In an era when Bollywood stars considered Bandra-Juhu as the place to be in, the Kapoors went against the norm and set themselves up at Chembur. And unlike other stars of the age, who stayed aloof from the general public, RK and his family would go out into the general public. Even today, RK Studios publicly celebrates Holi, Ganesha and Diwali.
And even today, you will find Randhir Kapoor at Geeta Bhavan near Chembur railway station, every weekend, enjoying his regular idli-vada. The waiters told me he has at least two servings of idli-vada sambar, without fail. Whenever I visit Bombay, I stay at Chembur and break my fast at Geeta Bhavan each morning. If it’s a weekend, I see Daboo there invariably. And invariably, he nods at me.
And even today, aspiring young Chemburkars wait in a long queue outside RK Studios, hoping to be called in for bit roles, as did many of my friends from BARC in our younger days.
Privthiraj Kapoor, the patriarch of the Kapoor clan, sired three sons. The youngest of these three is Balbir Raj, better known as Shashi Kapoor.
It is Shashi baba’s birthday on March 18, and I felt like writing a small tribute to this suave, dashing scion of India’s first family of cinema – notwithstanding the Big B and his brood!
Shashi Kapoor, unlike his boisterous brother Shammi, had a poor sense of rhythm and couldn’t dance for nuts. But what he lacked in rambunctiousness, he made up for in endearing charm and sheer good looks. There was a freshness, an eagerness, a joie-de-vivre in Shashi Kapoor that struck an instant rapport with Young India of the 1960’s.
He began at the age of five as a child artiste, and became a hit with his very first adult lead role in Dharmaputra in 1961, an award winning movie about the evils of Partition, that I finally saw when I became an adult myself.
Shashi formed a successful pair with another young artiste of his time, Nanda. Together, they starred in many silver jubilees hits of the sixties, like Jab Jab Phool Kile and Raja Saab. Through his long career spanning three decades, Shashi starred in over two hundred movies, most of them in lead roles.
Along with his talent, what set Shashi Kapoor apart from his contemporaries was his impeccable English. He was one the first Indians to star in movies made in the West. Although Inder Sen Johar starred in English movies a few years before Shashi did, he acted in small roles. Shashi Kapoor, on the other hand, played lead roles in English movies, notably those made by Merchant-Ivory. No other Indian star of that era achieved that. And, along with Simi Grewal, he created a national sensation by appearing nude in a particularly sensuous scene from the controversial English movie Siddartha in 1972, based on a novel by Herman Hesse.
Unlike his siblings, Shashi maintained his slim physique well into his forties, thanks largely to a strict diet regimen by his wife. That helped him star in lead roles opposite heroines twenty years younger. After Jennifer’s untimely death in 1984, Shashi simply let himself go and grew to enormous proportions. His decline as an actor thereafter was rapid.
Like Raj Kapoor and his father Prithviraj, Shashi Kapoor tried his hand at producing movies himself, with considerable success. Junoon, produced by him in 1980 won the National Award. His Kalyug won the Filmfare Award in 1982, while Muhafiz won a Special mention award in 1993. As an actor too, Shashi won many an award, culminating in the Padma Bhushan in 2011.
I last saw him on screen in Utsav, a period film based on a Sanskrit play called Mrichchakatika, that he produced in 1984. In his role as Samsthanak, a spurned lover, he was grossly obese and quite pathetic to look at. Although the movie was a moderate commercial success, perhaps because it had frequent visual references to the Kamasutra, I felt sorry for Shashi Kapoor.
Shashi Kapoor has lost some weight since, but he is a shadow of what he used to be, alas. I would rather remember him as a dashing and dapper young man, with stunning features and a dimpled smile that could make an Amazon swoon!
Here is Shashi Kapoor in a hit song from Kala Patthar, one of my favorites.
Happy Birthday, Shashi baba. Fakiraa, chal chala chal.
Cheers … Srini.