Thursday, August 11, 2022

Shashi Kapoor Bollywoods ultimate 'charm house' Shashi Kapoor had the stage set for him to follow the Kapoor legacy.  Third and the youngest son of late Prithviraj Kapoor and brother of late Raj Kapoor and Shammi Kapoor, he did not have their one defining and enduring cinematic image -- Raj's simple, honest 'tramp' in the Charlie Chaplin tradition or Shammi's Elvis-like jiving, rebellious 'playboy' persona.Shashi Kapoor, however, surpassed both in sheer variety of acting. Be it romantic heroes, 'common man' roles, decadent princes, aging poets and even angels, he brought the same charm and intensity to all of them.

Though among his first appearances onscreen were as a young Raj Kapoor in his elder borther's directorial debut 'Aag' and the more acclaimed 'Awara', his first lead role was a Hindu fanatic in Yash Chopra's bold 'Dharmputra' (1961). This happened to be one-off as Shashi, with his copybook good looks, rakish smile, infectious charm, toothy grin and languid drawl, was more suitable as a lover-boy who always got the girl. In this avatar, he once even pipped Amitabh Bachchan -- in 'Kabhie Kabhie'. Shashi Kapoor also worked as assistant director in films like 'Post Box 999', 'Guest House', 'Shriman Satyawadi', 'Dulha Dulhan' and 'Manoranjan'.

Shashi Kapoor He was also famous as a reasonable foil to the smoldering angry man in a number of films and it was in one of these roles where he once spoke the four most iconic and immortal words in Bollywood's history - 'Mere paas Ma hai' from the 1975 film in 'Deewar'. Some of his famous hard-hitting dialogues like 'Yeh prem rog hai ... shuru mein dukh deta hai ... bad mein bahut dukh deta hai' from the 1982 film 'Namak Halaal', and 'Hum gayab hone waalo mein se nahi hai ... jahan jahan se guzharte hai jalwe dikhate hai ...' from the 1981 film 'Silsila'.  Born on March 18, 1938 in the then Calcutta to Prithviraj Kapoor and Ramsarn 'Rama' Devi, Balbir Raj 'Shashi' Kapoor not only straddled commercial and 'art' cinema, but also became India's first international star, starring in several acclaimed Ivory-Merchant films among others.
In these he was not only cast in predictable roles -- a decadent nawab ('Heat and Dust'), a prince-turned-ascetic ('Siddhartha') or a devious local notable (in 'The Deceivers', opposite Pierce Brosnan) -- but also in more realistic, nuanced ones -- a lower middle-class teacher ('The Householder'), a flamboyant Bollywood star ('Bombay Talkies'), a narrator to Mohammad Ali Jinnah's life ('Jinnah') and a poet in the twilight of life and reputation ('Muhafiz'/'In Custody').

But Shashi Kapoor, for all his international prowess, was also a major player in Bollywood with appearances in 148 films between 1945 and 1998, in which he was the sole hero in 61 and a lead hero in 53 multi starrers, supporting actor in 21, did 7 guest appearances and did four roles as a child artiste (including the two RK films).Shashi Kapoor These included such evergreen hits such as B.R. Chopra's 'Waqt' (where he again happened to be the youngest brother to flamboyant elder siblings Raj Kumar and Sunil Dutt), 'Jab Jab Phool Khile' opposite Nanda, the madcap 'Pyar Kiya Jaa' -- which happend to be among the funniest movies made in Bollywood, 'Haseena Maan Jayegi' opposite Babita, who later became his sister-in-law and mother of Karishma and Kareena, 'Fakira', 'Kaala Patthar' -- where he held his own against Amitabh and Shatrughan Sinha, 'Do Aur Do Paanch', 'Silsila', 'Shaan', 'Namak Halaal' and 'New Delhi Times', where he played a crusading newspaper editor.

Then, there were some grey roles in films like 'Roti Kapada Aur Makaan', 'Satyam Shivam Sundaram', 'Kalyug' -- a contemporary retelling of the Mahabharata in which his character is named Karan, and is totally like his mythological namesake, including in the manner of death. This was still not the entirety of Shashi Kapoor's contribution.  In 1980, he started his own film company, using his Bollywood earnings into making films with the likes of Shyam Bengal and Aparna Sen.

These included gems like '36 Chowringee Lane', which featured his wife and late British actress Jennifer Kendal as an Anglo-Indian teacher  in a changing, oblivious world, 'Junoon', 'Vijeta' -- a paean to the Indian Air Force -- 'Utsav' and 'Kalyug'.Shashi Kapoor His first production venture, 'Junoon' (1978 film), was very well depiction of the India's War of Independence of 1857. His efforts in the film were rewarded with multiple National Film Awards including the Best Feature Film in Hindi in 1979. Shashi Kapoor often shared screen space with actresses, including Sharmila Tagore, Neetu Singh, Parveen Babi, Zeenat Aman and Rakhee, he also worked with Kendal in films like 'Junoon' and 'Bombay Talkie'.

He went away from limelight after his wife Jennifer's death in 1984. Jennifer Kendal, Shashi had three children -- Kunal, Karan and Sanjana Kapoor.Shashi Kapoor His contribution was recognised with the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement award in 2010 and the highest accolade -- the Dadasahab Phalke Award in 2015. Shashi Kapoor passed away at the age of 79, but will continue to live in the hearts of many through his films.

Shashi KapoorIn his life too, he played several roles -- a member of an already famous film clan, marrying into another performance-inclined family -- the Kendalls, but after difficult romance with Jennifer Kendall -- India's first international star, arguably, the most handsome Hindi film actor of that period, a producer who backed some of the best independent movies in India in the 1970s and 1980s, a theatre enthusiast, the family man who did all he could to support his household, even if it meant acting in a few rather terrible (but well-paying) movies, as recent biographer Aseem Chabbra maintains. A star definitely, he was above all he was an eminently likeable star as all his contemporaries and co-stars attest willingly. And that is ultimately what's important.