Zeba Bakhtiar remembers being intimidated by her talented, knowledgeable and immensely popular co-star Rishi Kapor while on the sets of her debut film, Henna. In this 1991 drama, helmed by Randhir Kapoor, Bakhtiar played the titular role. While working on the project, the Pakistani actor came close to the Kapoor family and found friends in both the Kapoor brothers.

The news of Rishi Kapoor’s demise came as a shock to her. Rishi, 67, died in Mumbai on April 30. “I spoke to Randhir two days before this happened. He said ‘Chintu is getting better’…Nobody saw this coming. After his treatment (in the US), he was so happy to be back home,” says Bakhtiar. 

It was Rishi’s “honesty and strong demeanour” that made Bakhtiar “respect” him all the more. “He was straightforward yet funny. In between shots, we would talk about a lot of things. He had a very active mind, knew about all kinds of films being made, newer technologies and techniques that were being used… He was quite knowledgeable,” says the actor-entrepreneur, who lives in Pakistan with musician-producer son Azaan Sami Khan.

Reminiscing the days of making Henna, Bakhtiar, 57, shares she was living no less a dream to be able to work with Rishi and Randhir.

“While Randhir was collected and chill, Rishi was electrifying and full of energy. I was new then and he would help me with my performance. For someone like me whose favourite films were Bobby (1973), Kabhi Kabhie (1976) and Karz (1980), I couldn’t believe I was working with Rishi Kapoor,” says Bakhtiar, who worked with Rishi in Mohabbat Ki Aarzoo (1994) too. They wanted to do a third film together.

“He had this distinctive style, poise and his hand gestures were unique. He was very strong musically and a brilliant dancer too,” she adds. 

Bakhtiar and Rishi were in touch. The last time they spoke this year, they had plans of catching up.

“While working in Henna, I stayed in Randhir’s house… So I’m very close to the family. Neetu is such a wonderful person, and I can’t imagine what she must be going through. I last met them in 2010,” she says, expressing a desire to come to India to visit the family and share her condolences for Rishi, his mother Krishna Kapoor (died in 2018) and sister Ritu Nanda (she died in January).

Bakhtiar shares that Rishi is hugely popular in Pakistan. On April 30, she received calls from people who couldn’t share their condolences with his family directly. “Be it on social media or otherwise, people were devastated with the news. He was the ultimate romantic hero that everybody would miss,” she says.

About the condition in Pakistan, given the current Covid-19 times, Bakhtiar adds, “People all over the world are fighting, so are we. Hoping this gets over soon, and it makes us better individuals.”

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