“I’m still upset that he didn’t win Rishi-ji for his finely nuanced performance in Damini”: Meenakshi Sheshadri

Rishi-ji was a towering personality and an amazing friend. In my eyes, he was far more than just a co-star. During one of our first films together, Rishi-ji did something that I still remember well to this day. While filming a rainy sequence for Gharana (1989) I was running during one of the recordings when I suddenly slipped and fell and severely cut my arm with the glass bracelets I was wearing. Even though we were in the middle of the scene, Rishi-ji immediately broke the character and rushed to me and called for first aid.

From that moment on, I knew he and I would be friends, and I am still grateful for his timely intervention and the care he showed me. Until 1993 I had the pleasure of continuing to work with him in various films; He always calmed me down so much that I almost forgot that I was starring with the son of the Kapoor family. Regardless of the task, I felt safe and well protected working with him, and this allowed us to produce beautiful work.

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I have to point out Damini(1993) especially because of its enormous story, excellent direction and gripping scenes. Despite his numerous star awards in the Bollywood industry, I am still upset that he didn’t win an award for his finely nuanced performance in Rishi-ji Damini. He really shone in the film, and although 27 years have passed since its release, Rishi-ji’s work is still strong and proud.

Another memorable moment comes from the same shot of Gharana (1989) when Rishi-ji had to do a yoga pose for the scene during a scene and I was surprised how easily he performed the difficult pose of Sheershasana. At times like these, I could take a step back and be grateful to be in the presence of such a magnetic force.

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Later in life, I would occasionally visit and spend time with Rishi-ji and Neetu-ji, his wife. In 2015 I visited him for the last time in his bungalow in Pali Hill. He was amazed at how I looked as I looked very different from what he remembered, but he still greeted me warmly and made me feel like no time had passed since we last met. The person I relied on for advice and friendship greeted me with open arms.

I had been in contact with him a few times since then, but now I wish I had kept in touch with him more. I will fondly remember Rishi-ji, and he and his family are on my thoughts and prayers. The world has lost a pure actor, but his legacy will live on. It is my heartfelt prayer that you will find strength, Neetu-ji, and that Rishi-ji will rest in peace.

– Meenakshi Sheshadri

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