Shashi Kapoor who breathed his last on 4th December, 2017, was a talented film and theatre actor.
By Aneeqa Mirza
When he started his career as a child artist in 1948 playing the younger version of his brother Raj Kapoor’s character in Aag, Prithviraj Kapoor’s youngest son Shashi Kapoor made it abundantly clear that he was there to stay and play a long innings as an actor. He played a younger Raj Kapoor again in 1951 in the super musical Awara.
He made his debut as an adult actor in 1961 in Dharamputra playing the lead role opposite Mala Sinha who was elder to him by just a couple of years but had already been a part of over a couple of dozen movies.
Born as Balbir Prithviraj Kapoor, Shashi Kapoor’s array of acting was wide and perhaps not amply exploited by filmmakers who were more keen to showcase his good looks and feature him in light romantics that couldn’t do full justice to his enormous talent. Most of these films, however, were a commercial success. His breathtakingly beautiful looks had his heroines swoon over him in his movies and many song sequences. His looks, though, were just a part of his persona and not the whole story.
Shashi Kapoor’s association with Geoffery Kendal’s Shakespeareana Company introduced him to his future wife, Geoffery’s daughter, Jennifer Kendal.
Geoffery Kendal’s tireless efforts to stage Shakespearean plays and introduce them to a common man in the post-colonial India was documented in the form of a book, Shakespeare Wallah. An Ivory Merchant film by the same name based on the book was released in 1965. It featured Geoffery Kendal, his wife, and Shashi Kapoor opposite his sister-in-law Felicity Kendal.
Kapoor met Jennifer Kendal while on a trip to Calcutta with Prithvi Theatre Company where Jennifer was a part of the Shakespeareana Company playing the character of Miranda in The Tempest that the company was staging. They fell in love and married a couple of years later in July 1958.
Geoffery Kendal (popularly known by people on the streets of India as Shakespeare Wallah) would travel through the length and breadth of India to stage Shakespearean masterpieces and Shashi Kapoor was a part of many such travels, which surely must have honed his acting skills. That must be the reason why he holds his ground against some of Indian cinema’s best actors he worked with and that’s perhaps why his acting is effortless and happy go lucky even in the movies where he isn’t playing the lead.
Shashi Kapoor is one of the most underrated actors, often remembered for playing second fiddle to Amitab Bachhan in films like Deewar, Trishul and Namak Halal or an exquisitely handsome hero serenading the beauties on the silver screen. But there was a lot more to his acting than just that.
As a producer later in his life, he made some critically acclaimed films like Junoon, Kalyug and 36 Chowringhee Lane under the banner Film Vallas.
His last role was that of a narrator in Jamil Dehlavi’s Jinnah in 1998. He displayed his histrionic versatility both in films as well as theatre. It not only included the commercial cinema, but also the critically acclaimed movies. Had he not suffered a prolonged illness, we might have been able to see many more shades of his acting as he would have started taking up more character roles.
Shashi Kapoor deserves to be remembered as a wonderful actor whose acting abilities should have been put more in use by the Indian filmmakers. He surely deserved to live a little longer, healthier life.