Shashi Kapoor: A Junooni with a difference
The writer recounts a meeting with Shashi Kapoor in Chandigarh in 1982, his comparison of theatre, his first love with his father Prithviraj and later with Geoffery Kendal’s Shakespeare Company, and his love for brands of cars.columns Updated: Dec 10, 2017 23:59 IST
The youngest and perhaps the most good-looking of the Kapoor brothers trio, Shashi played a wide array of characters ranging from the serious to the playful, acted in some 160 films, was among the best paid of heroes, had memorable songs picturised on him and was paired with the finest leading ladies of his time.
After convincing roles as a chubby child star playing the younger version of roles played out by big brother Raj Kapoor in ‘Aag’ (1948) and ‘Awara’ (1951), he got the lead role in Yash Chopra’s unusual Partition film ‘Dharmputra’, which took up the subject of Hindu fundamentalism.
Born to Muslim parents, he is adopted by their Hindu friends, and Shashi handled the role of a rigid ‘shakha’ youth as well as a romantic hero serenading Indrani Mukherjee with Sahir Ludhianvi’s sensuous with the sensual lyrics ‘Bhool sakta hai bhala kaun yeh pyari ankhein’.
What was remarkable that here was a young man who could hold his own sans affectation among the seasoned stars of those times like Ashok Kumar, Mala Sinha, Nirupa Roy, Rehman and others.
In 1964, he did another black and white film with Ashok Kumar and Meena Kumari and was a show-stealer singing a melodious number written by Shakil Badayuni and composed by SD Burman as he wooed the impish Tanuja: ‘Dil mein ik jaane tamanna ne jagah paayi hai’.
He was able to carve a niche for himself among the greats like Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Devanand, and continued to give memorable performances when paired with talents like Amitabh Bachchan and Naseeruddin Shah. His famous dialogue to Amitabh in ‘Deewar’ (1975) has gone into the Bollywood history as a quotable quote: ‘Mere paas Ma hai!’
Here in the legends of the city, poet Kumar Vikal would greet his friends as he stepped out of a Sector-17 plaza bar on sunny winter days in the 1970s, singing the line of a song picturised on Shasi: ‘Ni Sultana re! Pyar ka mausam aaya...’
And I still get giggles from my 4-year-young granddaughter, when I jump about and croon quite out of tune: ‘Le jayeinge, le jayeinge, dil wale dulhania le jayeinge’ from his film ‘Chor Machaye Shor’ with Mumtaz as his leading lady, vintage 1975.
Such was the appeal of this actor who, ailing and in wheelchair, had a hearty laugh when he was told two years ago that the Dadasaheb Phalke award had gone to him.
The one meeting with him that I have fond memories of was in 1982 when he met a few journalists to tell that he was relaunching Prithvi Theatre. Sitting in a Hotel Mountview room, he mockingly called his dear director a few names for making him loose all his money because ‘Junoon’ (1979) got critical acclaim but did not do too well at the box office.
But this is one performance of Shashi as Javed Khan which is still remembered and lauded.
The second grouse aired at that meeting was that his wife Jennifer Kendal would get the 1981 National Award as Best Actress for ‘36 Chowringhee Lane’, but it was Rekha who bagged it for ‘Umrao Jaan’. Well that had to be, for the popular imagination would anyway be with the disarming Lucknow courtesan poet portrayed by Rekha than an ageing Anglo-Indian English school teacher, even if Jennifer played with finesse.
However, what I was to recount with glee was a dialogue by this darling actor of ours, his comparison of theatre, his first love with his father Prithviraj and later with Geoffery Kendal’s Shakesbeare Company, with brands of cars.
This Junooni with a difference said, “I want to take theatre out of the rut into new times. Why must we always have Fiat or Ambassador theatre? Now is the time for Mercedes and Chevrolet theatre.” Well he and his family were able to achieve this and more at the Prithvi Theatre off the Juhu beach.