Shashi Kapoor, one of the most handsome faces of Indian cinema who has left an indelible mark with his acting and charm turns 85 on Saturday (today). Not just the Bollywood, but Shashi Kapoor earned immense love and adulation of the West with his numerous English films. Though the actor had predominantly attracted popularity with his cult Bollywood commercial films but he had also acted in a few serious and parallel films (to be discussed later in the story).
Kapoors had a strong affiliation with Kolkata and West Bengal ever since the days his father, Prithwiraj Kapoor, the doyen of Kapoor Khandan (as fondly called while referring to this iconic family also called the first cine family), began his career with the iconic New Theatres. In the due course of time, Shashi Kapoor, developed a fondness for Bengali cinema. Shashi Kappor shared a wonderful relationship with Great Master Satyajit Ray who had also penned a couple of scripts of Ivory films.
Kapoors since decades had been entertaining the masses – The journey began with Prithwiraj Kapoor fondly called ‘Papa Kapoor’ who passed on the legacy onto his sons Raj Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor and Shashi Kapoor. They had passed on the legacy of ‘Kapoor Khandan’ subsequently to the next generation of Kapoors.
I recall first watching Shashi Kapoor on TV as we in our childhood was not much exposed to films like today’s generation but we had a great companion (if I may call so) and that was the television which was the ultimate platform for entertainment and many of us I am sure will agree that our schooling to cinema (whatever we have learnt or developed within) had began with this iconic “idiot box’ in early 80’s. Watching this actor on Chitrahaar, Sunday cinema and so on…I recall hearing him during the Film Festival when he had shared so many personal memories about his family, brothers and the cine industry. It was during one such interview Shashi Kapoor had said for him, the ultimate romantic hero was elder brother Shammi Kapoor with his westernized looks and acting. He had also said that “now watching my acting on screen, I feel ashamed as they look so childish” a confession from a real actor who was whimsical of his characters and perhaps this why Shashi Kapoor did not stay obsessed with the cult Commercial Cinema but acted in many parallel cinema and few experimental cinema (a wave that took cinema by its stride during early 70’s and late 80’s).
Shashi Kapoor and English films especially in British and American films, under the iconic Merchant Ivory productions run by Ismail Merchant and James Ivory that had been his second family as their association had grown stronger. Shashi Kapoor acted in numerous films under the banner like The Householder (1963), Shakespeare Wallah (1965) (opposite his sister-in-law Felicity Kendal), Bombay Talkie (1970) and Heat and Dust (1982) in which he co-starred with his wife Jennifer Kendal, The Deceivers (1988) and Side Streets (1998). Apart from Ivory productions, he had acted in other British and American films like ‘Matter Of Innocence’ (1967)), ‘Siddhartha’ (1972), ‘Sammy and Rosie Get Laid’ (1987), and Muhafiz (1994). James Ivory directed Kapoor in the first Merchant Ivory production The Householder, then in Shakespeare-Wallah, Bombay Talkie and Heat and Dust while Ismail Merchant directed him in In Custody (1993).
It was during late 50’s Shashi Kapoor met English actress Jennifer Kendal in then Calcutta now Kolkata. in 1956 while both were working for their respective theatre groups. Shashi was both assistant stage manager as well as an actor for his father’s theatre group, Prithvi Theatre. Geoffrey Kendal’s Shakespearean group was also present at the same time in Calcutta and Jennifer was Geoffrey’s daughter. They fell in love and after facing initial opposition from the Kendals got married to Jenifer in July 1958. Both of them had acted in a number of films together. In 1984, Jenifer Kendal died due to cancer. Shashi Kapoor loved Jenifer immensely and did not re-marry.
Both of them were blessed with three children – Kunal Kapoor (who had acted in Vijeta), Karan Kapoor (he too had acted in a few films like Loha and Saltanat but he is most remember for his modelling with Bombay Dying in 80’s) and daughter Sanjna (she too has acted in a few films like Hero Hiralal. She took charge of the Prithvi Theatre which was established on 5 November 1978 in Mumbai. In the recent years, we have Karishma (Lolo) and Karina (Bebo), daughters of Randhir Kapoor (Raj Kapoor’s son) and Ranbir Kapoor, son of another Kapoor superstar Late Rishi Kapoor rising to the top of popularity in Bollywood. Ranbir unlike his father, who had predominantly acted in Bollywood flicks have already acted in numerous serious and good cinema.
Being a true actor he showed guts and courage to criticize the typical Hindi cinema which had been showing things that had nothing to do with reality rather many impractical and abnormal things. It was this quest for good cinema Shashi Kapoor acted in films like – ‘Muhafiz’ (1994), ‘In Custody’ (1993), ‘Junoon’ (1978), ‘Utsav’ (1984) to name a few. Also he had produced many of these. He also produced 36 Chowringhee Lane (1981) directed by Aparna Sen. His wife Jenifer Kendal had done a wonderful acting in this film which revolves around a lonely Anglo lady residing in Kolkata who teaches conversation English in a reputed convent school in the city and subsequently gets cheated by her two ex-students whom she had trusted immensely. However, Aparna Sen bagged National Award for the film but Jenifer did not receive any award which had made him upset and he had shared his feelings in one of his interview on Doordarshan.
Shashi Kapoor had produced and directed a fantasy film titled Ajooba which was a Indo-Russian project and starred his frequent co-star Amitabh Bachchan and nephew Rishi Kapoor in the lead. The film however could not make money on the box-office.
It was this fondness for Shashi Kapoor, Great Master Satyajit Ray had taken him in Satyajit Ray Presents (directed by Sandip Ray for Doordarshan in 1985), “Kissa Kathmandu Ka” which was based on his Feluda adventure story – “Joto Kelenkari Kathmandu Te” and Shashi Kapoor played Feluda. As per the details of Feluda, Ray had always sketched him as a fitness freak and always slim and agile but Shashi Kapoor had put on weight and looked bulky. Still, Ray had casted him as Feluda in his production. This explains the relationship Shashi Kapoor shared with the Satyajit Ray.
He was not keeping well since long and had bid adieu to films in late 90’s with Side Streets being his last film. On 20 July 2012, Shashi Kapoor underwent a cataract surgery at Kokilaben Hospital in Mumbai. Shashi Kapoor was admitted in Kokilaben Hospital on December 3, 2017 reportedly for chest infection. On December 4, 2017, he breathed his last at around 5:30 pm. The famous lines from his film ‘Kala Parthar’ (1979), ‘ek rasta hai zindagi… jo tham gaye to kuch nahin…’ will be the most befitting lines to pay him tributes…
Nonsense Talk News pays its respects to this great actor and a wonderful man…
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