Decoding Shashi Kapoor – The Man Behind The Art

Raj Kapoor was the lovable loser. Shammi Kapoor was the larger than life ‘Yahoo’ superstar. Shashi Kapoor, on the other hand, did not have an evidently noticeable trait for the masses to associate his personality with. However, his greatest personality trait was the imprint he left in the world of cinema and theater.

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Shashi Kapoor was a man of art. Someone whose genius was not confined to merely acting. He wasn’t a star of Amitabh Bachchan’s magnitude, nor was he a heartthrob as sensational as Rishi Kapoor. But he had his own charm. His crooked teeth, his drop-dead gorgeous looks, and a laidback demeanor made him popular among the ladies. But he was equally popular among the movie critics of the day, who lauded almost all of his performances- even in movies where he shared screen space with one Amitabh Bachchan.

Yes. Amitabh Bachchan. The star of the show. The face that runs the place. Whether by chance, or design, Shashi Kapoor played the Batman to Bachchan’s Joker. Shashi Kapoor was always the best man; never the groom.

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His talent shone through, however. The man with probably the most famous Bollywood dialogue ever (‘Mere Paas Maa Hai’) was a director’s delight. He played the suave, urbane man with such conviction, that he was automatically cast in such roles at the time.

Where Shashi Kapoor truly made his mark, however, was outside the realm of commercial cinema. A man of literature, Shashi Kapoor founded the Prithvi theatre in 1978. It was in theatre, where he met the love of his life, Jennifer Kendal. To this day, Prithvi theatre is considered one of the reasons Hindi theatre is still alive in Mumbai. In fact, he was also, indirectly, responsible for the resurrection of the Opera House in erstwhile Bombay. The climax scene of his almost forgotten 1975 film Prem Kahani was shot in the then neglected building. Restorers got a glimpse of the magnificence of the structure, and the footage from the film proved crucial.

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Even as a film producer, Shashi Kapoor would regularly shun the commerce for the art. Most of his produced films were deeply entrenched in literature- be it Junoon, which was based on Ruskin Bond’s long story, ‘A Flight of Pigeons’, or Utsav, which was an adaptation of ancient Indian playwright Sudraka’s ‘Mrichakatika’. All his movies were way ahead of their times, and were the spiritual predecessors to what we today call ‘multiplex movies’.

Despite being in the limelight for so long, Shashi Kapoor was an unassuming, almost reclusive person in real life. He was a family man, always fiercely protective of them.

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His ill health robbed us of more performances from him. He could have easily transitioned from the hero to a character artiste (much like Rishi Kapoor has achieved of late), given his acting talent.

But if there is one takeaway from his life, it’s this- take the role life gives you, however small, and make the most of it. You never know how crucial you may be to the larger picture.

DailySocial extends its condolences to Shashi Kapoor’s friends, family and fans. Thank you for your art.

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Vishesh Jaiswal

I am a digital storyteller, more persuasive than needed. Also, I am Batman.

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