I’m Shashi Kapoor,” was the charmer’s signature line, an opening that unfailingly amused everyone he met. For who didn’t know Shashi Kapoor?
But he had to shake hands and introduce himself, knowing jolly well the impact it had on the other person. It was part of the fun of being Shashi Kapoor, a character he enjoyed living until he slipped into a world of his own a few years ago. Almost every person who mourns him today will refer to his last days in a wheelchair at Prithvi Theatre. It wasn’t the way one would want to remember him. But Prithvi was where most of us met him for the last time. It was the hallowed ground where he did his bit to revive theatre — in his father Prithviraj Kapoor’s memory and on the land where his father spent his last days.
Prithvi Theatre was not lucrative for Shashi, much of what he’d earned went into it. But his sincerity paid off in his lifetime as he lived to watch it turn into a throbbing meeting ground for all kinds of artistic talent. It is the theatre where Zakir Hussain flies down to perform at least once a year in Jennifer Kendal Kapoor’s memory. Jennifer, the English theatre actress Shashi fell in love with and married long before he became a star.
Marriage and three children never came in the way of his stardom. But more than stardom it was Prithvi Theatre that gave Shashi Kapoor the contentment that he’d done something worthwhile in his lifetime. So it’s fitting that the last visual most have of Shashi Kapoor is of him watching a play at Prithvi, watching his dream come true.
However, Shashi Kapoor was a complete package. If that was the serious, substantial side of the man, he was also a fun, flirtatious actor. His naughtiness would surface at almost every meeting. Once, he was shooting at the swank Seth Studio (it no longer exists in that avatar) when a colleague of mine went to meet him. The moment Shashi learnt that the journo was on her way to interview actor Smita Patil, he quickly wrapped up something and said, “Give this to Smita.” It turned out to be a bar of soap because he had a running joke with Smita who’d done that famous bathing scene in Chakra.
One of the many box office successes he had was Fakira, co-starring Shabana Azmi. His favourite line around that time was to ask with a poker face, “Who’s Ira?”
Raj Kapoor named him “taxi” for putting his meter down as an actor and running from set to set at the height of his stardom. Shashi Kapoor would have a sheet of paper on which he’d have his daily schedule written out (it wasn’t the era of computers and printouts). There were days when he’d be shooting for as many as six different films, giving a few hours to each. But punctual and professional, there were no complaints from co-stars or filmmakers. In fact, he got along famously with all his heroines, maybe with one a little more than was warranted.
A filmography would list his many films, the net will throw up his many awards and achievements. But he was complete in every way — he was a mainstream star, he produced (and sometimes acted in) arthouse fare (36 Chowringhee Lane, Utsav, Junoon, Kalyug et al), he worked in English films long before India’s proud export to Hollywood Priyanka Chopra was born, and his heart ticked for Prithvi Theatre.
RIP Shashi Kapoor, Hindi cinema’s very own charmer!
Won the Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award for Deewaar (1975)
Bagged two Filmfare Best Movie Awards for his work as producer and roles in Junoon (1979) and Kalyug (1981)
Was awarded Padma Bhushan in 2011
Won the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in May 2015
1965: Jab Jab Phool Khile
1965: Shakespeare Wallah
1970: Bombay Talkie
1976: Kabhie Kabhie
1982: Namak Halaal
1986: New Delhi Times
1989: Apna Ghar
Kabhie Kabhie Mere Dil Mein Kabhie Kabhie
Keh Doon Tumhe Deewaar
Le Jayenge Le Jayenge
Chor Machaye Shor
Wada Karo Nahi
Aa Gale Lag Jaa
Tum Bin Jaun Kaha Pyar ka Mausam