Shashi Kapoor: A gentleman and a consummate actor

“Hey Ranji did you meet Barasaab (Shammi Kapoor)? The other day he was remembering you and appreciating your memory of our works. How do you remember so much?” Shashi Kapoor told me during one of our hundred or more conversations. This was a decade ago.

In my journalistic career of three decades, I shared the best vibes with all the senior Kapoors. To me, Raj Kapoor was the Joker Uncle, Shammi Kapoor was the Madman Uncle and Shashi Kapoor, the youngest uncle. “You have given three of us such lovely names,” he chuckled.

Shashi Kapoor was very fond of Bimal Roy and Nanda. He often said, “It is Bimalda who taught me how to face the camera and never be conscious of it. In Prem Patra, he asked me to use the silent language of my eyes without speaking. My heroine Sadhana, who was initially hesitant to work with me, complimented me after the shot. Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Gulzar, in all fairness, rank nowhere compared to Bimalda.”

It was Nanda who remained his favourite co-star. “Nanda till date remains my most favourite heroine. Do you know the likes of Sridevi have blatantly imitated her Yeh Shama song sequence from Jab Jab Phool Khile in their films? She was like a fairy in an awesome film industry which has no respect for genuine talent. Very few could match Nanda in her transparency and emotional abilities,” Shashi Kapoor confessed to me.

When I asked him, “Please tell me about Jennifer aunty. I never saw her.” He sighed, flashed his legendary toothy smile and said, “See how life is static for me without her. Not only was she my inspiration but also my real mentor during good, medium and bad days. She really was the greatest influence on me.”

Speaking about his famous discovery, Aparna Sen, he was not so happy, ”She was brilliant in every frame of 36 Chowringhee Lane as a director. Later, she changed. Jis gali mein jana nahin, us gali ka pata puchna nahin.”

Never have I heard the gentleman Kapoor speak ill about anybody even if he was hurt. “You know when Soumitrada Chatterjee refused Kalyug, I was initially hurt. But I never bore any grudge against him. After all he had his own reasons and was not keeping well. Manikda (Satyajit Ray) and Subrata Mitra (cinematographer) are the most genuine human beings I ever came across.”

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