Throwback Thursday: Rishi Kapoor’s Debut Film Bobby Is Progressive And Promotes Gender Equality
India is mourning right now and it’s not only because of the pandemic. We were still trying to cope with losing Irrfan Khan, a legendary actor who gave us Life In a Metro, Piku, Life of Pi, Paan Singh Tomar, The Lunchbox, etc. He carried his effortless, straight-faced charm into his roles and delivered movies that will remain in our hearts forever. This morning, we woke up to the news that Rishi Kapoor passed away and it made the vacuum in our hearts even deeper. Both the actors had cancer.
Every Thursday, I revisit old movies and dissect them for the inappropriateness of them. But today, for the first time ever since I started doing these, I didn’t feel like it. We’re already mourning the loss of two brilliant gems of Indian cinema. In fact, I decided to watch Rishi Kapoor’s very first movie as a leading actor, Bobby alongside Dimple Kapadia.
The film may explore a very typical plotline of those times – the rich vs poor drama – in several ways it is much ahead of its time. Bobby begins with a young mischievous child who bit an aunty’s cheek because she was forcing him to kiss her. You know typical at an Indian get-together. Right then and there, the audience can tell that boy right there has Rishi Kapoor’s swag.
He is sent to a boarding school until he turns 18 because his parents are too involved in their own lives. Raja (Rishi Kapoor) returns home on the day of his 18th birthday and of course, feels constant neglect as there is no one to welcome him. At his birthday party, he spots a gorgeous young girl, who will turn out to be Bobby (Dimple Kapadia), his childhood governess’s granddaughter. The boy, who never even looked at a girl romantically is floored at first sight.
You can see that unpolished, wide-eyed appeal in the start as he gradually takes his time to grow up into a young man, who may still be innocent but not gullible anymore. Honestly, I was ready to spot some shreds of sexism in this movie but it was refreshingly modern. Except when Raja’s dad says things like a mother is the one responsible for a child. And also, has no clue when his only son’s birthday is.
Anyhoo, Raja tried to woo Bobby but like a gentleman. Bobby wore what she wanted without being called slutty. She wore mini dresses, crop tops, and bikinis but not once Raja asked her to cover up. I mean, not like he has the right to say that but still, it was refreshing. And it didn’t stop Raja from being a gentleman and chivalrous.
He went to Bobby’s house to officially ask for her dad’s permission to take her for a movie. My dad would have said no when I was 16 but I love how parents too were open-minded back then. In fact, when Bobby’s father told them that they will have to split the bill because why should only Raja pay, I was elated! In 1973, the dad said something that people have trouble understanding so many decades later.
Dimple Kapadia looks mesmerizing in every frame and if I could, I would steal all her outfits. Also because those clothes can easily look trendy in 2020.
Today, when I watched Bobby, there were so many scenes in which I could see the resemblance between Ranbir and his father. In fact, to be honest, I could also see the budding savagery in a young Rishi Kapoor. The end of that film may have been dramatic, considering the couple was going to commit suicide but that’s 1973 and we can cut them some slack. Eventually, the parents agreed to let the kids live their lives according to their own wishes.
I have watched SOTY, 102 Not Out, D-Day, Kapoor & Sons, etc but what about the movie that gave this industry an actor who would go on to play the romantic hero for 27 years in 92 films. Even after that, he continued to do movies every single year (except he didn’t have any release in 1998) until 2020. He has been a hardworking man with plenty of opportunities because we loved watching him – as a chocolate boy in Bobby, a grown-up man in Damini, and as the cute grandpa in Kapoor & Sons.
ALSO READ: Throwback Thursday: Bandhan Is About Treating Women Like Disposable Objects While Salman Khan Throws Several Insults Around
Having said that, and watching Bobby for the first time as an adult, I can say that this has been one of the best debut an actor could get. And it has been one of the finest performances a debutant could deliver. Rishi Kapoor left us with years and years of audio-visual art that I am planning to revisit, completely impressed with the first of it all.