When they spoke about Vinod Khanna, they labelled him with style. When they spoke about Rishi Kapoor or Shammi Kapoor, they labelled them with romance, suave and charm. And when they spoke about Amitabh Bachchan, they labelled him as the tall pillar of grace and poise. But when it came to Shashi Kapoor, they fumbled a few times over. Not only because he came with a bag full of exquisite warmth and talent, but because every time he graced the golden screen, he reflected style, grace, poise, and above all, incredible charm.
A man that defined the kind of charisma and charm, in Indian Cinema that one had never seen before. Be it his exceptional versatility that he portrayed in some of the most iconic roles on screen, to a human being that showcased grace and goodness off it, Shashi Kapoor was one that a generation of Cinema lovers fell in love with at first sight. And with all those golden platter qualities, came a remarkably unique humility to complement it with. For someone who was born in a family of legends and cinema lineage, Shashi Kapoor was quite the different gem that stemmed from the Kapoor clan.
With the star system being an eminent feature amongst actors, that went on to become national and global names and household favourites, Shashi Kapoor always embraced the rare quality of extending his goodwill and gratitude to people lower down the line on a film set, right from a junior technician, to the assistant director. Let alone, the kind of respect and dignity that he was known for extending to all his actresses and heroines. Theatre, is perhaps the purest form of visual art, that every artists either hopes to be associated with, or wants to contribute to the cause of. Today, Prithvi Theatre (an iconic institution in Juhu, Mumbai), that Shashi Kapoor started in honour of his father, the late Prithvi Raj Kapoor, stands alone as a platform and a medium that has given so many young, budding and talented actors, the privilege to grace the stage and flaunt their magic. There couldn’t be a better way of performing charity and extending one’s gratitude to films and art, than setting up a beautiful ambience for actors, artists, filmmakers and scriptwriters, that come to Prithvi Theatre every day, to soak in the energy and smell of creativity. And this, is where Shashi Kapoor stood out from the rest.
Some time last year, I was at Prithvi Theatre (a place I long to make frequent trips to) in hope of renewing my sense of inspiration. Whilst I enjoyed sipping my Irish Coffee and observing the filled up tables along the sun that was about to set, I see a wheel chair passing by me. In a shock of excitement and in awe that I’ve always been of him, I see a a rather frail Shashi Kapoor seated, yet calmly and peacefully enjoying the flautist playing his beats as the evening went along. It was a surreal moment in sight. Whilst I shamelessly stared at the Star that managed to take mine and every woman’s breath away even when he wasn’t in the best of health conditions, a stream of emotions and filmy visuals came flashing back in front of my eyes. I walked up to him, placed my hand on his shoulder and like a child not knowing what else to say, I went “Good evening Sir, my name is Zoran. You’ve been an inspiration to me. Thank you.” Puzzled by an unknown boy walking up to him, he held my hand and replied with his signature grace, “Hi Zoran. How are you. Hope you’re having a good evening.” My heart didn’t warrant me to trouble him anymore after that brief, yet heartfelt and unforgettable exchange. But what my heart cannot come to terms with, is the news of him passing away just a few hours back. His deteriorating health and plagued illness was enough of an indication of the outcome that has now shocked the world and every possible cinema lover.
But still, as I sit on my balcony, nothing but a few tears and the memory of that exchange, on that beautiful evening at Prithvi Theatre come to mind. Because truly, he was an icon that set an example and a benchmark that almost no one has been able to come close to. And I fear with a heavy heart, that they may never make another one like Shashi Kapoor ever again. Rest In Peace, you gorgeous, handsome gentleman.