Shashi Kapoor, an actor par excellence

Shashi Kapoor, an actor par excellence

A workaholic who always liked the arc-lights, the charming Shashi Kapoor is known for the versatility of his roles.

He is an actor, director, producer and a theatre-man.

Kapoor, 77, and Amitabh Bachchan have given several hits together—like “Deewar”, “Kabhi Kabhie”, Trishul”, “Kala Patthar”, “Suhaag”, “Do Aur Do Paanch”, “Shaan”, “Silsila” and the rib-tickling “Namak Halaal”. Such pairing of two co-stars has not been achieved on the silver screen.

Born Balbir Raj Prithviraj Kapoor on March 18, 1938, in Calcutta (now Kolkata), he had acting in his blood.

His father Prithviraj and brothers Raj and Shammi were actors whose skills were unparalleled. A member of the celebrated Kapoor clan, he was one of the most gifted actors of Indian cinema.

Shashi Kapoor made his debut as a leading man in the 1961 film “Dharmputra”, and went on to appear in 116 Hindi films as the main protagonist, including 63 films as solo lead hero and 53 multi-starrers, as well as 22 films as supporting actor and five with special appearances. In  the early 1940s, he appeared  in several mythological and commercial films, like “Meena” (1944), “Tadbir”, and “Bachpan” (1945) under the name Shashiraj.

His best-known performances as child artist were in “Aag” (1948) and “Awaara” (1951), where he played the younger version of characters played by older brother Raj Kapoor.  From the age of four, Shashi had started acting in plays directed and produced by father Prithviraj Kapoor, while travelling with Prithvi Theatres. He started working in English language films in 1963. He was one of India's first actors to go international.

In the 1960s, Kapoor acted in several romantic films opposite Nanda, including “Mohabbat Isko Kahete Hain” (1965), “Jab Jab Phool Khile” (1965), “Neend Hamari Khwab Tumhare” (1966), “Raja Saab” (1969) and “Rootha Na Karo” (1970). Kapoor's most popular solo hero films include “Haseena Maan Jayegi” (1968) and “Ek Shriman Ek Shrimati” (1969) with Babita; “Kanyadan” and “Pyar Ka Mausam” (1969) Asha Parekh; “Chor Machaye Shor” opposite Mumtaz; “Abhinetri” (1970), “Aap Beeti” (1976), “Apna Khoon”, “Trishul” (1978), “Maan Gaye Ustaad” (1981), and “Aandhi Toofan” (1985) with Hema Malini; “Bezubaan” with Reena Roy; “Chakkar Pe Chakkar” (1976), “Kali Ghata”, “Kalyug” (1981), “Vijeta” (1982) and “Pyaar Ki Jeet” (1987) with Rekha; and “Bepanaah” (1985) with Rati Agnihotri.

He is also known internationally for starring in many British and American films, notably under the banner of Merchant Ivory Productions, run by Ismail Merchant and James Ivory, such as “Householder” (1963), “Shakespeare-wallah” (1965) (opposite his sister-in-law Felicity Kendal), “Bombay Talkie” (1970) and “Heat and Dust” (1982), in which he co-starred with his wife Jennifer Kendal, “The Deceivers” (1988) and “Side Streets” (1998).

He was also the titular lead in Conrad Rooks' 1972 adaptation of Hermann Hesse's novel “Siddhartha”.

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