I owe Shashi Kapoor my career: Shobhaa De pays tribute to India's first global star
For well over three decades, Shashi Kapoor, the embodiment of romance and charm, made millions of fans swoon over his dimpled smile. Last night, he departed to charm angels above at 79. Shobhaa De pays rich tribute to the legend
I owe Shashi Kapoor a big one. In fact, I owe him my career. I'm not sure if I ever mentioned my lucky break to him over the years that I knew him. Had I done that, he would probably have smiled his lop-sided smile, and playfully cracked a joke. Shashi Kapoor had a great sense of humour.
Here's how my break happened: I was asked to write an "imaginary" interview with a movie star of my choice by magazine publishing's big daddy, Nari Hira, who was planning to launch a sensational movie magazine to challenge the monopoly of the goody-goody film magazines of that era. This was back in the '70s. I was flummoxed, and totally stumped. I was not an avid Bollywood fan. Nor a regular movie-watcher. I didn't know a single film personality. I told him as much. He didn't seem to think it all that important. "Write it anyway... I want to check your style."
It was a tough and challenging assignment for a rookie journo. I decided to recklessly give it a shot. The only movie-star who appealed to me at the time was Shashi Kapoor. I had not watched a single film of his. But he was cute! He was different from the rest, and stood out in all his interviews that I had read. He seemed 'normal'. And very likeable. A regular sort of chap. No false airs. Above all, he was devastatingly handsome — a good looking man by any standards, with silky eyelashes framing a pair of naughty eyes. I jauntily dashed off the piece, lacing it with 'quotable quotes', which I made up as I went along. I must have done something right, for I got the job! And with that unconventional start, my eleven-year journey with Stardust took off — all thanks to a marvellous stranger called Shashi Kapoor!
It was only after that writing debut of mine that I began watching his films. I remember a phone call he made to my parent's residence, where I lived, to thank me for a story we had carried in Stardust. My sister, who had taken the call, thought it was a prank, and ticked off the caller, before disconnecting. He called back, and assured her it was indeed Shashi Kapoor on the line. I was breathless with excitement, and blabbered some nonsense. He was amused, and made a joke out of the incident. Next day, a huge bouquet of roses arrived, with a really charming note apologising for any embarrassment he may have caused in my conservative family. Of course, I fell instantly in love with him! As did every woman he ever interacted with. It was a massive, secret crush I nurtured for years. At that point, India was in love with just two heroes — Shashi Kapoor, and Rajesh Khanna, the other heart throb.
Watch video: Bollywood legend Shashi Kapoor passes away at 79
When I look back at the fan following of these two superstars, it is obvious that our idea of the fantasy-man all those decades ago was radically different from what it is today. Both men were of a certain mould – soft, non-threatening, romantic. That idyll ended shortly, with the arrival of Amitabh Bachchan. Nothing was the same after Zanjeer. But for those of us who were loyalists, the Shashi Kapoor fixation stayed. I liked him best in two quiet, elegant films — The Householder and Siddharth. For me, these two captured the beauty and sweetness of the man. He acted in over 175 films, and was trusted implicitly by the film industry, to deliver what was expected of him, regardless of the mediocre content he was stuck with. I don't know of a single person who had a bad word for Shashi Kapoor. His superbly timed delivery of that iconic line, "Mere paas ma hai" in Deewar, ensured his permanent place in the star-studded Bollywood pantheon of greats.
Marrying his first (and perhaps only love), Jennifer Kendal, early on in his career (1958), was the best thing to happen to the man who was born Balbir Prithviraj Kapoor (1938), the youngest of Prithviraj Kapoor's multi-talented sons. Shashi was the 'well-behaved' Kapoor. More a 'sahib' than a flamboyant movie star. Unlike the wild and wonderful Shammi Kapoor, or the passionate Raj Kapoor, Shashi's refinement and sophistication marked him out from the rest of his rambunctious family. Whether these were innate qualities, or acquired after his marriage to Jennifer, they remained with him till the very end. Shashi Kapoor leaves his fans with wonderful memories of a life well lived, and a career that inspired. As for me, the crush can never die! I remained an ardent fan. Farewell, dear Shashi Kapoor. Smile your lop-sided smile for the angels — and break their hearts!