It would have been fun to watch Neetu Kapoor and Zeenat Aman crib about their heroes from the ‘70s on Koffee with Karan Season 8. Both of them were at the peak of their careers when they quit the film industry after marriage and motherhood. It’s only when one sees their resurgence now – Neetu's after the death of her husband Rishi Kapoor in 2020 and Zeenat's after her Instagram debut – that you wonder why these ladies were not around all along.
It was just last week when we thanked the Koffee gods for getting a septuagenarian in Sharmila Tagore to the couch. But since she came on the show with her son Saif Ali Khan, the conversation barely went beyond the Pataudi family. But with Zeenat and Neetu, both leading stars of the 1970s, the banter was like it's between contemporaries beyond their heydays. Think Priyanka Chopra and Kareena Kapoor in Season 6 or Madhuri Dixit and Juhi Chawla in Season 4.
Zeenat and Neetu's chat was like a time capsule of the ‘70s: There were mentions of three shifts a day, parties at Raj Kapoor’s bungalow, Rekha's warmth and affection, Hema Malini's poker-faced candour, hammy dialogues, memorable song-and-dance, working with Yash Chopra, and the Angry Young wave of Amitabh Bachchan. Their anecdotes and recollections were scented with retrospective fondness, but also leaked the rampant sexism in the decade.
Neetu and Rishi have been insisting for years that it was her choice to quit movies after marriage and be the homemaker. Contrary to popular belief, it wasn't a result of Kapoor bahus barred from working in the film industry. Like Neetu, Babita Kapoor also quit films after marrying Randhir Kapoor. But the daughters-in-law of the previous generation, Shashi Kapoor's wife Jennifer and Shammi Kapoor's wife Geeta Bali, continued to work well into their marriages.
Was Raj Kapoor then the rule-maker? As only his daughters-in-law didn't work after marriage. Neetu alluded to this on Koffee with Karan when she explained how Rishi always maintained a dignified distance from her and their kids till the final year of his life because that culture was passed down from his family. She also confessed that Rishi was a “strict boyfriend” and didn't want her to mingle with the industry folks beyond film sets.
Now that she's a dadi and the mother of a superstar, Neetu can't afford to drop truth bombs like Zeenat does on Instagram. She doesn't have the means to do it with as much grace as her contemporary does either. She has to keep adhering to her perception of the ideal bahu, wife, and mother. On the other hand, Zeenat used the Koffee couch to break out of her decades-old perception – of being the rebel, the woman ahead of the curve, and the actor willing to do it all on screen.