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Zeba Bakhtiar remembers Henna co-star Rishi Kapoor

Actor and director Zeba Bakhtiar still remembers the day playwright Hasina Moin got in touch with her with an offer she could not refuse.

Zeba had just joined the television industry and was working in Moin’s drama serial Tansen with actor Asif Raza Mir.

“At the time she was writing for Raj Kapoor in India. She was in India with Randhir Kapoor [Rishi’s older brother] and asked me to visit,” said Zeba. “I told her that my family had given me permission to act on television, not film. But she insisted and I got permission to go and that’s how Henna (1991) happened.”

Zeba and Rishi’s film Henna was a tragic Indo-Pak love story about Chander (Rishi), a man from Srinagar who accidentally strays into Pakistan and falls in love with Henna (Zeba).

Bakhtiar recalls that shooting her death scene in the film was particularly difficult for her.

“It was the first time I was doing a scene like that…I was very new to acting and being on set with Rishi Kapoor, a seasoned and brilliant actor, was tremendous,” she said. “As I lay there playing dead and he started to cry…I lost track of what was happening, that we were acting.”

According to Zeba, the experience of working with Rishi Kapoor was tremendous. “He was such a great actor and such a thorough professional that everything he did was meticulous,” she said. “He was very well informed about every aspect of the film profession. He made it a point to know what was being created where…in any part of the world…what was being used technically.”

She said that if there was one actor who ate, slept, dreamt and lived films, it was Rishi Kapoor.

“Just being around him and his energy was tremendous because he had the true star presence which he used to carry with him in a very unaffected way,” she said. “He never behaved like a star, he was always full of life and whatever he did, he did with full conviction, all of his energy and full commitment which is something I will always admire.”

Over the year, Zeba and Rishi kept in touch over the phone and often spoke on special occasions. “I made it a point to call him on his birthday and when WhatsApp came into being, we kept in touch over WhatsApp,” she said. “It was a very sad thing to know he isn’t here anymore but with the tremendous legacy that he has left behind, he will always be with us,” she added.

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