Dimple Kapadia’s finest 5 performances

During one brief phase in her career Dimple Kapadia was poised to become one of the finest dramatic actresses of our country. Here is looking at one of India’s most brilliant actresses at her best

Dimple Kapadia’s finest 5 performances
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Subhash K Jha

During one brief phase in her career Dimple Kapadia was poised to become one of the finest dramatic actresses of our country, Alas, a consistently inconsistent attitude to her career stymied all claims to greatness. I once asked Dimple about why we don’t see her in more films worthy of her.

Her response was typical of her: “There aren’t enough good scripts. Besides, I am lazy! There you finally got the honest truth out of me! I honestly need good scripts and directors. I just hope it happens soon. There has to be something inviting or something fun for me to give so much time to. How many films have I done in the last ten years? Not more than six to seven, I am sure. Though I am not counting.Look, I know people like you say you miss me on screen. That's very kind. But I have my own life, and very hectic and turbulent life. There are so many ups and downs. I became a wife at 15 and was a mother of two at 18. So what? Lots of women marry young and become mothers at a young age. The only really special thing that happened to my life was that I married superstar Rajesh Khanna. “There’s nothing significant coming my way. But sometimes I need to do insignificant roles for the bank balance. Life has been wonderful. My daughters are well-settled. Bas aur kuchh nahin chaahiye. They should remain happy. Aur kya chaahiye? I’ve the candle business, too, which I enjoy as much as acting. So life is good. Such a full life. And I intend to go on leading it exactly the way I’ve been doing.”

Here is looking at one of India’s most inconsistently brilliant actresses at her best.

1. Bobby (1973): At age 15 she became the heartthrob of the nation. As the plucky Bobby Braganza Dimple did to Juliet what what Hema Malini couldn’t do to Meerabai in Gulzar’s film. Filmmaker Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra who singles out Bobby as his favourite romantic film says, “I first saw Bobby at the Regal theatre in Connaught Place in Delhi in 1973 when I was 10 with my family. Movie-going was always a big event for the family. My father was great fan of Raj Kapoor. And Raj Saab was launching his son in Bobby. So it was a especially important film for our family. I must have seen Bobby at least ten times when it first had its golden-jubilee run. Each time, it was in the theatre and not on the small screen. I remember falling in love with the film and with Dimple Kapadia. That was a child's amazement at a film that shaped his romantic perceptions. Then later when I grew up I saw Bobby with the eyes of a filmmaker. And then I saw what great filmmaking skills had gone into it. Somewhere deep down Bobby remains entrenched in my heart. And then as filmmaker nobody can beat Raj Kapoor Saab. The whole treatment of Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet was totally RK. And Dimple Kapadia completely changed our lives. She changed the way we looked at a Hindi film heroine. She defined the very concept of a 'breath of fresh air.' She was so comfortable with her sexuality. We had never seen anything like her.”

2. Rudaali (1993): Dimple played Shanichari a woman in rural Rajasthan ,a professional weeper who has forgotten to feel real emotions. My dear departed friend Kalpana Lajmi who directed this masterpiece felt Dimple’s performance was on a par with what Shabana Azmi did in Kalpana’s debut film Ek Pal. Kalpana had said, “She was a rock-solid ally my creative collaborator and soul sister on location. Her inputs to her character really helped me to construct a magnificent character.” Shabana herself told me that Dimple’s performance in Rudaali was “a revelation.” Dimple won a National award for her performance.Sadly she couldn’t carry the triumphant performance any further.

3. Lekin (1991): I described her performance as “the essence of evanescence” . The last significant Tagore adaptation in Hindi and director Gulzar’s first tryst with Tagore, this ghost story was adapted from Tagore’s short story Kshudhit Pashaan. Dimple Kapadia who played the ghost Rewa didn’t stop calling producer Lata Mangeshkar and director Gulzar until she got the role. She also got to sing Lataji and composer Hridaynath Mangeshkar’s exquisite melodies Yaara seeli seeli, Suniyoji araj and Kesariya balma. In the year of Lekin Dimple had 8 other releases, most of them of the trashiest kind.

4. Zakhmi Aurat: (1988): An exceedingly controversial film during its time, it featured Dimple Kapadia as a cop who is gang-raped. As revenge, she and other likeminded rape victims go around castrating rapists. Ridiculous as the film was, the relevance of its eye-for-an-eye philosophy to this day is disturbing. The film was a hit, though Dimple who was herself a victim of domestic violence in real life, was quite embarrassed about it.

5. Being Cyrus (2006): Dimple’s Parsi libertine act had her hitting on Saif Ali Khan repeatedly. Earlier in Dil Chahta Hai she was hitting on another younger guy Akshaye Khanna while Saif’s attentions were elsewhere.And later in Cocktail she was Saif’s mother. Dimple counts Being Cyrus among her favourite films. “Being Cyrus is a film very dear to me. This was one of the most exciting films I’ve done. Working with the director Homi Adjania was an unbelievable experience. It was absolutely out of the world. Homi knew exactly how he wanted each character to be played. He’d correct me if I didn’t do a scene his way. It had to be done the way he visualised it. And it wasn’t just in his head. He has executed his ideas so well. Being Cyrus was my most beautiful experience as an actress. Doing Being Cyrus gave me a big high. It was great experience working in this film.”

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