Dimple Kapadia, Bollywood superstar, child bride at age 15

·Contributor
·8-min read

The climax of Bobby couldn’t hide the bridal henna on her young hands.

Much before Raj Kapoor’s blockbuster could reach the screens, his teen heroine had tied the knot with superstar Rajesh Khanna.

When Dimple Kapadia walked into Aashirwad, his home, she had to leave her naïveté at the threshold. The avid comic buff, she had to begin reading a complex star. Her dotted skirts and knotted blouses made way for chiffons and diamonds, her girlishness to a poised demeanour…

But the chimera couldn’t sustain…

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A decade later, crushed with pain and armed with two kids, she quit the citadel and walked into the dusty studios… Initially, a glamour goddess, she later moved to spellbinding roles in Aitbaar, Kaash, Rudaali, Antareen, Angaar, Krantiveer, Dil Chahta Hai… to the recent Tenet.

The lessons came from the losses – of a crumbling marriage, of losing her younger siblings to drugs, disease and disaster, of finding her feet on the shifting sands of showbiz. The cherubic face earned a gravitas from the churning, the glassy eyes mirroring a hangover of unshed pain… “All my life’s story is condensed in my face. It is neither innocent nor coy. It speaks volumes,” she once put it (India Today).

While Mrinal Sen compared her to Sophia Loren and described her face as ‘a landscape of desolation’, Feroz Khan remarked, “No other girl has so much of pent-up aggression.” Dimple Kapadia, the person and the performer, has been sculpted through time only to become a more beautiful version of herself.

Staying away from fillers of make-believe, she’s embraced it all – even the grey confetti on her once auburn mane – a proud reminder of the seasons survived. Living by her heart, acting on instinct, she says, “As far as I’m concerned there are no retakes, no tomorrows.”

CHILD BRIDE

Dimple Kapadia was born on 8 June 1957 in Bombay to Gujarati businessman, Chunibhai Kapadia, and his wife Betty Kapadia. Betty was a practising Ismaili. Dimple was given the name Ameena but was called ‘Dimple’ alluding to the cleft on her chin. She was the eldest of four children; the others being sisters/actors Simple, Reem and brother, Suhail Kapadia.

Bobby
Bobby

She was signed by Raj Kapoor opposite Rishi Kapoor in Bobby (1973). But before Bobby Braganza could woo audiences, superstar Rajesh Khanna made Dimple his child bride. 

Reportedly, the two met on a flight. 

“He sat next to me all along but did not utter a word. Just as the flight was about to land, he turned towards me, looked hard into my eyes, and said he wanted me to marry him,” reportedly shared Dimple (India Today1985).

As author Yasser Usman mentions in his biography titled Rajesh Khanna, “The biggest superstar of India, thousands of miles high up in the skies, was looking into Dimple’s eyes. He saw in them the adulation he hungered for so deeply. This was indeed a dream flight for the new girl in the industry.”

Apparently, Rajesh soon proposed to Dimple by the Juhu sea and flung Rishi Kapoor’s ring (Dimple and Rishi were apparently dating then) into the deep waters.

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Dimple just 15, married Rajesh Khanna, then 30, on 27 March 1973. The headlines left Rajesh female’s fans betrayed and ex-girlfriend Anju Mahendru in disbelief.

Six months after her marriage, released RK’s Bobby and won Dimple the Filmfare Award for Best Actress (along with Jaya Bhaduri for Abhimaan). 

To onlookers it seemed more like a farewell gift.

The ‘unequal’ marriage soon hit rough waters. Rajesh’s sliding stardom and his alleged alcoholism and abusive ways left his teen wife traumatized.

In April 1982, after several aborted attempts, Dimple, with her two daughters, Twinkle and Rinke, then aged eight years and five years respectively, left Aashirwad for good. 

“Both Rajesh and I were unable to accept the failure of our marriage. But I realised I wouldn’t survive as a human being if I lived there any longer. I’d got neurotic… I was prepared to go to any extreme … to extract a smile from him,” she said (India Today 1985).

SECOND COMING

Sagar
Sagar

Dimple began Ramesh Sippy’s Saagar though Zakhmi Sher (1984) released first. Saagar premiered in August 1985 and made news for her split-second topless scene. Her breezy performance as Mona D’Silva won her the Filmfare Best Actress Award.

Mukul Anand’s Hitchcockian thriller Aitbaar (1985), where she played the beautiful wife of a sadistic husband, soon followed. Rahul Rawail’s actioner Arjun (1985) with Sunny Deol, Feroz Khan’s Janbaaz (1986), remembered for her lovemaking-in-the-hay scene with Anil Kapoor, were other notable films.

Kaash
Kaash

Mahesh Bhatt’s Kaash (1987) was her trip down memory lane. The narrative of a fading superstar (Jackie Shroff) had a familiar timbre. Her act of a disillusioned wife and a devastated mother was poignant. Bhatt reportedly said, “I couldn’t differentiate between Dimple and Pooja her character… She has gone through so much in her life. She only had to be herself.”

Playing the avenging cop in Zakhmi Aurat (1988), the beauty to Vinod Khanna’s brawn in Mukul Anand’s Insaaf (1987) and Jackie Shroff’s ladylove in Subhash Ghai’s Ram Lakhan (1989) added to her hits. 

“Certainly, marriage brings security... I was Mrs Rajesh Khanna. It takes guts to leave all that. But now that I’m earning and fending for myself, I feel more secure. There’s a hell of a difference in spending your time playing cards and acting,” said Dimple (Filmfare).

OFFBEAT RUN

“When I do glamorous roles, people say I look haggard. Why can’t directors conceive me in a realistic set-up?” Dimple once asked. 

Soon the floodgates of arthouse cinema were thrown open for her. 

Rudaali
Rudaali

As the infidel wife in Govind Nihalani’s Drishti (1990), a wandering spirit in Gulzar’s Lekin (1990) and a professional mourner in Kalpana Lajmi’s Rudaali (1993), the latter winning her the National Award, hers was a multi-hued canvas.

Mrinal Sen’s Antareen (1995), Shashilal Nair’s Angaar (1992), Priyadarshan’s Gardish (1993), Mehul Kumar’s Krantiveer in 1994 ( won her the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress) were noteworthy.

As an alcoholic divorcee in Farhan Akhtar’s Dil Chahta Hai (2001), Dimple gave a guttural performance. Her take as ex-superstar Neena Walia in Luck By Chance (2009) won applause as did Homi Adajania’s Being Cyrus (2006), where she essayed Naseeruddin Shah’s neurotic wife.

Cocktail (2012) and Finding Fanny (2014) tapped her potential for fun and completed her trinity with Adajania. Her recent films include Irrfan Khan’s Angrezi Medium (2020), where her character brought forth the loneliness of aging.

Recently, she played arms dealer Priya Singh in renowned filmmaker Christopher Nolan’s thriller Tenet (2020). “It has made me believe in myself finally – Nolan ke saath kaam kiya hai,” she reportedly beamed. This year, Ali Abbas Zafar’s controversial web series Tandav starred her as a scheming politician. Her future projects include Ayan Mukerji’s fantasy Brahmastra and Dinesh Vijan’s untitled comedy.

PERSONAL INSIGHTS

Never overly ambitious, Dimple chooses to space her films in the quest for replenishing herself. Running parallel, her personal life has been a challenging one where time and again she has grieved the loss of dear ones.

The first tragedy was her youngest sister/actor Reem Kapadia (Haveli 1985), passing away in London on 27 March 1991, reportedly due to an overdose of drugs.

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Dimple was particularly close to her second sister and actor/costume designer Simple Kapaida (Anurodh 1977), who also won the National Award for costume design for Rudaali. Simple was diagnosed with cancer in 2006. 

The brave-heart lost the battle on 10 November 2009, aged 51. Reportedly, Dimple has adopted Simple’s son Karan Kapadia (Simple was briefly married to a Sikh).

Just 45 days after Simple’s passing away, just before Christmas on 24 December 2009, Dimple’s younger brother, Suhail Kapadia (fondly known as Munna), met with a terrible car accident. He slipped into a coma. Dimple, who’d cared for him like a mother, was devastated on his demise just a few months before husband Rajesh Khanna’s demise in 2010.

Manzil Manzil
Manzil Manzil

Her reported association with the much-married Sunny Deol (they paired in Arjun, Manzil-Manzil, Aag Ka Gola, Gunaah and Narasimha) has remained undefined through the years. Though the actors have never spoken about their rumoured relationship, a video from their 2017 London holiday went viral.

Age has lent the friendship a dignity that comes with having weathered time together. “I’m very happy and content. Why do I need to get married again? Once was more than enough,” Dimple had once replied when asked about giving marriage a shot again (Filmfare).

THE GOOD WIFE

Through time, her equation with estranged husband Rajesh found new ground. The two, somehow, had never divorced and the initial resentment made way for a newfound respect. “I’ve known him for so many years. That’s enough reason. No one is really bad at heart. All of us are bad at times depending on the situation,” said Dimple in a throwback chat (Filmfare).

Akshay Kumar, Rajesh Khanna and Dimple
Akshay Kumar, Rajesh Khanna and Dimple

Similarly, Rajesh, who referred to her as Dimpy, had once said, “You know what? I still love my wife, Dimple.” 

The family rallied around Rajesh when he was detected with cancer in 2011. 

Dimple set foot in Aashirwad once again, giving him the support and care that perhaps only a dear one could. When he passed away on July 18, 2012, he was given a farewell, befitting of kings. A devastated Dimple couldn’t help sensing the feeling of being ‘abandoned’.

Seven years later, on November 30, 2019, mom Betty Kapadia passed away at the age of 80 due to age-related problems. 

The worst behind her, Dimple today seems to be in a peaceful phase. “Rinki is my child and Twinkle my mother. Twinkle looks after us all. She tries to make my life as comfortable as possible,” she said (Filmfare). Fond of painting and surfing the internet, she’s enjoying her downtime.

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“There has been a lot of pain in my life but I don’t go into that area...This could be wrong because... it’s cathartic to go through the process. I’m scared of losing myself... It’s too painful. I don’t know whether that’s going to work for me or hit me all at once. But so far life has been kind,” the reticent actor once shared (Filmfare).

On her birthday, we wish her peaceful tomorrows.

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