Shashi Kapoor – the twinkle eyed effortless charm that survived the hysteria of Rajesh Khanna and the phenomenal fury of the angry young man Amitabh Bachchan with his sublime sensuality and perfect debonair personality may have breathed his last yesterday, but the famous melting smile will remain forever and keep on swaying like his trademark dance moves.
Much before Shah Rukh Khan’s dimples that made the women of all age go crazy, Shashi Kapoor’s dimpled smile robbed the women’s sleep with his unabashed romanticisms. Started acting as a child artiste in K.L. Sehgal and Suraiya starrer TADBIR in 1945 followed by playing younger versions of Raj Kapoor in AAH, AWARA, the third and youngest son of Prithviraj Kapoor, the younger brother of Raj Kapoor and Shammi Kapoor from Bollywood’s first family never desired to be a movie star. Shashi was happy working for his father’s travelling theatre company Prithvi Theatre.
Eating simple meals and travelling in third class, the feeling of being superior never came as his father Prithviraj Kapoor told his sons that they were “mazdoors, not jagirdars”. The closing of the theatre during the 60’s forced Shashi to try his hand in movies. He grabbed the opportunity to work as an assistant director in the film POST BOX 999, the debut film of Sunil Dutt, later made his debut as a leading man in B.R. Chopra’s 1961 socially relevant saga DHARAMPUTRA.
Actress Nanda noticed his talents and signed 8 films with him that included the blockbuster JAB JAB PHOOL KHILE,which brought Shashi Kapoor in the main league.
More than his achievement in doing solo heroes in 61films highest amongst the Kapoor clan till date, The actor remarkably balanced his commercial and artistic pulls by fetching the second highest price during his times in mainstream cinema and equally found recognition in the west starring in British and American films, notably Merchant Ivory productions run by Ismail Merchant and James Ivory.
Merchant wanted Shashi in a project with Saira Bano as the co star but that didn,t materialize due to budget constraints and was dropped. Later Shashi starred in HOUSEHOLDER (1963), SHAKESPEARE WALLAH (1965) followed by SIDDHARTHA, (1972) and more. MUHAFIZ (IN CUSTODY) the 1994 movie directed by Ismail Merchant fetched him the national award.
As a filmmaker Shashi Kapoor backed projects like 36 CHOWRINGHEE LANE, JUNNON, KALYUG, VIJEYTA, UTSAV, even tried a hand as director in the magnum opus AJOOBA and lost money but never compromised on making something that commercially viable cinema just for returns.
Shashi Kapoor remained a gentleman throughout; old timers hardly collect any incident of manipulation, role stealing, alleged affairs with co –stars. He remained popular amongst the audience and obediently full filled his duties as a family man. He never worked on Sundays and had mostly had morning breakfast at 7:30 a.m. with family, irrespective of what time he has returned from his shoot.
A live wire on sets, Shashi Kapoor remembered the unit with their names, the camera men, light men he called them with their first names, that’s the reason people stayed with him for long. Shashi Kapoor constantly nurtured the desire to built Prithvi Theatre again, theatre was his life even after begin a successful silver screen actor. Shashi like a true son transformed the close Prithvi and gave the moving theatre a home in Mumbai. Shashi’s wife Jennifer Kapoor made this possible and today Prithvi is one of Mumbai’s best known theaters. Shashi is lucky to bless with children like Sanjana and Kunal who are taking care of the legacy in the best way they can.
Interestingly, after the formation of Prithvi in 1951, Shashi didn,t go back and continued to do films but his interest in theatre was undiminished. It is said that till his health permitted, he use to buy ticket and watch plays in his own theatre.
The once stylish and best dressed man was reduced to a simple kurta pyjama and a shawl due to age and illness but even then Shashi Kapoor sat outside the café at Prithvi and exchange pleasantries with people.
Shashi Kapoor didn,t attain the stardom like Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna but like the force behind Prithvi his contribution in shaping those iconic scenes like ‘mere pass maa hai’ is unforgettable, The actor made sure that gadi, bangla and bank balance ( read super stardom) remained with his co –star, today we cannot imagine DEEWAR without Shashi Kapoor.
Raj Kapoor career would have ended after the failure of MERA NAAM JOKER as people hesitated in coming forward to distribute the cult teen romance BOBBY, Shashi stepped in for his brother and helped in distributing the debut of Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia.
We will never see him sitting in his chair outside the café at Prithvi from now, but the air at the theater will always be filled with the melting charm of Shashi Kapoor whose dialogue ‘Mere Pass Maa hai’ is synonymous with Indian cinema and beyond.
Thank you for maa ( reforming Prithvi), the charm and the love dear Shashi Kapoor, it’s impossible to say “Mere pass Maa hai’ in past tense and similarly it’s impossible to imagine Bollwood cinema, and Prithvi theatre without you.