Monday, March 18, 2013

Shashi Kapoor - overlooked but never overshadowed



One of my all time favorite actors, Shashi Kapoor (ne Balbir Raj Kapoor) turns 75 today. This year also marks the 65th anniversary of his debut on the silver screen in his brother Raj Kapoor's movie 'Aag'. And finally, this year would have been the 55th wedding anniversary to his beloved wife Jennifer (who passed away from cancer in 1984) with whom he had three children. This is a reposting of a write up I did several years ago to Shashiji, long considered one of Bollywood's favorite sons but also one of it's most underrated. His flame never shone quite as bright as his elder brother Raj or as his contemporary (and close friend) Amitabh - but he holds a special place in my heart and countless other fans of Hindi films. Indeed, click on most any Bollylink on the side of this post and you will find a plethora of Shashi fans. Like me they just adore him and wax poetic about his acting, sense of style, how 'Shashilicious' he is and so on and so forth.



I missed much of his early career in the 60's & 70's but after seeing him in 'Chor Sipahee' during my first trip back to India in 1977 I instantly became a fan. I remember having lengthy discourses with Indian friends about who was better, Amitabh or Shashi? Even when renting VHS tapes at the Indian grocery store I would ask my parents to only get the movies starring either of them and when they started doing their 'buddy movies' together - well that was one heck of an era for this Bollywood fan. To this day they both remain my two favorite heroes and asking me to pick between them simply cannot be done. Amitabh was larger than life - an impossibly tall superman of an actor, with movie star good looks, sporting perfectly coiffed hair and whose baritone voice shook the goondas to their core. Click on the below link for a lovely retrospective of Shashiji's career from those in the industry who knew him best...

http://www.ndtv.com/video/player/bollywood-roots/shashi-kapoor-s-spectacular-bollywood-journey/226639

But Shashi? He was of average height at best, had curly hair that had a mind of it's own, who had a distinctive voice indeed but nothing earth-shaking and while unmistakably handsome - his smile betrayed some crooked choppers that made him look, well accessible. Because you see, yours truly was of average height, had curly hair that would expand exponentially in the Texas humidity, had teeth so crooked I needed braces for years and had a voice that would never be picked to narrate any documentaries. I loved Shashi because he wore all his imperfections on his sleeve and never tried to be more than what he was - he showed me that to be truly successful one just had to have 'it' and boy, did he ever. Amitabh represented the superhero whom I could admire from afar and could never be - while Shashi was the everyman whose films I watched and realized that he was actually someone who I could be or at least try to. And that is what makes Shashi so special indeed, for he had charisma & charm - an unlimited supply of it at that.



Today's selection is Sar Se Sarke, a song that I consider to be the forgotten song of Silsila. In my opinion it is one of the best Kishore/Lata duets ever done and is picturised quite beautifully with Shashi & Jaya Bachchan. It is sometimes overlooked (go figure) because of the other two Kishore/Lata songs that were picturised with Amitabh & Rekha. Those songs are great indeed but the producers felt Shashi's so good that they decided to open the movie with it. The video for the song is below...

24 comments:

bollyviewer said...

Great post, Sanket. For my part, when it comes to picking who is my favorite - AB or SK - SK wins hands down. But I find that the possession of a Y-chromosome tends to co-incide with reduced expression of the Shashi-appreciation gene! lol

Love the song you've chosen from Silsila (though Shashi does look a bit old to be running around trees) - it was probably overlooked in favor of the the AB-Rekha numbers because Shashi-Jaya werent having a much publicised romance!

Beth said...

I certainly agree that Shashi has "it," and I like your analysis of why he's so appealing to you.

The voice not earth-shaking? Kya?!? Perhaps not in a goonda-frightening way - but in my world, at least, certainly in a pulse-quickening, heart-melting ishtyle. Ooh that growl gravely thing he does.... He can also use it to good effect when being sneaky or impish, up to something.

Oh, and minor historical correction: Shashi and Jennifer had two sons and a daughter, and she now runs Prithviraj Theater.

ajnabi said...

Wow, with all the Post-Punk Cinema Club reading I've been doing, I'm surprised I haven't heard of this movie before your post. :-) Great music, and thanks for posting the AVS clip.

the ppcc: shashi's biggest fans said...

Was it in Batman that someone said "you like someone for their qualities, but you love them for their imperfections"? Either way, I was musing yesterday on how very imperfect indeed our beloved Shashi Kapoor is - crooked canines! mediocre films! - and how, for the life of me, I can't understand why I still stubbornly like Shashi so much. Maybe it's as you say, Sanket - unlike the Big B, he wasn't Big, so much as very appealing in an approachable way.

And Chor Sipahee was your Shashi hook movie?! Ahahaha, I love to hear that.

I also love that you picked Sarse Sarke, which is actually my hook moment for Shashi. I had seen him in In Custody first, but it was the moment when he comes in during the male verse in Sarse Sarke that was freakin' transcendental. Sigh.

(Obligatory plug: Ajnabi, the PPCC review of Silsila.)

Sanket Vyas said...

Bollyviwer - thanks for the kind words... you would be surprised at how many of us Y-chromosome Shashi fans there are ;) But you are right, AB is the more popular of the two. Again, they both bring something different to the table and comparing them is just useless. Shashi & Jaya do look lovely in the song but he should have left the dancing to AB in that one!

Beth - He has 'it' in leaps and bounds. And as far as his voice, I think you said it best - it has ishytle in ishpades.

Ajnabi - thanks for stopping by and glad you enjoyed the songs. My tribute to Shashi will not be limited by this singular post so come on back soon for more...

PPCC - yes it was Batman that said it and yes, that is why Shashi gets so much love the world over. 'Chor Sipahee' was the second Bollywood movie I saw in India during my first visit there in '77 ('AAA' was my first). Seeing those movies with those 2 stars probably helped shape my future movie watching forever after. 'AAA' will be reviewed in the very near future but suffice it to say that seeing Amitabh in such a crazy movie was just spellbinding. And then watching 'Chor Sipahee' - which was just as insane - proclaimed me to rush home and tell my mom that in addition to Amitabh, Shashi COOKER was also my favorite actor. Being Gujarati I was not used to such Punjabi names at age 9 :)

So 'Silsila' was your hook? Very cool, although I was taken aback by that first song seeing Shashi & Jaya cuddling up to one another when I thought it would have been her and Amitabh. I saw 'In Custody' years later and loved it too but in a different way. It must be interesting for you to have seen him at the end of his career and then work your way back to his earlier work... Loved your review of 'Silsila' by the way, feel free to plug away on this site anytime!

Nida said...

Sanket,

What a great tribute to an actor you love! It's so funny that you posted this, because I was just thinking today that I just have to buy more Shashi films since he seems to be The Man in the Blogging World! :) I've only seen Silsila and Satyam Shivam Sundaram, the latter having not the most flattering character in the world (although Shashi did a great job--I'll be posting on this soon). So I'm sure there are a whole slew of great movies I need to watch--I'd love your recommendations!

And I'm with Beth on the voice thing--It was in Satyam Shivam Sundaram that I noticed the little chuckly "growl gravely" thing as she put it. Its one of the things I found adorable in that filim despite his characters flaws.

I really enjoyed reading this post!

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

I read your post, and just feel so satisfied to share in the Shashi-love, that have no substantial comment really. Just sitting and smiling happily in my cubie having read it :D

Sanket Vyas said...

Nida - thanks for the kind words :) I find this lovefest for Shashiji by the blogging world sweet as well as a bit surprising. After all, the man has not really had a significant role since 1994's 'In Custody' and while I had fond memories for him, I just didn't expect this resurgence in his career ~ 15 years later! There are other actors who were more popular at the top of their game (Dev Anand, Rajesh Khanna & Anil Kapoor to name a few) but Shashi is just well, Shpecial.

Your review on SSS was just a treat to read and while everyone has their Shahsi faves, mine include all the buddy movies he made with AB (Shaan, Do Aur Do Paanch, Namak Halal, Kaala Patthar, Suhaag, Imaan Dharam & Deewaar). Shashi solo flicks (Sharmilee, Chor Machaye Shor, Fakira, Chor Sipahee, Junoon, Trishul, Kalyug & Kranti). Whew!

Shweta - knowing you were sharing in the collective Shashi good vibes is all the substantial comment that was needed ;)

Amrita said...

He's 70? Damn, I just realized I have some excellent genes coz my dad's the same age and he's held up far better. Of course, he's not as cute (still love him!) but that's the payoff I guess.

I think the "everyman" aspect was Shashi's greatest strength because he really didn't have the burden that AB and Dharam and others with a larger than life persona had to carry. Kind of like Sanjeev Kumar but cuter and more hero-like.

Shashilicious if you will! :D

Nida said...

Sanket--Thank you for the compliment! And the recos--I knew you'd have a bunch of 'em!:)

It is truly amazing that Shashi would strike a chord with a whole new generation--and culture, for the matter (since there are many bloggers who did not grow up on Hindi films)--fifteen years later. Wonder if he has any idea? I'm sure he does, since the internet is such a widespread media.

I think I understand--from what you and others have said in this post--that Shashi was more "attainable" if you will, than the Great Amitabh. In fact, I know I need to see more Amitabh hits(only seen Laawaris and Silsila and the more recent ones) but I just can't excited about it since I always feel so small when watching him onscreen. Probably a strange comment since I'm a woman and not trying to be like him at all...its just weird, like I couldn't connect with him, like he's shouting at me or something. All do respect, I'm sure he's great, and I promise to give his earlier films the due time and respect they deserve, its just that I'm not as excited about it as I am about getting to Shashi's films....

Perhaps I'll start with the ones they did together, as you suggested!

Sanket Vyas said...

Amrita - yeah, my pop is almost 70 as well and looks much better than Shashiji as well. I think the dreaded Kapoor curse of 'eat everything you see' that befell Raj, Shammi, Rishi etc. is one of the main reasons he aged not-so-goodly. And as far as what carried him I agree about the 'everyman' personna. I also feel Shashi never really cared about what he was SUPPOSED to do as a hero - he just did whatever he wanted and it worked.

Nida - AB is so darn overpowering and Shashi is just accessible, you nailed his appeal or at least a good explanation for his resurgence. But before directors exploited Amitabh's larger than life personna as the ass-kicking hero he did have some magnificently quiet roles in 'Abhimaan' & 'Mili'. It's almost like watching a different actor in those movies than the AB that you know - you will appreciate his acting ability so much more if you see some of his earlier stuff.

yves said...

Hi Sanket,
Is that really Shashi in the picture with the mustache? He looks so much like his brother! Thanks for this very nice post.

MrsGerardWay said...

Hi I think what you wrote was truly awesome.
It hit spot on. I adore this man too. I started a little late compared to the rest. Honestly, I dislike AB. Not sure why, no punt intended.
Indeed, Shashi is talented, blessed with killer looks.
Something one can never get bored of. I started following up with him because he reminded me of someone I know.
I watched his movies and now I have his song clips in my Ipod!
I just think that this man is awesome... I wish there was a reincarnation of him...
Hats off for our dear Mr Kapoor...

Sanket Vyas said...

MGW - thanks for your comments and as you see by my post I love both of them pretty much equally. It's interesting but non-Desis who have gotten into Bollywood are definitely more drawn to Shashi instead of AB.

I really encourage you to check out some of AB's classic movies in an effort to change your mind about him. Abhimaan, Deewaar, Sholay, Amar Akbar Anthony and Do Aur Do Paanch. 2 of those star Shashi as well so maybe they will help you get through them easier ;)

MrsGerardWay said...

Hahaha I sure will but ultimately, I will be drawn back to Shashi. AB is surely talented without a doubt but I still choose Shashi as my veteran star. I did watch alot of AB movies. Alot! Prolly because my parents did. I still vote Shashi, if you don;t mind!
Thanks for the reply!

Aditi Patwardhan said...

Shashiji!! You are my favourite veteran actor...I love all your movies...Jab JAb Phool Khile, Sharmilee and Deewaar being my favourites! I just love your hairstyle, your killer looks and everything!! You are better than BigB. Amitabh is a great actor...but he doesn't possess great looks. While Shashiji, being a legend, has those Greek-God looks...especially his nose....his smile is worth a million dollars!! His dimples just mesmerize me!! He is the one and only and no one can become like him ever!! Salute...

Recently, I saw him at Filmfare Awards...I was shocked!! I could never imagine Shashiji to change like this!! It was not expected from him...he was on the wheelchair...that was more shocking...!!!

But, nevertheless, he was, is and will be always my favourite actor...we all are grateful to you for the contribution you have done to Indian and English cinema and theatre...We all love you!! May god bless him and may he live in good health...that's all I wish for him...Salute to our more than beloved Mr. Balbir Raj Kapoor!!
Aditi Patwardhan.

Anonymous said...

The title is brilliant:
"Shashi Kapoor - overlooked but never overshadowed"

I'm 33 Indian girl in the US and have never idolized anyone in my life generally speaking, unless I'd known them long enough to see some truly special respect-worthy qualities.

Shashi totally swept me away in the past month!! Can't believe that me, rational me spent so many hours watching and re-watching this man from the 60s and 70s. Bollywood sure can sell dreams and Shashi is the best they had to showcase.

Shashi I wish there were more like you. AB has a persona that is primed for success (not unlike people who prepare for exams and come out tops), but if you're looking to watch Mr Handsome Romantic Gentleman then Shashi, Shashi Shashi it is, all the way.

Sanket Vyas said...

Anonymous - welcome to the Shashi lovefest that has been going on. What Shashi films have you been watching in the last month? I know what you mean about idolizing someone you don't know and I guess that's the point with Shashiji. You DO feel like you know him and thus idolize him from near and afar. Anyway, thanks for stopping by and hope to hear from you again in the very near future!

Anonymous said...

Hi Sanket

First of all thanks to you and all the others who write wonderful funny and very accurate blog posts, much better than magazine reviews any day. The reason people are motivated to write is because they're probably really affected at some level by a certain actor. To use my real name would shock the many people I know or work with, so I actually created a fake FB acct just to express appreciation directly to Shashiji and also sent him your blog post(I think Ranbir maintains this page and the direct short posts do come from Shashi himself): http://www.facebook.com/ShashiKapoor.TheGentlemanOfTheIndianFilmIndustry

Some scenes and songs of Shashi are so remarkable, I play these repeatedly and watch because (1) the short scenes always make me smile (2) it's just nice to see such beauty (his face in the songs)

Songs: the first half of Dewangee all the way till this beautiful song "Chal Sapno Ke Shehar Me Tuje Le Jata Hu". Unforgettable songs like "Hum ne aaj se tumhe", "Yahan mein ajnabi hoon" etc.

Scenes: I love Shashi's mischief, tend to watch those short clips daily and never get bored - Mr Romeo interactions with his brother and father, Neend Hamari Khwab Tumhari romantic interludes with Nanda, bad Shashi irritating the lady in Haseena Maan Jayegi

Cheers and Regards. The future of publishing has to change seeing that user content is of such much better quality like this blog :)

Aditi Patwardhan said...

@Anonymous- Really?? Ranbir??

Anonymous said...

Shashi Kapoor has one of the most charming smiles I've s likeeen! Just you, I loved the Amitabh-Shashi movies as well...Silsila, Shaan, Do aur Do Paanch! Great song selection for this post. It is actually one of my favorites from the movie. The crazy part is Shahnaz asked me last week what song should she pick for her Mehndi entrance and I suggested "Sarse Sarke"!!

-Nafisa

Yung Godz said...

WOW!!!!!!!!! I love Desi music. I like shashi kapoor movies and songs like Satyam Shivam Sundaram. It is truly amazing that Shashi would strike a chord with a whole new generation--and culture

I really enjoyed reading this post!

Sanket Vyas said...

Yung Godz - thanks for visiting and yes, his appeal to anyone and everyone (young and old) is just amazing.

Pranjal said...

Aha! what a blog I has just discovered today :D

So, here we're talking about old bollywood stars. When, I was a kid, Shashi Kapoor, he was my favorite star, until I came to know about an another actor whose, name was Amitabh Bacchan :P


Shashi Kapoor is one of my favorite bollywood stars. And lastly, we should never forget, old is gold! ;)