the-south-asian.com April 2003
- REFLECTIONS OF ANOTHER DAY
Isidore Domnick Mendis
Best Buddy Ismail Merchant
But it is these stirring performances that have made Shashi Kapoor the actor that he is. Though in the industry he may have stuck to masala films but as an international star he was loved for his performances in Merchant-Ivory productions such as Shakespeare Wallah (1965), Householder (1969), Heat and Dust (1982) and In Custody (1994).
Understandably some of his fondest memories are those of Merchant-Ivory films "Each movie was original and a labour of love," says Kapoor who was in Delhi for the release of Ismail Merchantís new book My Passage From India.
Needless to say the two are still the best of buddies and as Kapoor says, " We have been friends through thick and thin and we intend to stay like that."
All time idol Brother Raj Kapoor
Another person he looked up to was brother Raj Kapoor. " He was like a father to me, he often called me his eldest son. I worked with him in Aag and Awaara and later in Satyam Shivam Sundaram. It was a wonderful experience. He was a hard task master and whenever I told him I couldnít work anymore he would tempt me with an extra omelette and a soft drink," says Kapoor and adds that he idolizes his brother for another reason---" He helped me get married to Jennifer."
And that is a story in itself. " Jennifer and I were in Singapore and did not have money to fly to Bombay to get married in the presence of my parents. I wrote to bhaiyya and he immediately sent me money for the tickets. I can never forget that gesture. Professionally we may have gone our own ways but he was and still is my idol and I dedicate all my success in films to him."
Some of the big commercial successes he clocked in Bollywood were the ones in which he was paired with Amitabh Bachchan. Apart from films like Silsila, Deewar, Do Aur Do Paanch, Trishul and Kabhi Kabhi where he co-starred with Bachchan, the other Hindi films he would always remember are his home productions.
" I am proud of all the films I made. Films like Vijayta, Junoon, Utsav and Ajooba. But I consider 36 Chowringhee Lane as my finest work. I am very proud of it and think this is the most sensitive film ever made in India." Perhaps one of the reasons he remembers it so fondly is because his wife Jennifer was very closely associated in its making.
Wife Jennifer Kapoor
His biggest regret in life was Jenniferís death. "After 26 years of happy married life I lost Jennifer to cancer. Apart from being my wife she was my teacher. I learnt lot of things from her not just about acting but also about being a good human being," says he.
Kapoor first met Jennifer in 1956 when he was 18. She was then an up-and-coming London theatre star and daughter of the renowned theatre artists, Laura and Geoffery Kendal. It was instant chemistry and the two went on to do a number of international films together the most notable being Shakespeare Wallah in which a struggling English troupe of Shakespearan actors tours India and the lead actress [Jennifer Kendal] falls in love with a famous Indian star [Shashi Kapoor] who is already having an affair on the side with a popular Indian film actress, Manjula (Madhur Jaffrey).
" Jennifer was a great actress. I am what I am because of her," says Shashi Kapoor whose three children Karan, Kunal and Sanjana are leading their own lives. Karan is a professional photographer based in London. Kunal works for an advertising firm in Mumbai and Sanjana looks after Prithvi Theatre.
Prithvi Theatre brings a fond smile on his face. He and Jennifer were instrumental in setting it up on November 5, 1978 - to realize Prithvirajís dream of promoting the performing arts. It has since become one of the country's premiere centres of cultural arts.
"Prithvi theatres organises and hosts the annual Prithvi festival where young people are provided a platform to display their talent," says Kapoor whose love for good theatre has not diminished since the days in the early fifties when he would come to Delhi with different theatre groups and stage plays in Delhiís Delite Cinema for a fee of Rs. 15.
" Those were great days. We would all pack up in a third class compartment and keep rehearsing till we reached Delhi. All for a fee of Rs.15. Money never mattered then." In fact money doesnít matter to him now as well. " In the end itís all like a dream. All you are left with are memories," as his eyes well up with tears and he readies to take the flight back to Mumbai. Tomorrow is an important day. Itís Jenniferís birth anniversary. And on this day we all collect to pray for the lady who meant so much to usÖ.."
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