Among the innumerable hit songs filmed on Shashi Kapoor in his heydays, 'Ni Sultana Re: Pyar Ka Mausam Aaya' remains evergreen. Majrooh Sultanpuri's lyrics were set to the magical music by RD Burman, the song featured in the Nasir Husain film 'Pyar ka Mausam' (1969).
However, poetry buffs who came of age in Chandigarh in the serenading 70's, have quite another association with it. It was the favourite line of Kumar Vikal, a poet of Hindi, which he would sing after he had had a pint of whiskey by way of greeting a friend in the Sector 17 Plaza or welcoming a new poem of his, eager to be written.
The song and the playful mood it evoked came back to memory with the rather unexpected announcement of the Dadasaheb Phalke Award given for outstanding contribution to the growth and development of Indian cinema. So unexpected that the ailing yesteryear romantic hero, counted next only to Dev Anand, told his son Kunal as a first reaction: "Me? I got it?" And then he chuckled. That is the humble and humorous way of reacting to the honour richly deserved. It also brings back a memory of a meeting Shashi Kapoor had with the city journos sometime around 1982. The actor was sad that 'Junoon' (1978), a film produced by him and directed by Shyam Benegal, had not been a commercial success and also that his wife Jennifer Kendal had not got the National Award for her memorable performance in '36 Chowringhee Lane' (1981). That year she had lost out to Rekha in 'Umrao Jaan'. But he was very excited about Jennifer's and his revival of Prithvi Theatre. I recall verbatim a funny line he mouthed referring to automobile brand names: "Why should we have only a ramshackle Ambassador theatre? We should have Mercedes theatre now!"
Such was the charm of the boy-next-door he played with aplomb in many a film, he never tried to sound intellectual yet his sincerity and his promotion of serious cinema and theatre won him many congratulations from film folk who are as 'intellectual' as they come. The formidable Shabana Azmi tweets: 'Am so happy Shashi Kapoor gets Dadasb Phalke Award. He's been a trailblazer and the only mainstream actor to stake his own money in Art films' (sic). 'Shashi Kapoor was the first Indian actor to get recognition in Hollywood with Pretty Polly. He built Prithvi Theatre unmatched by any other.' Offbeat film director Sudhir Mishra tweets: 'Shashi Kapur n his wife d grt Jennifer Kapur built Prithvi Theatre with der own money!Who does that?Only cos they loved theatre n thtr ppl!'(sic).
Young Shashi started acting in father Prithvi Raj's plays when he was only four. He also played the child Raj Kapoor in his big brother's Aag (1948) and Awara (1951). He made his debut as a hero in Yash Chopra's Dharamputra (1961) and went on to become one of the well-loved stars. Some of his many blockbusters included Pyar Kiye Ja, Jab Jab Phool Khile, Kanyadan, Chor Machaye Shor, Sharmeelee, Kabhi Khabhie and Deewar. In fact, in Deewar he held his own in front of Amitabh Bachhan with the famous dialogue 'Mere Paas Ma Hai!" He made several memorable films with Ismail Merchant and James Ivory like The Householder, Shakespeare Wallah, Bombay Talkie and Heat and Dust. He also starred in British and American films like Siddhartha and Muhafiz.
His own productions included Junoon, Kalyug, 36 Chowringhee Lane, Vijeta and Utsav. A recipient of the Padma Bhushan, he also won the National Award thrice for acting. Yes, Shashi it's you who got the Dadasaheb Phalke Award and it is richly deserved.