By Saket Suman
Jaipur, Jan 20 (IANS) Barely 50 metres away, acclaimed Indian poet Vikram Chandra sat discussing "the poetry of amazement" with poet Tishani Doshi and next to them were writers Mridula Koshy and Puneeta Roy exploring the freedom to dream. But the crowd of thousands of "book lovers" who have thronged from around the country and elsewhere were nowhere to be seen.
With cameras sharply focussed and their enthusiasm at its peak, the majority of the crowds at the Jaipur Literature Festival struggled to even stand as cine-star Rishi Kapoor addressed a "Main Shayar Toh Nahin", session in what turned out to be the most attended session so far at the 10th edition of the lit fest.
In conversation with author and professor of Indian Culture and Cinema at the University of London, Rachel Dwyer, Kapoor was here to discuss his just-launched book "Khullam Khulla."
Starting in the trademark Bollywood style -- the loud, bold and vibrant tone -- Kapoor greeted the houseful audience with a "Namaste Jaipur", only to be cheered louder than the festival visitors had so far. A paradox of sorts, this greeting was unlike the soft, humble, warm yet concise and incisive salutations of most writers addressing the crowds.
What followed was more of a 'Koffee with Karan' episode -- light, flamboyant and theatrical -- rather than intense and serious conversations that lit fests are thought to host.
Kapoor said that his book does not boost or glorify his personality, it is rather honest, candid and forthright. The discussion ranged from his early days as an actor and how he made it big and struggled, despite the silver spoon that he was born with, to the emergence of his son, Ranbir Kapoor, as the new heartthrob of bollywood.
"People think I have been lucky to be born in the Kapoor family but I have reached here because of the struggles that I had. Struggle does not only mean sleeping on the platforms or spending nights in hunger. My struggle was different.
"I was acting in times when people were going crazy over action films, it was the generation of the angry young man (Amitabh Bachchan), Dharmendra and Vinod Khanna. I had to reinvent myself. Afterall, I was making light romantic movies and so I had to do things differently," the 65-year-old actor said.
Kapoor referred to Bachchan as one of the greatest actors and the best of his generation and said that he never had any differences with him as they had chosen separate paths. The conversation then shifted to his son.
"My father never interfered with the kind of films that I did. My grandfather never interfered with what films I chose. So I have no reason to interfere with what kind of films Ranbir does. Whatever he has achieved is because of his struggles and constant effort," noted the actor.
Known for his sharp takes lately on Twitter, and on other public platforms, Kapoor also expressed his resentment at the naming of public structures after political figures, particularly from "one family".
Kapoor said that he feels it is injustice to several prominent figures from all other walks of life as roads, buildings, bridges and hospitals are all named after political leaders.
"There are so many structures and roads named after the Gandhi family in Delhi alone. Is it necessary to have it in such numbers? What purpose does it serve?
"I was angry when I saw a bridge being named after Rajiv Gandhi. I mean it may be a way of paying respect, good that he was there but why name structures after him even now? Can you ignore the contribution of Lata Mangeshkar or JRD Tata? Why not name these structures after such figures rather than political leaders," he asked in response to a question on his controversial Twitter posts.
He also said that he has no political inclinations and does not wish to join any political party as he is "content, happy and satisfied" with his life in the film industry.
Responding to a question on his inclination towards the government, Kapoor said: "I have no political ambitions and I am not a BJP chamcha. I say and do what I feel is right. I spoke against the beef ban. I am not doing any chamchagiri," said the actor.
The session ended as Kapoor was joined by his wife, Neetu Singh Kapoor on the stage and sang his famous "Main Shayar Toh Nahin", from "Bobby".
Rishi Kapoor has been the biggest crowd puller for the ongoing lit fest so far. The festival, in its own description, is "the biggest literary show on earth".
It is not the first time that celebrities have appeared at the festival. Karan Johar, Kajol, Om Puri and Amitabh Bachchan, among others, have attended the festival in the previous editions too. I wonder: Who pulls the crowd to JLF? Authors or celebrities?
(Saket Suman is in Jaipur at the invitation of Teamwork arts. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)