Condolences, obituaries and anecdotes are flowing freely from Bollywood, as Shashi Kapoor, one of the most famous actors of the Kapoor family, took his last breath yesterday on 4 December. His goodwill and fond memories among his contemporaries is a testimony of the legacy that he has left behind.
Shashi Kapoor has been part of some major commercial hits, experimental films and cross-over projects. In fact, he is inarguably the only Indian actor of his era to have achieved this feat at the peak of his career. In his numerous Bollywood films, Kapoor has been seen sharing screen space with a number of actors — some also happen to be his immediate family — over the years. However, among all the on-screen pairings, there are a few which stand out.
With Tagore, Kapoor has delivered some memorable hits like the 1965 Yash Chopra directorial Waqt, Aamne Saamne (1967), Suhana Safar (1970), Aa Gale Lag Jaa (1973) and the critically acclaimed film New Delhi Times (1986). For this film Kapoor was honoured with the National Film Award for Best Actor.
In an interview, Tagore said that she learnt a lot from Kapoor — most importantly the ability to adapt to the limitations of a film and not complain. “‘When you are doing a film for money or to help a friend out, be clear about the motives and then finish what needs to be done. When you come to the set, and are aware of the limitations of the script or the director, don’t expect pigs to fly,’ he would often tell me,” says Tagore, according to The Print.
Kapoor’s pairing with Rakhee was also quite popular. They both had very different on-screen personas. The result of this pairing was an array of hit films — the first being their first film together, S Mukherjee’s 1971 flick Sharmeelee which went on to become a major box-office success. They later appeared together in films like Jaanwar Aur Insaan (1972), Kabhi Kabhie (1976), Baseraa (1981), Pighalta Aasman (1985), Doosara Aadmi (1977) and the critically acclaimed Trishna (1978) to name a few. Kabhi Kabhie remains a milestone in both of their individual careers; the chemistry between the two actors and the undercurrent of pain, remorse and anger in their performances was widely appreciated.
Malini-Kapoor formed a successful on-screen pair with films like Abhinetri (1970), Aap Beeti (1976), Maan Gaye Ustaad (1981), Aandhi Toofan (1985) and Do Aur Do Paanch (1980). Both these actors were also in great demand because of their good-looks; while Kapoor made women go weak in the knees, Malini had made her way to the top as Bollywood’s dream girl.
In an interview with The Hindustan Times, Malini says, “He was one of the most wonderful and nicest co-stars of mine. I am feeling really bad that he has passed away,” she further, talking about Kapoor’s long-time ailment, adds, “I had not been in touch with him since 25 years. From the time he was not well, he never used to come out anywhere, toh hum jaante bhi nahi the (even we didn’t come to know), since he was so sick.”
With Rekha, Kapoor was seen in many non-commercial films — Ijaazat (1988) or Vijeta (1983), or big commercial projects of the likes of Silsila or Baseraa which released in 1981. However, the most memorable partnerships of these two talents come from Kapoor’s production ventures — Kalyug, Utsav — which had some fabulous performances by Rekha. While Kalyug was more intense in terms of storytelling, Utsav was a period drama.
Kapoor made it big in the industry with the 1965 romantic drama Jab Jab Phool Khile that starred Nanda opposite him. The film went on to become a major blockbuster, also because of its songs and beautiful locales of Kashmir. Their performances in the film — both individually and as a romantic on-screen pair — was a major plus-point of the film.
The talented actress and multiple National Award winner Shabana Azmi was seen with her “childhood heartthrob” in films like Fakira (1976), Heera Aur Patthar (1977), the much-acclaimed film Junoon (1978) and in the 1994 English film In Custody. Azmi has immense reverence for Kapoor; she calls him a “trailblazer” for his huge contribution towards cinema and culture in Mumbai, by establishing Prithvi Theatre.
“On the first day, we were shooting the song ‘Dil mein tujhe bitha ke’. During rehearsals when the dance director, Satyanarayan, demonstrated the moves, I was aghast! I couldn’t get so intimate with Shashi Kapoor. Minutes later, my hero was banging on the door wanting to know what the problem was. Calling me a silly girl, he told me to come out when the shot was ready. When I arrived on the set, I found that he had changed all the moves so I’d be more comfortable,” Shabana Azmi said, as reported by The Times of India.
Kapoor’s on-screen pairing with other heroes was all the rage during the 1970s; but most importantly with Amitabh Bachchan. Both Kapoor and Bachchan have portrayed the roles of brothers (sometimes long-lost brothers) and best friends in films like Deewar, Namak Halaal, Kabhi Kabhie, Silsila, Trishul, Shaan to name a few. Nearly all these films have been major commercial successes upon their release. Kapoor was six-seven years elder to Bachchan, but he played the role of the latter’s younger brother in most of the films they starred together.