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Shashi Kapoor was born on March 18, 1938. His birth name is Balbir Raj Kapoor. But his mother did not like the name and began calling him Shashi - or moonbeam - since he was obsessed with the moon and spent long hours watching it. (All photos/mid-day archives)
Shashi Kapoor was born to Prithviraj Kapoor and Ramsarni Kapoor on March 18, 1938 in then Calcutta (Kolkata). He was given the name Balbir Raj - in keeping with the Kapoor family tradition of adopting the word 'Raj' (or 'king') in its many variations. But Ramsarni was less than happy with the name Balbir and thus changed it to Shashi. He completed his education from Don Bosco High School in Mumbai.
This nugget of information was extracted from the book Shashi Kapoor: The Householder, The Star, written by Aseem Chhabra and published by Rupa Publications in 2016. The star kid, son of legendary actor-director Prithviraj Kapoor, started to act in films since his childhood days and did 19 films as a child artist.
Shashi Kapoor was the third and youngest son of Prithviraj Kapoor. Raj Kapoor and Shammi Kapoor were his siblings. The book also says how Raj Kapoor used to call his brother 'taxi'. Raj Kapoor used the word 'taxi' to describe his brother when he was desperately trying to get dates from Shashi for Satyam Shivam Sundaram.
While actors were queueing up to play the lead role in the film, Raj strongly felt that only Shashi could play his younger self in this somewhat autobiographical tale. So he looked at his brother's schedule and coolly appropriated all the dates he had given other filmmakers. His frenetic lifestyle, which made a car his semi-permanent address, led to the nickname, 'taxi', the book says.
The youngest of the famous Kapoor brothers of Bollywood, he did not have their one defining and enduring cinematic image -- Raj's simple, honest 'tramp' in the Charlie Chaplin tradition or Shammi's Elvis-like jiving, rebellious 'playboy' persona. Shashi Kapoor, however, surpassed both in the sheer variety of acting.
Though among his first appearances onscreen were as a young Raj Kapoor in his elder brother's directorial debut Aag and the more acclaimed Awara, his first lead role was a Hindu fanatic in Yash Chopra's bold Dharmputra (1961).
This happened to be one-off as Shashi, with his copybook good looks, rakish smile, infectious charm, toothy grin and languid drawl, was more suitable as a lover-boy who always got the girl. In this avatar, he once even pipped Amitabh Bachchan -- in Kabhie Kabhie.
Shashi Kapoor's lean physique and charming smile were the highlights of his personality. He was also famous as a reasonable foil to the smouldering angry man in a number of films and it was in one of these roles where he once spoke the four most iconic and immortal words in Bollywood's history - Mere paas Ma hai in Deewar.
Shashi Kapoor was seen in a number of Bollywood films and some English ones too. He acted in English language films like Householder and Shakespeare-Wallah. Shashi Kapoor was among India's first actors to go international.
But Shashi Kapoor, for all his international prowess, was also a major player in Bollywood with appearances in 148 films between 1945 and 1998, in which he was the sole hero in 61 and a lead hero in 53 multi starrers, supporting actor in 21, did 7 guest appearances and did four roles as a child artiste (including the two RK films).
These included evergreen hits such as B.R. Chopra's 'Waqt' (where he again happened to be the youngest brother to flamboyant elder siblings Raj Kumar and Sunil Dutt), 'Jab Jab Phool Khile' opposite Nanda, the madcap 'Pyar Kiya Jaa' -- which happened to be among the funniest movies made in Bollywood, 'Haseena Maan Jayegi' opposite Babita, who later became his sister-in-law and mother of Karisma and Kareena, 'Fakira', 'Kaala Patthar' -- where he held his own against Amitabh and Shatrughan Sinha, 'Do Aur Do Paanch', 'Silsila', 'Shaan', 'Namak Halaal' and 'New Delhi Times', where he played a crusading newspaper editor.
Then, there were some grey roles in films like Roti Kapada Aur Makaan, Satyam Shivam Sundaram, Kalyug -- a contemporary retelling of the Mahabharata in which his character is named Karan, and is totally like his mythological namesake, including in the manner of death.
This was still not the entirety of Shashi Kapoor's contribution. In 1980, he started his own film company, using his Bollywood earnings into making films with the likes of Shyam Benegal and Aparna Sen.
These included gems like 36 Chowringhee Lane, which saw his wife, veteran theatre actor Jennifer Kendall as an ageing teacher in a changing, oblivious world, Junoon, 'Vijeta' -- a paean to the Indian Air Force -- 'Utsav' and 'Kalyug'. He also had acclaimed performances in some of them, particularly the 1857 revolt drama 'Junoon' where it takes a stern Naseeruddin Shah to remind him of his duty.
Shashi Kapoor also established the famous Prithvi Theatre on November 5, 1978, in Mumbai.
Pictured: Shashi Kapoor with his son Karan Kapoor
His contribution was recognised with the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement award in 2010 and the highest accolade -- the Dadasahab Phalke Award in 2015.
In his life too, he played several roles -- a member of an already famous film clan, marrying into another performance-inclined family -- the Kendalls, but after a difficult romance with Jennifer Kendall -- India's first international star, arguably, the most handsome Hindi film actor of that period, a producer who backed some of the best independent movies in India in the 1970s and 1980s, a theatre enthusiast, the family man who did all he could to support his household, even if it meant acting in a few rather terrible (but well-paying) movies, as his biographer Aseem Chabbra maintains.
A star definitely, he was above all an eminently likeable star as all his contemporaries and co-stars attest willingly. And that is ultimately what's important.
In the year 2011, the versatile actor was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the Indian government. During the 55th Filmfare awards, Shashi Kapoor was awarded the Lifetime Achievement award.
In the year 1958, he got married to Jennifer Kendal. The couple acted in a few films produced by Merchant Ivory productions. Shashi lost his wife Jennifer Kendal to cancer in the year 1984. His wife's death was a real blow to Shashi Kapoor and he stopped taking care of himself. Pictured: Shashi Kapoor with his wife Jennifer and son Kunal Kapoor
Shashi Kapoor passed away at the age of 79. Amitabh Bachchan revealed that Shashi Kapoor had somewhere 'let himself go' after the demise of his wife Jennifer Kendal.
'He had been ailing .. somewhere he had let himself go after the passing away of his dear wife Jennifer .. I had visited him on occasion in Hospital during some of the times he had been hospitalised earlier .. but I never went to see him again .. I would never have .. I never ever wanted to see this beautiful friend and 'samdhi' in the state I saw him in hospital ..'. and I did not today, when they informed me that he had gone,' said Big B.
Amitabh Bachchan, who acted with Shashi Kapoor in blockbusters including 'Deewar' (1975), 'Kabhi Kabhie' (1976), 'Trishul' (1978) and 'Namak Halaal' (1982), ended the blog on a sad note, saying, 'He fondly addressed me as 'babbua' .. and with him have gone many incredible unread chapters of his and my life.'
For well over three decades, Shashi Kapoor, the embodiment of romance and charm, made millions of fans swoon over his dimpled smile.
Shashi Kapoor was given a state funeral, which was held amid massive security. The actor producer's body was taken to the crematorium from his Juhu home in an ambulance. His three children -- sons Kunal and Karan and daughter Sanjna -- were there as were other members of the Kapoor family and scores of film personalities to bid farewell to the actor who straddled the worlds of commercial and art house cinema. About a dozen policemen draped the actor's body in tricolour, which was later removed for the rituals.