Shashi Kapoor! The British Punjabi!

Shashi Kapoor the sophisticated odd man out from film industry!

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Shashi3Balbir Prithviraj Kapoor aka Shashi Kapoor was born in THE Kapoor clan which had greats like his father Prithviraj, brothers Raj and Shammi. The father had a towering personality both physically and by reputation! Raj Kapoor proved to be the showman par excellence and proved his mettle through his career. Shammi was Shammi who was years ahead of time, his flamboyance was ahead of many international stars! To shine amongst such personalities in the family is what shows how Shashi Kapoor was different! Shashi Kapoor was the debonair, handsome person with a personality not matching the film industry. In those days the filmy guys hardly completed school but Shashi had picked elegance, sophistication and elan to match the international stars.

Since Shashi Kapoor was a film personality, I am pushing videos of a couple of songs from his movies, though they are irrelevant, as is done in any movie!

Here is one song from the movie Jab Jab Phool Khile!

Shashi as a human being was people’s person. I had an opportunity to see him from about 10 feet distance a couple of times; once during the shooting of the film Chor Machaye Shor and another time when he was the chief guest for musical competition in Pune while I was in college. Both the times he never appeared to have airs of the film hero that he was! He appeared to be easily chatting and doing gapshap with people around.

I have seen Devanand, Waheeda Rehman, Anil Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit, Sanjay Dutt and Rakesh Roshan from close quarters. But the smartness and elegance Shashi displayed probably only Waheeda came near to him! My friend and actor Dr. Mohan Agashe said, “The films did not and could not really capture the real handsome that Shashi Kapoor was!” I am sure that when you see or meet someone in person energy oozes out of some persons. If a person is really a good person, there is some aura created; especially in case Shashi this happened as he was very good looking too! The slightly crooked teeth he had added to his personality!

In the decade of 40’s and 50’s the film actors did not have much education nor did they get opportunities for education. In spite of that Shashi had great sophistication and was a natural. Especially in foreign locale, his savoir faire (the ability to act or speak appropriately in social situations) was to be seen to be believed. According his costar Simi Garewal, she was always astonished to see Shashi at great ease in foreign countries. She has shared one story. They were in Italy in a restaurant for dinner. One lady saw them; she just left her husband in his seat and ran towards Shashi. It was a very embarrassing situation as husband came and there was a big shouting match between husband and wife. Shashi somehow was all sophistication personified and resolved the issue very smoothly. Still the wife gave him a flying kiss while going away! Shashi just chuckled!

One song from his movie Pyar Kiye Ja!

Shashi married Jennifer Kendal and she became his life’s anchor! They had a great marriage and had three children. Jennifer’s father and Jennifer were from Shakespeare drama school and Shashi could do things to his liking in their company. He did some of his semi art movies 36 Chauranghi Lane, Siddharth, Junoon during that phase. None of them of course made much money. He started Prithvi theater which he thought was his life’s greatest achievement.

To make money he worked in typical Hindi films. He had a great partnership and camaraderie with Amitabh Bacchan. They did so many movies together that it was jokingly said that Amitabh had Shashi’s power of attorney with him! मेरे पास मेरी  मा  है! This is the famous dialogue by Shashi from the movie Deewar! In commercial films this was during Shashi’s peak.  He did many films, danced and sang many songs but I am not sure that his heart was really in it! This is the commercial reality of his life. He looked a bit awkward while dancing and running around the trees.

Shashi also had humane side which was not known to many. Journalist Khalid Mohmad has shared a few gems. He would go for breakfast to Shashi’s home, a typical British Breakfast courtesy Jennifer! Shashi made sure that guests preferences were perfectly managed, and bacon was never included! Khalid in his initial phase would be short of funds like everyone else. Shashi brought him a box full of socks from Harrods on his next trip to London! Shashi’s driver’s daughter got married in Nashik; due to prior shooting commitments Shashi could not attend it. Shashi arranged a reception for the married couple in Mumbai later at a suitable date!

What will Shashi Kapoor be remembered for? His handsome looks, his sophistication, his humane nature? Or he will be remembered for his bright smile, fresh face? Or his persistence in running Prithvi theatre? Only time will tell!

Adios Shashi, my friend! (Somehow, I always felt that he was a friend) I know you lost the zeal to live life after Jennifer died; she was your anchor and maybe you felt rudderless! Now that you two are joined together again, show HIM the Shakespeare walla! One question you never answered. Were your British or you were a Punjabi?

Let me say al vida to you with a heavy heart and moist eyes!

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Movies, a complex Passion!

I try to take advantage of international flights by watching old time classic movies. Sometime back I had watched “Casablanca”. It was a Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman movie made in 1942! Recently I watched “Vertigo” by the Alfred Hitchcock produced in 1958 with James Stewart and Kim Novak. This movie had a special fascination for me along with North by Northwest! In my childhood I lived behind Metro Theater in Mumbai and used to hear some discussion by my elder brother Shrikant about such movies but naturally never understood anything. My favourite movies in those days were of course “Tom & Jerry Cartoons” and “Seven brides for seven bothers”.

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After coming home, I was checking details about Vertigo and realized that movie did not fare so well, commercially, at least initially. This reminded me of my one of the all-time favourite Hindi movies, Teesari Kasam (1966), (Third Vow) Raj Kapoor and Waheeda Rehman starrer!. (There is one more all-time favourite that is “Guide”; it is not a coincidence that both movies have Waheeda as the lead actress!) Teesari Kasam also did not fare well in the initial showing. In fact initially it did so badly that its producer Shailendra died due to shock. Later on it did fairly well at the box office and went on winning accolades for the movie. Raj Kapoor and Waheeda’s performances were highly appreciated. In case of Vertigo too the movie got accolades later and is known to be within top movies made by Hitchcock.

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I also liked the plot and story of both the movies which I want to share with you. For Vertigo it was a plot with finesse and for Tessari Kasam it was a simple story! Movie making is a passion. People have known to have lost all their money making a particular movie but it never stopped them from making that particular movie. Many of these people had taken huge loans against their only assets at that time, their homes. Wrong fall of dice would have wiped them out but passion has no bounds! Raj Kapoor’s Mera Naam Joker was his passion; but it bombed at the initial showing. He was almost on the verge of bankruptcy.

As movies these two are in different genre. Teesari Kasam is movie based on story in Bihar hinterland with rustic village surroundings.   Vertigo is a Hitchcock suspense movie based in San Francisco. Both the movies hold our attention till end.

In Teesari Kasam, Hiraman a bullock cart driver, has taken two Vows (Kasam in Hindi hence the name Teesari Kasam). He is once caught carrying illegal goods in the cart hence takes first vow, never to carry illegal goods ever! Then he ferried bamboos once to timber market. The load upset the horses of two gentlemen on the road. They beat him badly. So he takes his second vow never to carry bamboos in the cart.

In Vertigo, in the first sequence, James Stewart, as detective Scotty Fergusson, loses a colleague in a roof top chase due to fear of heights or vertigo! He tries to overcome this fear later in many ways, unsuccessfully. So he retires from Police force. His ex-fiancé and friend tells him that only similar experience will help him overcome the fear. An acquaintance of his, Gavin Elster, hires Scotty to help him find about awkward behavior his wife Madeleine (Kim Novak) and claiming that she is in some sort of danger. Scotty agrees reluctantly.

In Tessari Kasam Hiraman is asked to carry a Nautanki dancer, Hirabai, to another village. On the way Hiraman sings songs to pass time and tells Hirabai story of legend Mahua. Hirabai is mesmerized by innocence and simplicity of Hirman. Hiraman thinks Hirabai is an angel of purity. On reaching destination, Hirabai arranges free passes for Hiraman, then he joins the group of cart drivers. As days pass bond between them becomes strong.

In Vertigo Scotty follows Madeleine to various places and finds different mysterious patterns. She buys a specific bouquet and goes to a hundred year old grave of a lady Carlotta. Then she goes to a museum and sits in front of portrait of Carlotta. In another sequence she mysteriously goes to a hotel; when Scotty follows her, he can’t find her! Mystery grows. Then Madeleine jumps of in San Francisco bay and Scotty saves her. One thing leads to another and they fall in love. One day he takes her to Carlotta’s 100 year old mission home to see if he can find any connection. Madeleine suddenly rushes up the stairs in the church tower; because of acrophobia, Scotty does not follow her and she jumps to death through a window. Death is declared as suicide. Scotty goes into depression. But was it suicide, of course not! Hitchcock style comes into play. Judie a girl from Kansas, same in looks as Madeleine, comes into picture. Scotty sees her after he is released from the sanatorium. He meets Judie and  requests her to join him for dinner. Later on they keep on meeting. At one stage Judie writes a letter to Scotty explaining the deceit in which she had taken part, to earn money from Elster; Elster wanted to murder his wife with the help of Judie! She tears it off the letter as she has started loving Scotty.

In Tessari Kasam Hiraman is shocked when he watches Nautanki; people at the theatre treat Hirabai as a prostitute. Hiraman fights with others over Hirabai; she tries to make him understand reality of life. He tells her to leave this life but she refuses and explains to him her life’s secret. Hiraman is frustrated and leaves the village. This time he takes the Teesari Kasam or third Vow “Never to carry any dancer from Nautanki Company in his cart, ever! Wow, what a simpleton, what naivety! But still a captivating film with beautiful songs and Nautanki type of dances by Waheeda! 

In Vertigo Scotty has not forgotten Madeleine and forces Judie to wear same clothes as were worn by Madeleine. He changes her hair style to be same as that of Madeleine. Now viewer cannot make out the difference between Judie and Madeleine! Naturally it’s a double role played by vivacious Kim Novak! Pendant worn by Judie is the same which was adorned by Madeleine when she died! Detective in Scotty overcomes lover in Scotty! He starts thinking what could this be? His final aim is to overcome his vertigo problem with help of his Love! He takes her to the same church and wants to climb the tower. Judie becomes jittery as she feels that the truth regarding murder will come out! They reach the top of the tower and Scotty has overcome his vertigo; though he is doubtful about Judie, he still loves her and embraces her! Suddenly the trap door opens up and a Nun comes out! Judie is scared and takes a few steps back and falls through the same window to death.

Wow, what breath-taking suspense! Typical Hitchcock movie!

What was the mystery? Elster with the help of Judie creates a fictitious story about Madeleine behaving in a different way. When Scotty is following Madeleine, he is actually following Judie dressed as Madeleine! When Judie runs to the top of tower, Estel is already there with real Madeleine and the moment Judie reaches them, Estel throws Madeleine from the Window! Scotty of course cannot reach that height because of vertigo and gets deceived!

Friends I have written this blog in different genre and hope that you guys appreciate the novelty that I am trying to bring out! Cheers!