MUMBAI—By now, all the tributes have come in, and Shashi Kapoor has achieved immortality. Complete with a three-gun salute and the national honor of his corporal remains being covered for a while in the Tricolor.
The youngest son of Prithviraj Kapoor, christened Balbir Raj Kapoor, the third in the clan to win the nation’s highest award in cinema, the Dadasaheb Phalke award in 2015 after father Prithviraj Kapoor (1972) and elder brother Raj Kapoor (1987), was also conferred the Padma Bhushan in 2011. Shashi Kapoor has won the National award as well thrice – as producer of the Best Film “Junoon” (1979), his debut as producer, an actor for “New Delhi Times” (1986) and seven more years later, a Special Jury Mention for his performance in “Muhafiz”/”In Custody” (1993). These were the main awards he won, apart from many Lifetime Achievement trophies. His most popularly known honor was the Filmfare Best Supporting Actor award for “Deewaar” in 1975.
Shashi Kapoor was born in Kolkata, and became, first, a child actor in his father’s theater group Prithvi Theatres at the age of six, and moving on to juvenile leads. In films, he started off as a child actor as well, playing Raj Kapoor as a kid in “Aag” (1948) and “Awara” (1951) besides a few more.
The actor made his lead debut in “Char Diwari” (1961) opposite Nanda, who went on to do six more films with him, one of which was the 1965 film: “Jab Jab Phool Khile” with which he got his first super-hit. His last film was released in 1998. It was in English.
Turning producer with “Junoon” (1979), he then turned director with “Ajooba” (1991), a Hindi-Russian bilingual that was also an Indo-Russian co-production whose Russian version was called “Vozvrashcheniye Bagdadskogo Vora (Return of the Thief of Baghdad)” aka “The Black Prince.”
The Shashi Kapoor we know…
• Shashi Kapoor was the first actor in Indian films to declare that he would not work on Sundays, which was a family day.
• Kapoor was touring with his father’s Prithvi Theatres drama company in Kolkata in 1956 when he saw Jennifer Kapoor, who was touring with her father Geoffrey Kendall’s troupe, known as Shakespearana. Gradually, the two fell in love. Prithviraj, a staunch believer in equality of human beings, had no objections to their marriage. Kendall had, and asked them to reconsider after two years.
• Two years later, he refused again, but this time Jennifer defied him. They married in 1958. After this, Kendall accepted their union and even worked with his son-in-law. Ironically, the first chartbuster Kapoor was to enact on screen was “Pardesiyon Se Na Ankhiyaan Milana” from “Jab Jab Phool Khile” in 1966, which translates as “Never fall in love with a foreigner!”
• The couple had three children – Kunal, who tried to be a lead actor (beginning with “Ahista Ahista” in 1981) after being a child actor in “Junoon”; Karan, who made his debut in “Sultanat” (1986) after an aborted debut with his father’s friend, writer-director Prayag Raj and again after debuting in “Paap Aur Punya” (1974) as Shashi’s twin childhood; and Sanjana Kapoor, who started out with a cameo in “Utsav” (1985) and then was leading lady opposite Naseeruddin Shah in the 1988 “Hero Hiralal.”
• Today, Kunal and Sanjana look after Prithvi Theatres founded by Kapoor and Jennifer on their inherited land at Janki Kutir, Juhu, while Karan is a still photographer in London.
• Shashi Kapoor’s commercial force came in with the late 1973 film “Aa Gale Lag Jaa” and the early 1974 “Chor Machaye Shor.”
• With the late 1974 “Roti Kapada Aur Makaan” and the early 1975 “Deewaar” both becoming blockbusters, Kapoor took off in a huge way and was a part of several multi-hero films as well, especially with common co-star Amitabh Bachchan (“Kabhi Kabhie,” “Trishul,” “Suhaag,” “Namak Halaal” and flops “Imaan Dharam,” “Do Aur Do Paanch,” and “Silsila”). “Kaala Patthar” and “Shaan” did well in the theatres but could not recover their high investments.
• In the early ‘90s, Bachchan played the title-role in “Ajooba” produced and directed by Kapoor as well as “Akayla,” in which Kapoor played a middle-aged cop.
• Kapoor got to play dual roles in Prakash Mehra’s 1969 hit “Haseena Maan Jayegi,” the 1974 flop “Paap Aur Punya” and the 1976 success “Shanker Dada.”
• His first popular pairing was with Nanda, the big late ‘50s and ‘60s top star who always encouraged new heroes. He later formed popular pairs with Sharmila Tagore, Hema Malini, Raakhee, Rekha, Shabana Azmi, Parveen Babi and Zeenat Aman. His youngest on-screen lady love was Jaya Prada (“Sindoor”), and his oldest was Nanda.
• Sanjeev Kumar and Shatrughan Sinha were his most frequent co-heroes after Bachchan. He did a fair amount of films with nephews Randhir Kapoor and Rishi Kapoor.
• His most popular co-star as a comedian was Raj Kapoor’s brother-in-law Rajendranath, and his villain in some 20 films was another brother-in-law of his elder brother, Prem Chopra.
• Good friend Prayag Raj was his writer in multiple films, director in some, and also lent his voice for his refrain “Afoo Khuda” in the “Jab Jab Phool Khile’ Mohammed Rafi hit “Humko Tum Pe Pyar Aaya.”
• Mohammed Rafi was his most suited and most frequent voice, and Shashi was also close to him. Later Kishore Kumar sang a lot of his films from the 1970s. Among composers, Kalyanji-Anandji were close friends, but Laxmikant-Pyarelal ended up doing more films, including his productions “Utsav” and “Ajooba.”
• From the beginning, Kapoor acted in English films, beginning with “The Householder” in 1963. Many of his superior performances were seen in them, including in Conrad Rooks’ “Siddhartha,” complete with a controversial nude scene by Simi Garewal with him.
• He plunged all his income from commercial films (doing multiple shifts in a day) back into his twin passions: his father’s dream of Prithvi Theatres being revived, and making films he believed in. In fact, he even did many films at his peak for that reason alone, even earning the sobriquet of “taxi” from his elder brother Raj Kapoor, who was making “Satyam Shivam Sundaram” with him.
• In 1979, he turned producer, making films that were mostly of a literary bent and got wide acclaim but no profits. “Kalyug” with Shyam Benegal (also director of “Junoon”), “Vijeta” with Govind Nihalani, “36 Chowringhee Lane” that introduced Aparna Sen as director and “Utsav” were his productions. Stating sardonically that he never got his money back, he plunged into the commercial “Ajooba,” and that film also led to huge losses.
• Kapoor switched to character roles in Hindi films with “Ghar Ek Mandir” (1984), a big hit. His “Aandhi Toofan” (1985), “Ilzaam” (1986) and “Sindoor” (1987) remain the only other hits with him in a central character role.
• Kapoor was one of the earliest, if not THE earliest, heroes to be on a fitness regime. He was supervised by his wife Jennifer, who ensured that he remained slim and fit, unlike the other Kapoors!
…And the Shashi Kapoor we don’t know
• Just as he assisted in many aspects in his father’s plays, he was assistant director in a few films as well, like “Paying Guest” to Subodh Mukerji, “Shreeman Satyawadi” to S.M. Abbas and more.
• Manoj Kumar, Dharmendra, and Kapoor struggled together, and both declared separately that Kapoor never acted big with them because of his lineage. He never even advertised his connections!
• He offered to play Prem Chopra’s role (as villain) in Kumar’s “Upkar” after his first hits “Jab Jab Phool Khile” and “Waqt,” but Kumar advised that it affect him adversely.
• He did three films with Kumar as director and co-actor, “Roti Kapada Aur Makaan,” “Kranti” and “Clerk,” and for the first two, when Kumar could not go to the Haji Malang shrine to pray for the films’ success as he always did, Kapoor went on his behalf. Kumar had a knee problem and could not climb to the hilltop shrine.
• For “Waqt,” he was the only one retained as the film was originally envisioned by B.R. Chopra with father Prithviraj and all three Kapoors playing, so to speak, Kapoor & Sons in the film. That was because he was on a two-film contract with BR Films and had done one movie, the critically acclaimed “Dharamputra.”
• The actor was very proud of the fact that his wife Jennifer was his father’s favorite daughter-in-law.
• During his film peak, Kapoor even contributed (recited) his vocals for four songs, all with Lata Mangeshkar (“Yashomati Maiyya Se” from “Satyam Shivam Sundaram” and “Hum Kahan Kho Gaye” from “Vakil Baboo”) and Asha Bhosle (“Main To Beghar Hoon” from “Suhaag” and “Raat Baaqi” from “Namak Halaal.”). The last was composed by Bappi Lahiri, who also sang a portion for him, while the rest were scored by Laxmikant-Pyarelal.
• Kapoor also had Rajesh Roshan giving playback for “Toone Mujhe Dekha Nahin” from “Do Aur Do Paanch.”
• In 2017, three Kapoor songs have been re-created: “Raat Baaqi” again in “Ittefaq,” “Keh Doon Tumhein” (“Deewaar”) as “Socha Hai” from “Baadshaho” and “Jaanu Meri Jaan” (“Shaan”) in “Behen Hogi Teri.” Another hit from “Shaan” was “Yamma Yamma,” whose music riff has been used in the title-song of “Mubarakan.”
• Many will not realize that it was Kapoor who actually sang the cult line “Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge” on screen in “Chor Machaye Shor.” His target was prospective father-in-law Madan Puri. It was a master-stroke by Kirron Kher, who suggested the title to the 1995 blockbuster wherein the implication was that Shah Rukh Khan would take away the bride despite opposition from her father, played by Puri’s younger brother Amrish!
• Shashi Kapoor’s obese role in “Utsav” was to be originally done by Amitabh Bachchan, but it did not happen. Kamal Haasan, Padmini Kolhapure, and Rati Agnihotri were to do the roles played by Shekhar Suman, Rekha, and Anooradha Patel. Kapoor put on weight for the role but lost the desire to shed it when Jennifer died.
• Calling Kapoor as a man with “a killing smile,” Shatrughan Sinha recalled the warmth they shared with an insight into one of Shashi’s prime virtues: his punctuality. “I was always late, and one day, when I arrived, Shashi unleashed his belt and mock-threatened to teach a latecomer like me a lesson! I told him, ‘Shut up! You get work because of your punctuality, and I get work because of my talent!’ And we both hugged and had a hearty laugh!”