With the passing away of Bollywood actor Shashi Kapoor, the curtains have come down on a generation of the flamboyant and powerful Kapoor clan in Hindi cinema—the other two scions were his superstar brothers Raj and Shammi Kapoor.
Born in Kolkata on March 18, 1938, the actor graduated to the big league of Hindi commercial cinema with his first film as lead actor in “Dharmputra”(1961).
If Shashi, with his suave, romantic and handsome image, was the heartthrob of the '60s and '70s, he was also one of Hindi film industry's few personalities who straddled between commercial cinema and art house movies. Evidence of Shashi's love for meaningful cinema was his collaboration with directors like Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani, Girish Karnad and Aparna Sen. He was the producer of the Benegal-directed period drama “Junoon” (1978), the dark recreation of modern-day Mahabharata, “Kalyug” (1981) and another period film, “Utsav” (1984).
He was also among the first Indian actors who had long innings in international films through his association with producer-director Ismail Merchant-David Ivory, starting with “Householder”, that marked his debut in a foreign film in 1963, and six other films, including “Shakespearewallah” (1965), “Bombay Talkie” (1970) , “Heat And Dust” and director Conrad Rooks' “Siddhartha”. He also had a significant role in Pierce Brosnan's “The Deceivers.”
Like all super stars of Bollywood, the films starring Shashi too had their share of box-office successes and super-hit songs. One just has to recall movies like “Jab Jab Phool Khiley” (1965), Shashi's maiden box-office hit, “Kanyadaan”(1968), “Pyaar Ka Mausam”(1969) and 'Sharmilee'(1971). “Satyam Shivam Sundaram”, a film produced by Raj Kapoor in '70s, was one of Shashi's mega hit movies.
Shashi had the capability to adjust with the changing times in Bollywood when Amitabh Bachchan took centre stage with the angry young man role. The two came together in 16 films spread across two decades that also marked the most successful phase of Shashi's career. Among the most popular films starring Shashi and Amitabh are “Deewar”, “Trishul”, “Kabhie Kabhie” and “Namak Halal”.
Awards also came Shashi's way—first the Filmfare award for the best supporting actor in “Deewar”, and 11 years later in 1986 when he was adjudged the National Award for Best Actor for his subtle, sensitive portrayal of an upright editor in “New Delhi Times”.
In his long career, Shashi worked opposite several leading ladies of Bollywood--Sharmila Tagore in “Aa Galey Lag Ja” and “New Delhi Times”, Babita (“Haseena Man Jayegi”), Aasha Parekh (“Pyar ka Mausam”), Rakhee (“Sharmilee”), Nanda (“Jab Jab Phool Khiley”), Rekha (“Kalyug” and “Vijeta”), Zeenat Aman (“Satyam Shivam Sundaram”) and Hema Malini (“Abhinetri”).
Any assessment of Shashi Kapoor would be incomplete without a reference to his love for the stage, which saw him dropping out of school and joining his father Prithviraj Kapoor at the Prithvi Theatre where he worked from 1953 to 1960. It was in theatre that Shashi found his lady love—British stage actress Jennifer Kendal-- and the two married in 1958. Shashi had joined “Shakespearana” run by Jennifer's father Geoffrey Kendal. In 1978, Shashi had Prithvi Theatre built in 1978 and Jennifer managed it till her death in 1984. Jennifer acted in Satyajit Ray's "Ghare Bairey" and "Junoon".