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A Legend Of Many Parts: Shashi Kapoor

Shashi Kapoor was born as Balbir Raj Kapoor to Prithviraj Kapoor and his wife in the then Calcutta, of British India, on 18 March 1938.
Shashi Kapoor (1938-2017)
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The legend that he was, Shashi Kapoor was born as Balbir Raj Kapoor to Prithviraj Kapoor and his wife in the then Calcutta, of British India, on 18 March 1938. He was the youngest brother of Raj Kapoor and Shammi Kapoor.

He started acting in films as a child in the late 1940s under the name of Shashiraj, as there was already another actor by the same name, who used to act in mythological films as a child artiste. However, his stint in Yash Chopra’s as the leading man in Dharmputra brought him to spotlight.

Shashi with his dear wife Jennifer Kendall
Shashi with his dear wife Jennifer Kendall

His best-known performances as a child actor were in ‘Aag’ (1948) and ‘Awaara’ (1951), where he played the younger version of the characters played by his older brother Raj Kapoor and in ‘Sangram’ (1950), where he played the younger version of Ashok Kumar and ‘Dana Paani’ (1953) where he acted with Bharat Bhushan. He worked in four Hindi films as a child artiste from 1948 to 1954.

Shashi gave the push for the alternative cinema in the 1970s with such films like Junoon, Kalyug, Utsav, and 36, Chowringhee Lane. In a career spanning over six decades, he gave iconic performances in films like Shakespeare Wallah, Waqt, Jab Jab Phool Khile, Trishul and Suhaag.

The Kapoor clan with Shashi at the centre
The Kapoor clan with Shashi at the centre

It is in Calcutta that he would meet his future wife Jennifer Kendal in 1956 while both were working for their respective theatre groups. Shashi was both assistant stage manager as well as an actor for his father’s theatre group, Prithvi Theatre. Geoffrey Kendal’s Shakespearean group was also present at the same time in Calcutta and Jennifer was Geoffrey’s daughter. After their subsequent meeting, the couple fell in love and after facing initial opposition from the Kendals and support from sister-in-law Geeta Bali, they eventually got married in July 1958. They acted in a number of films together, most notably in Merchant Ivory productions. It was with his wife that Shahsi revived Prithvi Theatre on 5 November 1978 in Mumbai. Prithvi Theatre was founded by Prithvi Raj Kapoor in 1944 but had closed down in 1960. The Indian government issued a commemorative stamp in 1995 to mark 50 years of ‘Prithvi Theatre’. Soon after, Jennifer’s death owing to cancer in 1984 shattered him from which he never actually recovered.

The poster of '36 Chowringhee Lane' which Shashi Kapoor produced
The poster of '36 Chowringhee Lane' which Shashi Kapoor produced

Shahsi Kapoor passed away in 2017, but his legacy continues to live on.

All Images: Google

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