Goodbye, handsome

Goodbye, handsome

"Mere paas maa hain," was all he said, simply just like that. That iconic phrase mouthed by the petite actor keeping a straight face proved the perfect foil to the long, pompous monologue by the towering Amitabh Bachchan in Deewaar. That was Shashi Kapoor, natural and effortless as against Amitabh's Stanislavskian acting.

The good-looking lad from the illustrious Kapoor khandaan thus conquered many a heart with his dracula grin and such polished performances. With Amitabh, he formed a formidable pair, their contrasting styles complementing each other well and bringing the other's performance into sharp focus in Suhaag, Trishul, Namak Halal, Kaala Pathar, Roti, Kapda aur Makaan, Kabhi Kabhie, Shaan, Silsila etc.

His understated style set the tenor for his stint in crossover films such as Karn in Kalyug, a feisty, upright journalist in New Delhi Times which fetched him a national award, an anguished father in Vijeta, an obsessed lover in Junoon, a man caught between two wives in Baseraa, a young Gautam Buddha in Siddhartha, in Utsav based on Vatsyayan's Kamasutra , 36 Chowringhee Lane, among others.

He was The Householder with the graceful Leela Naidu that started his fruitful innings with Merchant Ivory Productions which extended to Shakespeare Wallah, Heat and Dust, Bombay Talkie - some of the other movies from the production house.

"Shashi Kapoor's ability to underplay subtly was his asset," observed Pierce Brosnan who worked with him in The Deceivers. "As an actor, he expressed volumes with his eyes and his dialogue delivery was never staccato oriented. He was an effortless performer," remarked celebrated filmmaker Shyam Benegal who helmed the critically acclaimed Junoon and Kalyug.  

But his heart was always in theatre. The youngest son of the legendary Prithviraj Kapoor, he started his career with his father at Prithvi Theatre and later Shakespeareana, his father-in law's drama troupe. So it was but natural that the Padma Bhushan awardee revived Prithvi Theatre with his talented wife Jennifer Kendal.

"My mother was acting even when she was eight months pregnant and used to hide her stomach with a pillow. I've heard stories of me being breast-fed backstage," their eldest son, Kunal, had remarked in an interview. In later years, despite his failing health, Shashi was often spotted at shows at Prithvi, frail and wheelchair bound. Such was the couple's commitment to theatre. Prithvi Theatre was home to Shashi.

A Dadasaheb Phalke award winner, a recent image of him clicked at a felicitation ceremony where he is being swooned over by the heroines of yesteryears says it all. A thorough gentleman, his leading ladies simply adored him. "I've seldom come across a more caring and chivalrous hero," veteran actor Asha Parekh remembers him thus. Dimple Kapadia always addressed him as "Hi, handsome." I guess now it's time to say, goodbye, handsome.