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Last Updated Saturday April 21 2018 08:32 PM IST

Shashi Kapoor: Bollywood's ultimate charmer

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Shashi Kapoor: Bollywood's ultimate charmer

New Delhi: With those copybook good looks and that rakish smile, he was the stuff of teen crushes that evolved into wistful nostalgia as the years rolled by.

Shashi Kapoor, 79, when he passed away in Mumbai after a prolonged illness on Monday, will be remembered for his many commercial films, his commitment to quality cinema when he turned filmmaker but also as the man who embodied ageless elegance.

"He was god's good man. He was such a beautiful human being beyond anything else," director Shyam Benegal, who worked with the late actor in "Kalyug" and "Junoon", told PTI.

Shashi Kapoor: Bollywood's ultimate charmer Shashi Kapoor with Zeenat Aman in 'Satyam Shivam Sundaram.'

Shashi Kapoor was also effortlessly charming, whether at 25 when he was dancing around trees or at 65 when age and the famous Kapoor weight had slowed him down.

The fame was destined, the legacy of quiet dignity the result of retaining a certain humility despite a lifetime under the harsh arclights.

Shashi Kapoor: Bollywood's ultimate charmer

He was born an unprepossessing Balbirraj on March 18, 1938 in what was then Calcutta to Rama Devi and Prithviraj Kapoor, the son of a legendary actor who went on to complete the famed Kapoor trinity with his older brothers Raj and Shammi.

The tryst with cinema started in 1961 with Yash Chopra's "Dharmputra". The next two-and-half decades saw a dizzying line-up of films, some good, like "Kabhi Kabhie" and "New Delhi Times", others like "Fakira" and "Ghar Ek Mandir" eminently forgettable, even embarrassing.

  • RIP Shashi Kapoor

    Veteran Bollywood actor Shashi Kapoor poses with Karishma Kapoor, Ranbir Kapoor, Rekha, Neetu Singh and Rishi Kapoor after receiving Dada Saheb Phalke Award in Mumbai. Shashi Kapoor passed away in Mumbai on Monday. PTI/File

    RIP Shashi Kapoor
  • RIP Shashi Kapoor

    Shashi Kapoor is greeted by Raj Kapoor's wife Krishna after receiving the Dada saheb Phalke Award. PTI

    RIP Shashi Kapoor
  • RIP Shashi Kapoor

    Legendary actor Shashi Kapoor poses with actress Rekha, Shabana Aazmi, Supriya Pathak, Zeenat Aman, Asha Parekh and Wahida Rehman. PTI

    RIP Shashi Kapoor
  • RIP Shashi Kapoor

    Veteran actor Shashi Kapoor with other Kapoor family members after receiving the Dadasaheb Phalke award at a ceremony in Mumbai. PTI

    RIP Shashi Kapoor
  • RIP Shashi Kapoor

    Shashi Kapoor with actors Tanuja Chandra and Kajol and singer Usha Uthup during presentation of Padma Awards at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi in 2011. PTI

    RIP Shashi Kapoor
  • RIP Shashi Kapoor

    Shashi Kapoor receives the national award for best actor from president Giani Zail Singh at Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi, on June 12, 1986.

    RIP Shashi Kapoor
  • RIP Shashi Kapoor

    Shashi Kapoor with Mouhsin Kumar in the Hindi film 'Sawal'

    RIP Shashi Kapoor
  • RIP Shashi Kapoor

    Moushmi Chatterjee with Shashi Kapoor in the Hindi film 'Swayamvar'.

    RIP Shashi Kapoor
  • RIP Shashi Kapoor

    The Kapoor family: (Back row from left) Rima, Randhir, Neila, Kanchan, Shammi, Sanjana, Shashi and Jennifer. (Middle - from left) Babita, Raj Kapoor, Krishna and Neetu. (Bottom - from left) Rajiv, Aditya, Karishma and Rishi Kapoor

    RIP Shashi Kapoor

But Shashi Kapoor was not just a star, one more in an ensemble cast in the multi-starrers that were the vogue in the 1980s or another face in a brain dead Bollywood melodrama. He straddled two worlds with his partnership with James Ivory and Ismail Merchant resulting in films like "The Householder", "Shakespearewallah" and "Heat and Dust" early in his career.

The real turnaround came in 1980 when he started his own company Film Vala, diverting some of the money he had made in Bollywood into making films with the likes of Benegal and Aparna Sen. The partnership resulted in gems like "36 Chowringhee Lane", which saw his wife, veteran theater actor Jennifer Kendal, as an aging teacher in a changing world, "Junoon", "Vijeta", "Utsav" and "Kalyug".

Shashi Kapoor: Bollywood's ultimate charmer Shashi Kapoor and Saira Banu

Shashi Kapoor himself acted in several of these films - his roles as an obsessive suitor in "Junoon" set in 1857, as the brooding husband and father in "Vijeta" and as the suave, conflicted Karan in "Kalyug", a modern-day adaptation of the Mahabharata, see the actor deliver some of his career's finest performances.

But Shashi Kapoor was more than just an actor, an inheritor of the Kapoor family legacy of showbiz and style or a filmmaker with undeniable class.

Shashi Kapoor: Bollywood's ultimate charmer Shashi kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan from the film 'Deewar' which had the famous dialogue, 'mere paas maa hain.'

He was the star with no starry airs, the man who stayed steadfastly loyal to his wife through more than 25 years of marriage with scarcely a hint of scandal and the ultimate hero who always had a kind word for his fans.

Which other actor, in his hey day in the 1980s, would not just smile when a bunch of giggly, starry-eyed teens barge into his hotel room, but also welcome them in, take time to talk to them individually and leave them to handle things while he went into the next room for an interview.

That he maintained a relationship with the group - among them this correspondent - through his three days in Delhi, inviting them to watch a shoot and taking time off to talk to them is the stuff of true greatness.

Shashi Kapoor: Bollywood's ultimate charmer A still from the movie 'Roti, Kapda aur Makaan.'

He stood apart from his peers, part of the rat race and yet not part of it.

And then, with his wife's death in 1984 it was as if the very life had begun ebbing away from him too. The weight started piling and the roles started dwindling.

Shashi Kapoor began fading away from the headlines.

He appeared in few films, as the corpulent Urdu poet Noor in Ismail Merchant's "In Custody" in 1993 and as a narrator in "Jinnah" some years after that. He also revived his father's Prithvi Theatre, a job now taken over by his daughter Sanjana.

The sons, Kunal and Karan, tried dabbling in films and then stood respectfully away when they realized it was not for them.

Ill health felled Shashi Kapoor and when he was awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke award in 2015, he was too unwell to travel to New Delhi to get it. It was 17 years after he retired into the quiet shadows. Union minister Arun Jaitley went to Mumbai to honor him.

But the old charm still lingered, the silver hair that refused to be dyed adding to that grace and somewhere still that old charisma.

Bollywood's ultimate charmer has gone, leaving a legacy of decency and elegance that may find few followers in the film industry of today.

The opinions expressed here do not reflect those of Malayala Manorama. Legal action under the IT Act will be taken against those making derogatory and obscene statements.

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