Rishi Kapoor: Bollywood's heartthrob who entertained several generations

It is one of my fondest early memories.

My parents and their friends, first generation immigrants who'd arrived in the UK from India at roughly the same time, sitting round a TV screen, watching as three film icons sang: Amar..Akbar..Anthony.

The notes went up, as the height of the actors did - the tallest at the back.

Amitabh Bachchan, Vinod Khanna in the middle, and at the front, the smallest and cutest Rishi Kapoor.

I am not alone of course in feeling desperate sadness that Rishi has died.

He represented the Bollywood experience for those of us whose parents had settled in the UK in the 60s and 70s.

He was among that group of actors who our parents would have followed when they were still in the Indian sub continent, and whose films kept them connected to home when they were thousands of miles away.

Rishi Kapoor, left, with Amitabh Bachchan. Credit: AP

For me and my siblings, he was a link with a culture that at times seemed so alien as we lived our life in the UK, spoke English, sometimes ate English (considered a special treat - one of the most exotic things I’d ever seen as a primary school me was one of my English friends unwrapping cellophane from a chicken and mushroom pie so her mum could put it in the oven), and dressed mostly in British clothes - our Indian suits reserved for weddings and family visits.

My generation would somethings struggle to live in both cultures, but Rishi Kapoor, and his Bollywood peers made our roots seem impossibly glamorous and aspirational.

I remember him in Bobby, his breakout lead role. So young, so handsome, opposite the beautiful Dimple. Rishi was the romantic hero.

He had a small role in Kabhie Kabhie in 1976 but that film would become one of the most famous and loved in Indian cinema history - not least because of the gorgeous soundtrack - and so Rishi’s place in Bollywood legend was secured.

Later would come other hit films like Chandni in 1989 when he starred opposite the divine Sridevi (who tragically died two years ago), another love story.

He continued to make films long after his romantic lead crown has been taken by the next generation of heartthrob Bollywood actors, in films like Love Aaj Kaal he’d play the father role, wonderfully of course.

But it was Amar Akbar Anthony for me, the 1977 comedy drama that I will forever associate with Rishi.

A classic Bollywood plotline - three brothers separated as children, growing up in different houses, one of them inevitably becoming a police officer, one a singer, one a dodgy fellow, brought together in the end to realise they are related.

It is thrilling, flamboyant, addictive, ludicrous, with fabulous songs, all on top of a plot with deep themes, here religious tolerance - in short a Bollywood classic.

I wanted to step inside it when I first saw it. I wanted to be the lead actress Neetu Singh (she would go on to marry Rishi Kapoor).

Amar Akbar Anthony simply ignited a love of Indian films, that has stayed with me through my life. Not so much the newer ones, slick and often rather brilliant though they are.

But those old ones, the ones with Rishi and Amitabh and Shashi. The ones that belonged to my parent’s generation, that they passed on to us.

The ones that connected them to the motherland. And the ones that allowed my generation to share their nostalgia.

I feel so saddened that Rishi Kapoor has died so young, only 67, after being treated for cancer.

He was a legendary figure, adored in India, it is little wonder his family has appealed to his fans not to gather in public in mourn, to avoid breaking lockdown rules.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi described him as "a powerhouse of talent".

To me, he was the embodiment of an India, where I hadn’t been born, but where I still felt I belonged, every time he and his peers came on screen.RIP Rishi.