), set in rajasthan, revolved around vinod khanna who’s entranced by reva (dimple), a spirit. apparently, to make her character truthful gulzar asked her to refrain from blinking and give a ‘fixed gaze’ for a surreal effect. another milestone was kalpana lajmi’s rudaali (1993). also set in rajasthan, the film was based on mahasweta devi’s story about professional mourners. dimple played shanichari, a woman who has never cried despite a sad life but is compelled to weep for a living. it won her the national award. “i was proud; i’d proved that an actress from mainstream cinema could win an award,” she told filmfare in october 1993.
mrinal sen’s 1995 bengali drama antareen had her play a woman in a loveless marriage. in mehul kumar’s krantiveer (opposite nana patekar), she played a journalist, who becomes victim and received her fourth filmfare award as the best supporting actress. other notable films were shashilal k nair’s angaar (1992), where she played an orphan and priyadarshan’s gardish (1993) where she played a prostitute.

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with akshay kumar and twinkle at rajesh khanna's chautha
the magical millennium

not averse to playing her age, the 2000s had her dabble with an array of characters. they would include... farhan akhtar’s directorial debut dil chahta hai (2001), where she played tara jaiswal, a middle-aged alcoholic divorcee. her relationship with much younger artist siddharth (khanna) here was a poignant portrayal. leela (20012), directed by somnath sen and co-starring vinod khanna, followed her unconventional relationship with a student. while 2005 saw her unite with rishi kapoor in pyaar mein twist. they played two middle-aged single parents who fall in love. her part of ex-superstar neena walia in luck by chance (2009), referred to in the film as ‘a crocodile in a chiffon saree’ was applauded too. in 2006, she co-starred with saif ali khan and naseeruddin shah in being cyrus (2006), directed by homi adajania. she essayed katy, shah’s neurotic wife who has an affair with young cyrus. tail (2012) and finding fanny (2014) tapped her reserves of fun even as they completed her trinity with adajania.


the golden years

through time, her equation with estranged husband rajesh went through an overhaul. the two, somehow, never divorced and the initial resentment gave way to a newfound mutual respect. this was more than evident, when he was detected with cancer. the family rallied around rajesh, venturing into aashirwad once again, giving him the support and care that perhaps only a family could shower. when he p ed away on july 18, 2012, he was given a farewell, which was a reminder of the phenomenon he once was.

today, dimple seems to be in a peaceful phase. “rinkie is my child and twinkle is my mother. twinkle looks after us all. she tries to make my life as comfortable as possible,” she one shared with filmfare. fond of painting and surfing the internet, she’s enjoying the leisure that life has thrown her way. “there has been a lot of pain in my life but i don’t find myself going into that area...this could be wrong because people say it’s cathartic to go through the process. i’m scared of losing myself even for a few minutes. it’s too painful. i don’t know whether that’s going to work for me or hit me all at once. but so far life has been kind,” she had once shared with filmfare. a deep thought indeed!


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quotes:

certainly, marriage brings security... i was mrs rajesh khanna. it takes guts to leave all that. but now that i’m earning and fending for myself, i feel more secure. there’s a hell of a difference in spending your time playing cards and acting  -

dimple kapadia to filmfare in october 1984

there has been a lot of pain in my life but i don’t find myself going into that area...this could be wrong because people say it’s cathartic to go through the process. i’m scared of losing myself even for a few minutes –

dimple to filmfare in 2010

when i do glamorous roles people say i look haggard. why can’t directors conceive me in a realistic set-up? why can’t directors like mahesh bhatt and shyam benegal sign me? 


-dimple to filmfare in september 1985
filmfare awards

best actress, bobby 1973

best actress, saagar 1985

critics’ best actress, rudaali 1993

best supporting actress, krantiveer 1994


memorable songs featuring dimple

hum tum ek kamre mein bandh ho 


bobby

sagar kinare dil yeh pukare


saagar

kisi nazar ko tera intezar


aitbaar

o yaara


kaash

jab jab teri soorat dekhoon


janbaaz

yaara sili sili


lekin

dil hum hum kare


rudaali