There is not a single person among his fans and co-stars who has escaped the charm of Shashi Kapoor’s incredible good-looks! It was an integral part of his affable personality which drew the audience towards him and made him a hugely popular star especially a ‘romantic’ star of the sixties and seventies. His easy-going genial and charming real-life personality probably rubbed off on all his on-screen characters making them immensely likeable and endearing.
But his good looks sometimes overpowered the extremely talented actor hidden behind the charming face. He remained a rare actor who straddled the worlds of theatre, popular Hindi cinema, art films as well as English films effortlessly and quietly without creating much brouhaha. He never liked to boast about his achievements for they stemmed from his sheer love for acting.
He started his career as a theatre actor learning the ropes from his illustrious father Prithviraj Kapoor, who had his own travelling theatrical company Prithvi Theatres which had been founded in 1942. He also did a stint with Geoffrey Kendall’s theatre group Shakespearana where he met the love of his life Jennifer Kendall.
Young Shashi made his acting debut by playing the role of young ‘Bharat’ in Prithvi Theatre’s maiden production based on Kalidasa’s classic ‘Shakuntala’. He was just six years old then. He loved acting in plays and joined Hindi films only after his first son Kunal was born in order to get extra income to support his family.
Though Prithviraj Kapoor had leased out a piece of land to build his own permanent place, he passed away in 1972 without starting the project. Shashi Kapoor who shared his father’s love and passion for the theatre took it upon himself to fulfil his father’s dream by establishing the iconic ‘Prithvi’ theatre in Juhu, Mumbai in 1978. Shashi Kapoor along with his wife Jennifer Kapoor looked after the everyday nitty-gritties of running it and Mumbai got its first platform for staging Hindi plays. Today his children are looking after it.
He supported the theatre and nurtured new talents and in 2015 it is in this very special place that he was awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke award in the presence of all his family members and many of his heroines who had acted opposite him in his wonderful career spanning more than three decades. Though the award came too late for him in life, it was indeed a rare and beautiful moment.
A CHARMER IN REAL LIFE TOO…
From the innumerable write-ups that we have got to read in the past few days about him, if there is one thing which stands out about his personality it is the love people had for him in their hearts and how every heroine had been attracted to his friendly demeanour and the killer looks of this romantic star. With his passing away the industry has lost one more heart-throb and a rare gem from the golden-era…
There is an interesting incident mentioned by Sharmila Tagore that took place during the shoot of ‘Kashmir Ki Kali’ in which Shammi Kapoor was her hero. It so happened that during the filming of the song sequence of ‘Ishaaron Ishaaron mein…’ , Shashi Kapoor dropped by to say hello to his brother and stayed on to see the shoot. But Sharmila Tagore was so distracted by his good looks that she could not concentrate and kept giving retakes after retakes. Finally Shashi Kapoor was politely asked to leave by the director Shakti Samanta after which the shot was canned in one go.
Superstar Amitabh Bachchan owes a lot to him for it was Shashi Kapoor who stopped Amitabh from accepting the role of an extra in 1969 for which Amitabh was going to be paid Rupees 50. The film was the Shashi Kapoor starrer ‘Bombay Talkie’ and the scene being shot was ironically the funeral scene of Shashi Kapoor who plays a Hindi film star in the film. Amitabh had a tiny role as an upcoming actor and had two scenes in the film one of which was to stand as part of the crowd of mourners during cremation. The scene was removed later on Shashi’s insistence for he felt that Amitabh was made for ‘better things’ and asked the actor not to accept bit parts! Such a rare and wonderful gesture indeed…
AS A CHILD ARTIST
Shashi Kapoor started his career in films as a child artist under the name of ‘Shashi Raj’. He acted as the childhood version of Raj Kapoor in Aag (1948) and Awaara (1949) and that of Ashok Kumar in Sangram (1950).
While most of the articles have mentioned his film as Dharamputra, he was actually introduced by director Bimal Roy in Char Diwari where his heroine was Nanda. It is the title credits of this film which shows ‘Introducing Shashi Kapoor’. Raj Kapoor is said to have personally requested Nanda to take care of his younger brother whom he treated more like his son than his brother. Both films released in the same year 1961.
Here is a lovely song from his film ‘Sangram’ where he plays the childhood version of Ashok Kumar. He is seen here with Baby Tabassum and the choreographer of the song was Guru Dutt who incidentally had started his career in the industry as a dance director.
To Shashi Kapoor goes the credit of getting what can perhaps go down in history as the most popular dialogue of Hindi cinema- ‘Mere paas ma hai’. Though the film ‘Deewar’ belonged to Amitabh Bachchan whose character ‘Vijay’ gets to play the heart-tugging underdog and takes home the audience sympathy, it is Shashi Kapoor who gets this famous one-liner which pierced the hearts of a generation of cine-goers and made him immortal for all generations. Shashi Kapoor also walked away with the ‘Best Supporting Actor’ Filmfare trophy that year for the role.
His real life friendship with Amitabh Bachchan translated into their on-screen chemistry which gave us some of Hindi cinema’s iconic films. They played each other’s friends-Imaan Dharam, Kaala Patthar, Do aur Do Paanch, Kabhi Kabhie, Namak Halaal, brothers in Deewar, Silsila, Shaan and were even cast as twins in Manmohan Desai’s Suhaag!
Shashi Kapoor had no qualms accepting roles in two-hero films or multi-starrers for he was confident of leaving his own mark. In fact he is one of the rare heroes to have acted in almost equal number of solo hero films as well as multi-starrers. With Sanjeev Kumar he acted in Mukti, Trishul, Swarag Narag, with Dharmendra in Krodhi, with Jeetendra and Govinda in Sindoor, with Rajesh Khanna in a love-triangle in Prem Kahani, etc.
He also acted alongside his other family members. With his nephew Randhir Kapoor in Heeralal Pannalal and with Rishi Kapoor in many films like Doosra Admi, Kabhi Kabhie, Duniya Meri Jen Mein, etc.
While he acted in plays directed by his father Prithviraj Kapoor, he played childhood versions of eldest brother Raj Kapoor, he sang only one qawwali with Shammi Kapoor in the film Jabse Tumhe Dekha Hai (1963), where they both made a guest appearance only for the song.
He also acted opposite his niece-in-law Babita in Haseena Maan Jaayegi, Ek Shreeman Ek Shreemati, etc. and opposite Neetu Singh in several films like Deewar , Kaala Paani, Ek Aur Ek Gyarah, etc.
THE ROMANTIC HERO
Among the heroines though his pairing with Nanda was most popular, he also shared a great on-screen rapport with Sharmila Tagore, Rekha, Hema Malini, Zeenat Aman, Moushmi Chatterjee and Shabana Azmi as he acted in several films with all of them. His pairing with Asha Parekh, Mumtaz , Babita and Raakhee also looked great. He has also acted opposite Tanuja, Ragini, Faryal, Indrani Mukherjee, etc.
Being part of the ‘Golden-era’ of Hindi cinema, he had some memorable songs picturized on him. And to think initially he was against singing songs on screen! It was at the insistence of his close friend-director Yash Chopra who convinced him that he could do it that he finally relented. They made a great actor-director team- ‘Dharamputra’, ‘Waqt’, ‘Deewar’, ‘Trishul’, ‘Kaala Pathar’, ‘Silsila’, ‘Kabhi Kabhie’. It is said that Yash Chopra many times fashioned Shashi’s character in films based on his own real-life friendly nature.
Here are the YouTube links to a few melodious songs picturized on him:
Aamne Saamne (1967)
Aa Gale Lag Ja (1973)
A FEW OF HIS LESSER KNOWN SONGS:
YEH DIL KISKO DOON- 1963
Shashi Kapoor was also associated as a producer or director with some off-beat critically acclaimed films like Junoon, Utsav, 36 Chowringhee Lane, Kalyug which fetched him several awards. Before starting out his career as an actor, he also did a stint as an assistant director in a few films like Shreeman Satyavaadi, Post Box 999, Dulha Dulhan, and Guest House.
THE FINAL GOOD-BYE
On 5th December, 2017, Shashi Kapoor was accorded a well-deserved State Funeral and scores of his fans and industry people gathered to bid adieu to this glorious star and a wonderful human being. Even the skies cried as Mumbai faced unexpected showers the whole day. Though he had left acting many years back, the fact that he was around kept us connected to a living legend of our film history.
Artists never die and indeed he will live through his films…
…Yet the finality of death has come as a blow and the fact that we can never meet this dimpled charismatic star is a reality which is yet to sink in.
I have been a huge fan of Shashi Kapoor and a few years back I had written a letter about him in Filmfare magazine in 2010, when he had received the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award for his invaluable contribution to the world of cinema.
Here is my all-time favourite Shashi Kapoor song: