Shashi richly deserves Dadasaheb Phalke Award
A heartfelt tribute to the true soul of Bollywood.
The veteran Bollywood actor Shashi Kapoor is no more. One has to accept the reality. He succumbed to his illness in the hospital at Mumbai on 4 December 2017. It was not surprising, as the 79-year-old veteran actor was unwell for quite some time. As the son of illustrious Pritiviraj Kapoor and the proud brother of showman Raj Kapoor and the Yahoo Shammi Kapoor, Shashi with his stunningly beautiful look and boyish appeal had captured the hearts of the film-lovers within no time. Shashi, who
began his career with Raj Kapoor’s Awara, as a 12year-old boy, had carved out a niche for himself in films. His chequered career in the tinsel world needs no introduction, as he had acted in more than 175 films. Not for nothing, the romantic hero was looked at awe and admiration by a large number of movie fans in the yesteryear. The1951released film had created a lasting impact even in the then Soviet Union, as
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru recalled, how the Russians used to sing the title song before him, Awara hoon, Awara hoon, a lovely Mukesh number for Raj Kapoor, who had grown up from a little lad Shashi Kapoor.
Shashi Kapoor was one of the popular actors in 1960s and 1970s. He himself said that he considered the period in 1960s as the most enjoyable and productive one for him. The actor is perhaps right, as films in 1960s focused on romance and love stories rather than the political and socio-economic issues that dominated the tinsel world in 1950s. He believed in natural acting and never tried to overstep his limits. Shashi, like his late brothers Raj Kapoor and Shammi Kapoor had penchant for comedy. Like his brothers, he was not averse to add his input to the comedy to his hero-oriented roles in films.
A measure of Shashi Kapoor’s talent is his ability to disappear and let the costar walk away with the scene, the song, the movie.
For instance, in Raj Kapoor’s Satyam Sivam
Sundaram, the hero realised that the centre of attraction in the film was the heroine ‘Zeenat Aman’. Rightly, Shashi had decided to play second-fiddle to her, though he tried to do more than adequate justice in the song chan chal komal , rendered beautifully by the late Mukesh. He did not find it wise to meddle in the direction of his brother Raj Kapoor. A large number of movie-goers after watching the film said Shashi was looking more like a comedian than a hero, especially in a scene when he was screaming and hunting for Zeenat in torrential downpour.
Likewise, in the film ‘Deewar’ his role was limited, compared to Amitabh Bacchan. He, however, had no regrets when he later said “although the film revolved around Amitabh, the powerful dialogues of script writers Salim-Javed had created a viable impact for his role. For example, film fans even today recollect his dialogue in Deewar mere paas ma
hai (my mother is with me) to the query of Amitabh, mere paas, gaadi, bangla, bank balance hai, there paas kya hai. (I am possessing, car, Bungalow, and bank balance, what do you have?) Shashi also recollected a scene with the veteran actor A.K. Hangal in the same film that paid him rich dividends, although Deewar mostly revolved around Amitabh’s magical voice and majestic presence.
Shashi Kapoor, like Rajesh Khanna was not fond of indulging in fighting scenes. Like the late superstar, he considered himself as a romantic hero. But, whenever the situation warranted, he was not hesitant to have a fisticuff with the wrong-doers. In
Kala Pattar a scene was added for him to confront the anti-socials, which was unthinkable in 1960s. When
multi-starrer films became popular with the public in 1970s, Shashi did not let his enthusiasm lose to grasp the opportunities. Though he realised that films like
Kabhi Kabhi and Trishul gave more opportunities to Amitabh, he did not let his presence go unnoticed. The manner in which he impresses Hema Malini in Trishul with a sense of humour in a particular scene had become the talk of the town. Likewise, the manner in which he cautions Amitabh for meddling in his family affair with, aap ke paas ye chabi keise aaya (how did you get this key?) had impressed the audience, though Shashi was required to compete with not only Amitabh, but also of the late Sanjeev Kumar in Trishul. Shashi never regretted for acting in multi-starrers, as he realised that in 1970s, the era had changed.
Womenfolk in general admitted to a crush on Shashi Kapoor with comments like “so cute and stunningly beautiful,” followed by a liquid sigh. However, things never really got out of hand or below-the-belt. The yesteryear heroine Sharmila Tagore said “she was bowled over by the handsome look of Shashi in the sets of Aa gale Lagja, but she hastened to add that she was irritated over his chatterbox attitude. With Shashi, you imagine a photograph and the face outlined with a lipstick heart. Likewise, Hema Malini, too said that she admired the beauty of Shashi, although she was impressed more by the manly appearance of her husband Dharmendra. The harsh reality has dawned on the actor that when Rajesh Khanna era was in progress, he had no place, especially among the women. The film lovers' in1970s were enamoured over Rajesh Khanna's magnetic appeal, irrespective of age and gender. The actor Sharmila Tagore said that, not only his kurtha dress, even many people changed their car numbers that matched up the number of Rajesh. Some women were of the opinion that Shashi was an ornamental presence and his good looks came in the way of being looked into with seriousness.
Shashi Kapoor was never in the ranking of Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bacchan, let alone Dharmendra and Sunil
Dutt, and yet, he was one of the most successful leading
actors in 1960s and 1970s. His solo hit ration was not great, and yet he just kept making movie after movie after movie. Some films like his debut as a hero in Jab
Jab Phool Khile, followed
by Kanyadan, Pyar Ka Mausam, and Sharmilee, among others, were worth remembering. However, a random selection of his mid-70s movies like Jai Bajrang Bali, Naach Uthe Sansaar, Farishta Ya Qatil,
Hira Aur Patthar had not stood him in good stead, even though films like
Abhinetri and Chori Mera Kaam did well at box office. The actor’s relationship with Rajesh Khanna soured when he had the mortification of waiting for him in the studio from morning 7’o’ clock till late in the afternoon for the film
Prem Kahani. Shashi, after
all, was a stickler for punctuality and found it humiliating to make another star actor waiting for hours together in the shooting schedule. From that day onwards, he was wary of doing any other film with Rajesh. However, his relationship with Amitabh was strengthened when he heard that the superstar refused to accept a film from a producer who had decided to replace him. Shasi was immensely pleased with Amitabh’s gesture and he paid his gratitude to him when a producer wanted him to do the role of Amitabh in another film. He event went to the extent of saying “Amitabh is better than the best.”
It is easier to understand the “classy” part of his career – the Merchant Ivory Films, the art-house movies like Junoon, 36 Chowringee
Lane, Kalyug, Vijeta and Utsav, among others, Shashi Kapoor produced. The actor, after his sensational presence in the English movie,
Shakespearewala just seemed like that kind of a man, a Western kind of guy with their sensibilities. Was not that why he married Jennifer, who gave a splendid performance in 36 Chowringee Lane, depicting the plight of the Anglo Indians. It is not difficult to understand the films like ‘New Delhi Times’ and ‘In Custody, which came from a relatively naturalistic mould of Shashi Kapoor. He did solid work in these films. A measure of his talent is his ability to disappear and let the co-star walk away with the scene, the song and the movie. His bad movies were really bad – he was probably too much of an actor to do the things a star can do to save a bad movie. It will be easier to recall a few dozen shabby movies that his elder brother Shammi Kapoor or his nephew Rishi Kapoor acted than the bad ones Shashi was in. However, a lot of money Shashi made from the horrible films went into producing good cinema that sounded good at least on paper. For instance, if we did not end up watching the film Ajooba, the film crazy fans would have thought it is a pretty cool movie.
Shashi Kapoor was conferred with Dadasaheb Phalke Award. The renowned actor made his debut in Rajkapoor’s evergreen Awara in 1951 as a 12-year-old boy. The oldtimers would still love to recall his dialogue mujhe ek
roti do, with tears rolling down on his checks after getting caught while stealing the dish from a restaurant to feed his starving Mother. What is surprising was how comfortable Shashi Kapoor seemed in the cheerfully loud and large-hearted Hindi films of the sixties and seventies, something the film lovers wanted to associate more with yahoo Shammi Kapoor. For example, the song Ek raasta hai zindagi from the
film Kaala Pathar, is really a Shammi song. Likewise, the song Neina milakar Chain jo churaye in the film Hasina Maan Jayegi resembles Shammi’s antics. Similarly, the song Khenessenagi bhaat, ramlal zindabad in Pyar Kiya Jha reminds the audiences of his brother. Shashi, like the Kapoor Kandan family was energy incarnate and made for bouncing around our screens.
Shashi puts the actor at the centre of the number in the song Likhe jo kath tujhe, o tere yaad me, hazare bangaye, nazare bangayae, savera jabhua, o phool bhangaye in the film Kanyaadan a fabulous song from the silken and immortal voice of Mohammed Rafi. Shashi did not grumble when Rafi’s lilting number overtook his performance as a romantic hero. In the film Sharmilee, the song Kaise Kahen hum, pyarme humto, kya kya kek thikaye, tusharumaye, was sung memorably by the mercurial genius Kishore Kumar. The actor was not found wanting in emoting sorrowful look effectively, and at the same time, putting on a brave face to his friends with a sheepish smile. The scene implies how he had been deceived in love by the heroine Raakee. He was not just
going through the motions and mouthing the words, he was simply looking for things to perform, as the interlude emerges on. Shashi is only enjoying the song. We get the sense he believes in it, in this faintly ridiculous situation that has him singing someone else’s words in someone else voice to a tune someone else has composed. The music director concerned was none other than, Dada Sachin Dev Burman.
A team player
Another example can be cited in Basera, where Shashi played a beleaguered husband to the heroine. He never created an impression that the hero Shashi Kapoor has played the leading roles in his films. Rather, he allowed his films to be identified with the characters he played. He did not grudge when some of his films had powerful roles for the heroines. He was bold enough to inform that the heroes are also human beings and they cannot be expected to fight with so many wrong-doers at a time. He is aware that the film industry, known for portraying the leading men as larger than life, cannot escape from harsh reality often.
Shashi regretted for spurning aside the offer of the film Haathi Mere
Saathi that took Rajesh Khanna to greater heights. The actor revealed later that he was scared of performing with array of elephants around.
However, the moment he found that the movie became a super-hit, he approached the producer Chinnappa Devar to offer him another chance to prove his mettle. Devar obliged, by casting Shashi in his subsequent venture
Jaanwar Aur Insan, a remake of the Tamil film
Vettaikaran (hunter) with MGR in the lead. Even though, the hero, who was reluctant to face the elephants earlier, was brave enough to confront the tigers, the film did not succeed at the box office. Shashi only cursed his ill-luck.
The actor also had to face tough competition during his time from the trio Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand, Dharmendra, Jeetendra, Sunil Dutt, Navin Nischol, Raaj Kumar, Manoj Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Biswajit, Rajendra Kumar, and not, but not the least from two superstars Rajesh Khanna and Amitab Bacchan. There is no iota of doubt that Shashi had created a style of his own and carved out a niche for himself. The romantic hero of yesteryear has no regrets, except feeling that he could have done better in some films. Shashi was in comfort zone with the late heroine
Nanda, with whom he did some films like Raja Saheb.
Can anyone forget Shashi’s reaction, albeit with a ray of hope, for Rafi’s lovely melody from his protruding neck, Rajuthae ektha, raju raja, raja sahib. while he was trying to impress upon the heroine in the movie.
Shashi had a wonderful chemistry with the former heroine and the present Rajya Sabha MP Shabana Azmi. The insiders in the film industry asserted that the duo were close to each other for quite some time. It is also being alleged that his wife Jennifer tried to commit suicide after hearing his relationship with a few leading ladies around that time. Like Raj Kapoor, Shashi owes his success to the theatres, especially, the ‘Prithivi theatres’, formed by his illustrious father ‘Prithiviraj Kapoor’, who made his gigantic presence with his amazing performance as character
Akbar in the film Mugal-EAzam,
that took Dilip
Kumar to dizzy heights.
Shashi once said, albeit in a lighter vein, that he used to play around pranks with Raj Kapoor and by crying loudly for getting his things done during hs childhood days. “We had excellent camaraderie” Shashi used to recall his bonding with Raj Kapoor and Shammi Kapoor. Perhaps, he must thought of it as high time to join them in the heaven, whereto, the trio will be having countless discussions, if not by rolling out champagne bottles. There is no iota of doubt that his fans and film lovers in general cannot erase from their memory the presence of Shashi Kapoor with his intrinsic ability and uncanny anticipation with a bundle of energy to make merry with his heroines in his films.
As actor Poonam
Dhillion has rightly summed up, “Shashi was fun-loving and treated every visitor as something special. Shashi always felt that 1960 was the best period for Bollywood, as it revolved around love stories, instead of the socio-economic situations portrayed in 1950s and the fisti-cuffs between the heroes and wrong-doers. Shashi’s contributions to the film industry cannot be concluded, without the mention of the active assistance rendered by his wife Jennifer Kapoor. After all, not for nothing we say, “there is a woman behind every man’s life”. Shashi, too, was not an exception.
Shashi Kappor in a scene with actor Amitabh Bachhan.
A still from the movie Jab Jab Phool Khile.
A still from movie Aa Gale Lagja.
Shashi Kapoor and Rakhee in Kabhi Kabhi.
The final journey of a superb actor.