The charmer fades away forever

The charmer fades away forever
Highlights

Despite being an actor blessed with an impressive pedigree and the eternal honour of belonging to the first family of Hindi cinema, with four generations representing it in the celluloid world of Mumbai as of present, 79-year-old Shashi Kapoor (1938-2017), who passed away on Monday, carried the load of his legacy lightly.

Despite being an actor blessed with an impressive pedigree and the eternal honour of belonging to the first family of Hindi cinema, with four generations representing it in the celluloid world of Mumbai as of present, 79-year-old Shashi Kapoor (1938-2017), who passed away on Monday, carried the load of his legacy lightly.

Fitting his role effortlessly into the family social slot which allowed him to turn on his impish, toothy charm, Kapoor, the youngest son of the iconic Prithviraj Kapoor retained his position from the debut year of 1961 which was taken over by his nephew Rishi Kapoor, a decade or more later.

It was still the era when his elder brother Shammi Kapoor was up there wooing and mesmerising his fans with a series of box-office hits, another lady killer of sorts and who too died like his younger sibling a few months before turning 80.

The eldest Raj Kapoor was yet to let go of his showman status, which was an exclusive one, as his films were continuously hitting the bull’s eye. Yet Shashi Kapoor managed an impressive list of 116 films in his two-decade plus career, (almost double that of Shammi who acted in 70), out of which he was seen in 55 multi-starrer films, a trend which gained traction in the 1970s. He enjoyed the distinction of being featured among the Kapoor Khandaan as a solo hero in a maximum of 61 films, a record, till he died.

But Shashi Kapoor was not just a star, one more in an ensemble cast in the multi-starrers that were the vogue in the 1980s or another face in a brain-dead Bollywood melodrama. He straddled two worlds with his partnership with James Ivory and Ismail Merchant resulting in films like "The Householder", "Shakespearewallah" and "Heat and Dust" early in his career.

The real turnaround came in 1980 when he started his own company Film Vala, diverting some of the money he had made in Bollywood into making films with the likes of Benegal and Aparna Sen. The partnership resulted in gems like "36 Chowringhee Lane", which saw his wife, veteran theatre actor Jennifer Kendal, as an aging teacher in a changing world, "Junoon", "Vijeta", "Utsav" and "Kalyug". Shashi Kapoor himself acted in several of these films - his roles as an obsessive suitor in "Junoon" set in 1857, as the brooding husband and father in "Vijeta" and as the suave, conflicted Karan in "Kalyug", a modern-day adaptation of the Mahabharata, see the actor deliver some of his career's finest performances.

"He was god's good man. He was such a beautiful human being beyond anything else," director Shyam Benegal, who worked with the late actor in "Kalyug" and "Junoon", said. Shashi Kapoor was also effortlessly charming, whether at 25 when he was dancing around trees or at 65 when age and the famous Kapoor weight had slowed him down. Naturally, Shashi Kapoor began fading away from the headlines.

Along with Amitabh Bachchan, the one-man industry of the 1970s, Kapoor not only held on his own but also was paid more remuneration than him throughout in all the films they featured together till the break of the 1980s. Yash Chopra’s iconic ‘Deewaar’ which remains one of Indian cinema’s most feted work is known equally for his steadfast and stubborn younger brother’s role, challenging the bad man, anti-hero Big B till the end and gunning him down at the climax.

He appeared in few films, as the corpulent Urdu poet Noor in Ismail Merchant's "In Custody" in 1993 and as a narrator in "Jinnah" some years after that. He also revived his father's Prithvi Theatre, a job now taken over by his daughter Sanjana. The sons, Kunal and Karan, tried dabbling in films and then stood respectfully away when they realised it was not for them. Ill health felled Shashi Kapoor and when he was awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke award in 2015, he was too unwell to travel to New Delhi to get it. It was 17 years after he retired into the quiet shadows. Union minister Arun Jaitley went to Mumbai to honour him.

By K Naresh Kumar

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