Shashi Kapoor: Five memorable movies

Posted on December 5, 2017


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Whittling down Kapoor’s career to a handful of films isn’t easy. Here’s a list that’s far from definitive but honours the memory of one of our most beloved stars.

How strange it seems to remember that Shashi Kapoor was born Balbir Raj Kapoor. That’s too stentorian, too imposing, too dramatic a name for an actor we know as a gentle charmer on screen. But that was the essence of Shashi Kapoor’s mainstream Hindi-cinema career. The pitch of those films was Balbir Raj Kapoor, and he kept infusing a Shashi Kapoor-ness into them. Almost every line of dialogue seemed to say, with that sheepish, crooked-teeth grin, “You know, I’m not really Balbir Raj Kapoor. I’m just… Shashi.”

Shashi Kapoor’s recessive (as opposed to Amitabh Bachchan’s dominant) screen persona would have been a better fit in today’s Hindi cinema, guided by today’s more Westernised directors. You can imagine him smouldering as the young graduate of Rocket Singh – Salesman of the Year, as the mysterious hockey coach of Chak De India, as the inwardly seething scion in Dil Dhadakne Do, or even as the empathetic shrink of Dear Zindagi. Still, Shashi Kapoor soldiered on, through good films and (many, many) bad films — along the way, becoming one of our earliest international stars, one of our most high-profile promoters of art cinema, and, quite simply, one of our most beloved stars.

To whittle down Shashi Kapoor’s career to five memorable films (or performances) isn’t easy for a seventies-born like me, for nostalgia often comes in the way of “quality” — life would be too tragic if our memories of cinema were defined only by award-worthiness. Shashi Kapoor is as much about his much-decorated turn as a journalist in New Delhi Times as the lover-boy in Aa Gale Lag Jaa, pursuing a petulant Sharmila Tagore through the snow, singing Tera mujhse hai pehle, a ridiculous maroon scarf draped around his head. So here, a list that’s far from definitive, but which I think honours the man’s memory.

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Posted in: Cinema: Hindi