Bollywood Legends - Shashi Kapoor
Shashi Kapoor – the ever smiling, scintillating son of doyen Prithviraj Kapoor, has left indelible impressions on the celluloid with his distinctive performances through scores of flicks in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Though belonging to the illustrious Kapoor clan, Shashi a.k.a Shashi Raj carved a great career for himself by the dint of his dashing personality and hard work. Shashi learnt the lesson of hard work from his eldest brother Raj- whom he not only idolizes but also calls him a 'tough task master'.
Shashi was born as Balbir Raj on 18th March 1938 as the younger brother of Raj and Shammi in Calcutta. Under the gigantic shadow of his father, Shashi imbibed the 'orthodox skills of theatre', which are manifested in his personality till date. He was a reluctant entrant into the 'masala movies' as his first love was always theatre. But once aboard the 'Bollywood Bandwagon' Shashi became the versatile entertainer, who could churn out virtually every kind of performance under the sun.
His rendezvous with Jennifer Kendall, the daughter of famous theatre actors, George and Laura Kendall of Shakespeare repertory at Calcutta, proved to be a turning point in his life. It was love at first sight and after a brief of courtship they got married. Jennifer was to etch the 'European influences' into his acting style. Probably this east-west union made Shashi one of the most familiar faces in western movie world.
Shashi had made his debut in Hindi films as a child artist. He had played the young Raj Kapoor in Aawara (1951). Through his teens he was often seen on the stage with his father's troupe. By the 60s, Shashi had fallen into prolific filmmaking. Shashi got big break with Yash Chopra's 'Dharamputra' (1961) and Bimal Roy's 'Prempatra'. But these 'Putra' and 'Patra' affair could hardly launch him into the galaxy of stars to which, now he earnestly yearned to belong.
A family drama titled 'Mehndi Lagi Mere Haath' (1962) with co-stars Nanda and Ashok Kumar, PL Santoshi's 'Holiday in Bombay' (1963), Benazir (1965) with tragedy queen Meena Kumari followed but failed to click. But none could provide him with name, fame and finances he was looking for. James Ivory's English film 'Shakespearewallah' cast with Shashi and Kendalls made a landmark in the history of filmmaking.
But it were finally 'Jab Jab Phool Khile' (1965) with brother Shammi and Nanda and Waqt (1965) with Nanda and Sunil Dutt that brought the much wanted acclaim to Shashi Kapoor -- he was to enjoy through out his life. Once this legend was in orbit, he didn't let his fortunes to dip.
Like a true "Kapoor" he rubbed shoulders with all great contemporary stars – Dharmendra, Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh, Sanjiv Kumar, Jeetendra and Rajinder Kumar and Raj Kumar. Shashi immortalised himself with all time favourite song: “Ley Jayenge…Dilwale … Dulhani Lye Jay Jayenge" in 'Chor Machaye Shor (1974) done with petite Mumtaz.
Shashi Kapoor won the Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award for Deewar (1975). His dialogue “Mere Paas Ma Hain" became firmly ensconced in every cinegoer's memory for eternity. Shayam Benegal's Junoon with Nafisa Ali saw him portraying a 'Nawab' with emotiveness that can be expected only of a stage actor. From 'Faqira' onwards Shashi Kapoor acted in large number of films with success, which took his overall film tally to over two hundred. He did noteworthy roles in Hira Aur Pathar, Chor Sipahi, Ahuti, Shaan, Suhaag, Silsila, Namak Halaal (1983), Bhawani Junction (1985) and those were the times when Shashi rode like a colossal in the industry. He would always be loved for his roles in buddy Ismail Merchant's Householder (1969), Heat and Dust (1982) and In Custody (1994). Mid way he also tried his hand at some inconsequential directorial and production ventures.
But as we said earlier, there is more to Shashi than the casual entertainer. In 1978, he with his wife Jennifer resurrected the Prithvi Theatres in Bombay in the fond of memory of his father. Shashi showed his love for the theatre art, which was fast losing out to the shine of the tinsel. But unfortunately, Jennifer caught with cancer left the world forever in 1984. Shashi was crestfallen. Nevertheless, he didn't let the tragedy overtake his gusto for life. He started taking keen interest in charities for Cancer Research (It is a great irony that he lost his father, mother and wife to this malady).
His three children are well settled in life. While Karan is an established photographer in London, Kunal runs an advertising agency and Sanjana has taken over the responsibility of running the Prithvi Theatres.