On Golden Pond

More Than 50 years af­ter mega- HIT Jab Jab Phool Khile HIT The Screens, ORIG­I­NAL ‘ fan- boy’ Khalid Mo­hamed LOOKS back at a check­ered ca­reer, and pays Trib­ute TO BOL­LY­WOOD’S mati­nee IDOL — Shashi Kapoor

WKND - - Bollywood -

Most evenings, at the age of 78, he sits on a wheel­chair in a tree- shaded en­clave of Prithvi Theatre — founded in the mem­ory of his fa­ther Prithvi­raj Kapoor. He can’t speak much but his eyes sparkle on recog­nis­ing a past friend or ac­quain­tance. Theatre- go­ers who fre­quent Prithvi Café of­fer their salaams and hand­shakes. They’re sen­si­tive enough not to crowd around him, quickly ex­press­ing their abid­ing re­gard for the ac­tor who rocked the mar­quee in the 1960s and through the 70s. Shashi Kapoor has been a class act. A re­luc­tant hero to a de­gree, be­cause his first love was theatre — al­though, ul­ti­mately, he couldn’t ig­nore the call of movies. His el­der broth­ers Raj Kapoor and Shammi Kapoor were mak­ing huge waves in show busi­ness. It was but nat­u­ral that their kid brother should fol­low the fam­ily tra­di­tion. For the record, Raj Kapoor had suc­cess­fully ca­joled his baby brother into do­ing cameos in RK ban­ner’s Aag and Awara. Grow­ing up, Shashi was ill at ease as an ac­tor, more at home in James Ivory- Is­mail Mer­chant art- house pro­duc­tions, like The House­holder. B u t wh e n h e d i d t ake t he plunge i nto Bom­bay’s main­stream cin­ema, he had a blast; he was con­sis­tently sup­ported by his wife Jen­nifer Ken­dal, who would even de­sign his film cos­tumes, which be­came fash­ion trend­set­ters. This month, film critic Aseem Ch­habra has re­leased an evoca­tive book trac­ing Shashi Kapoor’s jour­ney as a mati­nee idol as well as the pro­ducer of the un­con­ven­tional Junoon, 36 Chowringhee Lane, Vi­jeta and Ut­sav, directed by Shyam Bene­gal, Aparna Sen, Govind Ni­ha­lani and Girish Kar­nad re­spec­tively. None of these may have fetched back their fi­nan­cial in­vest­ment, but are re­mem­bered fondly by the cognoscenti. The star ac­tor’s foray into di­rec­tion with Ajooba, an Ara­bian Nights- style fan­tasy, how­ever, turned out to be a downer, lead­ing to debts, be­sides an ir­rev­o­ca­ble sense of dis­il­lu­sion­ment. Shashi Kapoor wasn’t the same again, com­pounded by the pass­ing of his wife fol­low­ing a ter­mi­nal ill­ness. The Ado­nis of the In­dian screen ap­peared to have dis­carded his lust for life and the cre­ative arts. Grat­i­fy­ingly, de­spite the mone­tary odds, Prithvi Theatre has had to face over the decades, his daugh­ter San­jana and son Ku­nal have strived to keep it more than alive and kick­ing. Not an easy task, that.

On a per­sonal note, as a school­boy, I be­came the ac­tor’s fan- boy for a life­time af­ter watch­ing Jab Jab Phool Khile, which re­leased 50 years ago. As a Kash­miri boat­man who falls in love with a well- heeled, big city girl — played charm­ingly by Nanda — here was an en­ter­tainer who stoked the fan­tasies of the au­di­ence. Directed by Su­raj Prakash, the film ( bril­liantly pho­tographed by Taru Dutt) un­der­scored the point that love knows no class bar­ri­ers. Ro­man­tic to the hilt, the sto­ry­line also as­serted that an un­der­priv­i­leged boat­man will not ac­cept hu­mil­i­a­tion from the mon­ey­bags. He’d rather re­tain his pride than sell his soul.

Nearly three decades later, the film was re­made into Raja Hin­dus­tani ( 1996). It was a whop­per hit as well, but it wasn’t quite in the same league. The last­ing ap­peal of Jab Jab Phool Khile was en­hanced by a catchy mu­sic score by Kalyan­jiA­nandji. The songs ranged from the ab­so­lutely joy­ous

Shashi Kapoor has been a class act. A re­luc­tant hero to a de­gree, be­cause his first love was theatre — al­though, ul­ti­mately, he couldn’t ig­nore the call of movies

CROSS­ING OVER: Shashi Kapoor was part of many English- lan­guage films for in­ter­na­tional au­di­ences, such as ( clock­wise from bot­tom right) In Cus­tody, Heat and Dust, Bom­bay Talkie and The House­holder

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