Bollywood is India’s great leveller – its’ upbeat harmonies, colourful costumes, flamboyant dance numbers, over-the-top drama and evergreen one-liners cater to one and all, irrespective of cast, creed, community or religious belief.
Factually speaking Bollywood produces more than 1000 movies on average annually giving birth to millions of dreamers. The industry’s allure brings thousands of people from all across the globe to the city that never sleeps, Mumbai, which embraces them all graciously.
As glamorous as it can be, as giving as it is, it is an industry that calls itself a family. An industry which is more than a century old, holds a lots of secrets, told – untold stories, claimed – unclaimed relations, recognized – unrecognized talents, cherished and non-cherished memories, the dead and the living.
Many have lost families over their love and passion for cinema while others have found everything here.
But if there is one family which has dedicated itself to the industry and earned the right to be called the “First Family of Bollywood”, it is the Kapoors. The Legendary Prithvi Raj Kapoor, the Big Daddy of all, left no stone unturned in fulfilling his desire and dreams for success but also gave the industry a rich pool of talent through his family.
Amongst his three sons Raj, Shammi and Shashi, the youngest is my favourite.
I am not a big fan of the old Bolllywood movies, so when it came to writing about the legendary Shashi Kapoor, my heart skipped a beat wondering if I could go justice to this spunky, utterly charming and clever actor.
I wasn’t born during the ‘Shashi era’ but his name always features in the now-common refrain – “The Good Old Days of Bollywood”.
It’s easy to conclude that Shashi’s phenomenal success was down to his innumerable connections – the youngest son of the iconic Prithvi Raj; and the little brother of the mercurial Raj and the heartbreaker Shammi.
However ‘Shashi Baba’ – as he was fondly known then – had to face countless rejections and failures in the initial stages of his career.
But much to my surprise Shashi baba (as he was fondly called then) had faced many rejections and failures. Imagine being dragged to rehearsals at the age of four and made to sit quietly in a corner of the theatre so as not to disturb the preparing actors!
As Shashi grew up, his visionary dad took the youngster around for plays all over the country. Whilst travelling with the theater group, the young Shashi met the love of his life, which I shall come to in a bit.
Prior to professional theatre, Shashi had acted as a child star in movies such as ‘Aag’, ‘Sangram’, ‘Awaara’ and ‘Dana Pani’. Soon his quest and thirst for acting took hold and Shashi began hunting for work outside the theatre.
Shashi Kapoor began his professional career as a child actor.
Inked by heavens to shine, the bright Shashi began his journey to stardom soon by becoming an assistant director in Sunil Dutt’s debut film ‘PO Box 999’, followed by films like ‘Guest House’, ‘Dulha Dulhan’ and ‘Shriman Satyawadi’during the course of which he learned the art of filmmaking.
Soon the charmer bagged his launch film in Yash Chopra’s ‘Dharma Putra’, which unfortunately didn’t do well at box office. His next project suffered the same fate. A series of failures shadowed his first tentative steps in the industry but Shashi was not disheartened. His love for cinema and commitment to hard work finally paid off with the spectacular success of films such as ‘Jab Jab Phool Khile’ and ‘Waqt’, which announced his arrival on the big stage.
Although before he hit this purple patch, no actor or actress wanted to work with him due to his failures at the box office, at this moment in life, Shashi baba found an actress who cherished his sincerity and recognized his talent, it was the established actress Nanda, who became the friend and mentor he never had.
This screen pair became a huge success and gave the industry some spectacular films and melodious songs with heartfelt lyrics.
Films like ‘Mohabbat Isko Kehte Hai’, ‘Jab Jab Phool Khile’, ‘Neend Humari Khwab Tumhare’, ‘Raja Saab’ and others marked Nanda and Shashi as Bollywood’s favourite ‘jodi’.
Shashi soon become the leading man of Bollywood’s Golden Age. Whereas the 50s noticed Shashi’s struggle, the 60s, 70s and early 80s witnessed ‘Shashi-Dom’. He romanced all the top leading ladies of the era on the screen and gave some of the most memorable performances and biggest blockbusters of the era – including ‘Basera’, ‘Trishna’, ‘Doosra Aadmi’,’Waqt’, ‘Aamne Samne’, ‘Aa Gale Lag Jaa’, ‘New-Delhi Times’ (for which he won the National Award for Best Actor), ‘Anari’ with Sharmila Tagore; ‘Satyam Shivam Sundaram’, ‘Roti Kapada Aur Makaan’, ‘Chori Mera Kaam’ with Zeenat Aman, ‘Abhinetri’, ‘Maan Gaye Ustaad’ with Hema Malini and the list goes on.
The name Shashi became indispensable for all the ‘multi starrer’ movies. The magic of ‘Prem Kahani’, the Rajesh Khanna – Shashi starrer still lingers in the hearts of fans.
Shashi and Sanjeev Kumar’s magic on screen is no less famous as was ‘Shashi-Tabh’- the bromance between Shashi and Amitabh Bachchan. It was through films such as ‘Trishul’, ‘Deewar’, ‘Suhaag’, ‘Shaan’ that Shashi and Amitabh emerged as our nation’s first “Angry Young Men”. On the other hand, ‘Do Aur Do Paanch’, ‘Namak Halal’helped the duo showcase their brilliant comedic talents.
Some of those films have provided the most iconic dialogues ever to emerge from Bollywood cinema.
“Bhai! Tum sign karoge ha Nahi… Bhai!!! (Brother will you sign or no?) and the most quoted dialogue in Hindi cinema – “Mere Paas Maa hai!!” (I have a mother!!). Shashi’s dramatic skills were beyond original and his philosophy-tinged romantic dialogues made him the nation’s eternal heartthrob.
“Yeh prem rog hai… Shuru mein Dukh deta hai! Baad mein Bahut Dukh deta hai..” (This is the disease of love…in the beginning it gives sorrow…and later it gives a lot more sorrow) from the film ‘Namak Halal’ became an anthem for broken hearted lovers.
And of course, there are the innumerable unforgettable songs Shashi offered us.
Today, ‘Shashi Baba’ turns 77.
What better way to celebrate than to evoke the memory of some of his most iconic songs?
Songs like “Keh doon tumhein…Ya chup rahoon” from the iconic ‘Deewar’ tops my list. As I grew old enough to legally enter a discotheque and consume alcohol, DJ Aqueel had already released his remixed version of the same song.
I guarantee if you visit any Punjabi wedding today you would surely be dancing to the song – “Le jayege le jayege… Dilwale dulhania le jayege…” from ‘Chor Machaye Shor’.
And who can forget the lilting melody of “Tera mujhse hai pehle ka naata koi…” the beautifully woven song from the unforgettable film ‘Aa Gale Lag Jaa’.
The list goes on, the naughty and mischievous “Mohabbat bade Kaam ki cheez hai….”, “Jaaneman tum kamaal karti ho….” from the mega blockbuster ‘Trishul’; The melodious- “tum bin jaaun kahaan” from ‘Pyar Ka Mausam’; the pleasant “Ni Sultana Re…” and the unforgettable “Pardesiyon se na aankhiyaan milana” from the remarkable ‘Jab Jab Phool Khile’; the evergreen romantic lyrical melody of “Likhe jo khat tujhe…” from ‘Kanyadaan’ and “Khilte hain gul yahaan…” from Sharmilee.
Iconic Pairing: Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor
Shashi’s phenomenal success is all the more sweeter because it was a hard slog. It began as a child artist to being a stage actor and manager to assisting directors and seeing a series of failures as an actor.
Shashi was a born fighter and never lost hope. His constant improvisations and thirst for success brought him films, which marked him as one of the most reputed actors of Hindi Cinema.
He was one of the first Bollywood actors to have gone international and pocketed 12 foreign films. My favourite International Project of Shashi’s was the Pierce Brosnan starrer ‘The Deceiver’ (1988).
Shashi won the National (special jury) award for his amazing performance in the 1994 thriller ‘Mahafiz’.
Many will also remember him as “Rajah” in the adaptation of Guliver’s Travels. He was also chosen to narrate the biographical film of Md. Ali Jinnah.
Shashi Kapoor also dabbled in direction by directing the multi starter Hindi Film ‘Ajooba’, a 1991 co-production with the then-Soviet Union and which starred Amitabh Bachchan, Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia. As a child, this fantasy film was a staple watch for us kids.
My quest to know more about Shashi Kapoor took me to Shashi’s PR-maintained website. I knew he would be a hard-core romantic but his story had tears rolling down my cheeks. He credits his success to his beloved late wife Jenniffer Kendal.
He mentions how loving, caring, genuine and family-oriented she was. He reminisces of her constant nagging for maintaining his weight and looks considering the family’s traditional undying love for food and alcohol.
Their love story was no less than a Bollywood masala film with all the ingredients of romance, suspense, pain, and opposition and a sad demise.
They met while travelling with their respective Theatre troupes in Kolkata. Shy as they both were, it took them a while to admit their growing fondness for each other.
Shashi said he knew she was the one the minute he set his eyes on her whereas Jennifer developed feelings gradually.
Jennifer’s father, Jeffrey Kendal, was an established international actor and didn’t approve of their relationship. The drama in their relationship heightened when Jennifer flew to India and married Shashi in an Indian traditional wedding without her parent’s consent.
The Love birds acted in a few international projects together and set up a production house called “Film-valas” and produced many path breaking movies such as ‘Junoon’, ‘Kalyug’, ’36 Chowrangee Lane’, ‘Vijeyta’ and ‘Utsav’.
The greatest love of his life – Shashi with wife Jennifer Kendal
Together they also gave Shashi’s late father the gift for eternity, Mumbai’s own Prithvi Theatre, a temple to all young and aspiring actors and technicians seeking a platform to showcase their talents.
When Jennifer and Shashi were all settled with three beautiful and talented kids, Jeniffer was diagnosed with cancer and being the lovely and caring mother and wife she was, she hid the news until she succumbed to the disease.
Without the woman who meant everything to him, Shashi’s health soon began deteriorating. The Kapoors being the rooted and strong bonded family, helped Shashi overcome the tragic loss.
The Indian Film Industry honoured the living legend by preserving his handprints at the ‘Walk of the Stars’ at Bandra Bandstand, Mumbai. He was awarded the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010. In 2011, the Government of India conferred him with the Padma Bhushan for his contribution to Indian Cinema.
Shashi Kapoor was a Cine-star who made the audience believe in the goodness that is inherent in the world around them.
He symbolized hope and righteousness. He was the conscience of the common man. He stood for innocent unadulterated love, the kind that lasts a lifetime.
The kind of love that makes the world a better place to live in.