Legendary actor and producer Shashi Kapoor died on Monday in Mumbai at the age of 79. He had been suffering from various ailments for many years.
Kapoor was a second-generation actor. The son of theatre personality Prithviraj Kapoor and the brother of Raj and Shammi, Shashi Kapoor began his screen career as a child actor in such films as Sangram (1950) and Awara (1951).
Kapoor also acted in plays as a child and as a teenager before appearing in his first adult role in Yash Chopra’s Partition-themed Dharamputra in 1961. Over a 110 films would follow, both in Hindi and English.
Among the actor’s most-loved films was Jab Jab Phool Khile (1965), in which he plays a Kashmiri boatman who falls in love with an affluent tourist (Nanda). The Kapoor-Nanda pairing proved to be highly popular, sealing Kapoor’s reputation as a charming ladies’ man.
Apart from headlining movies such as the box office hit Fakira (1979), Kapoor proved to be an effective foil to Amitabh Bachchan’s smouldering Angry Young Man character in the 1970s. Kapoor and Bachchan appeared in many films in the decade and the following one, such as Trishul (1978), Suhaag (1979), Do Aur Do Paanch (1980) and Shaan (1980). Yet, it is Yash Chopra’s Deewar (1975), in which they played brothers on opposite sides of the law, that is most remembered.
Kapoor also appeared in English films, chiefly those by the Merchant-Ivory Productions. His collaboration with James Ivory and Ismail Merchant made him one of the earliest Indian crossover stars. These films included The Householder (1963), Shakespeare Wallah (1965), Siddhartha (1972) and Heat and Dust (1983). Shakespeare Wallah, also starring his sister-in-law Felicity Kendal and his in-laws Geoffrey Kendal and Laura Liddell, is currently being restored.
Kapoor’s stint as a producer led to the arthouse classics Junoon (1978), Kalyug (1981), Vijeta (1982) and Utsav (1984). In an interview with Canadian broadcaster Shushma Datt, Kapoor revealed that production was a life-long wish, which he fulfilled along with his wife Jennifer Kendal in 1977.
“Firstly, Jennifer and I wanted to start a company [production], through which I could work in great films,” Kapoor said in the interview. “We also wanted to start a theatre, where could make great plays, which also helps new actors to do good dramas. In 1978 we started working on my film Junoon and started the Prithvi Theatre too in the same year.”
In a statement, actor Shekhar Suman, who made his debut in Utsav, paid his tributes: “Saddest day of my life... Shashi Kapoor ji passed away. The man to whom I owe my entire career. I am grateful to him for all my professional achievements, for giving me my first and the biggest break as a lead in “Utsav” opposite Rekha... Shashi Kapoor was the most handsome man the film industry has ever seen. A ladies man, a gentleman, a great actor and a passionate producer.”
Kapoor’s career received a setback after the death of his beloved wife in 1984. Battling depression and weight gain, the actor cut back his screen roles, and his most noteworthy films during this period were New Delhi Times (1986) and Sammy and Rosie Get Laid (1987), and Side Streets (1998).