Photo by Dhiraj Chawda.
There is something very disturbing about film stars who will not conform. A man expects them to behave in an extraordinary manner so he can make good, readable copy bouncing them round. Now take Shashi Kapoor. He's a bit of a spoilsport. Not only does he answer the telephone himself, he said, let's meet around eight o'clock tomorrow. I said, could we make it a little earlier in the evening (there's no percentage in working after hours). He said, I meant in the morning. I said, morning, but you won't be awake till eleven. And he said, I wake at six every day. This I had to see, I mean, it was a filmland first. Five to one he'd be dead to the world, sleeping off last night's riotous party. (Even the dullest of filmland parties are called riotous.)The way this piece ends makes me sad. Rusted ideals! I hope that Junoon and Kalyug turned that around and that by 1982 nobody thought to interview him about dreams that hadn't materialized, even if he wasn't pleased with his glorious, rich masala films like Kaala Patthar or even Raj Kapoor's Satyam Shivam Sundaram. And does it strike anyone else as an odd contrast in tone for the author of this piece saying run-of-the-mill popular films should make their participants sick to their stomachs while the rest of the magazine glorifies and promotes those very same films? Hmm. So much to learn from the archives!
The man was eating an organic breakfast, chirpy as one of those birds that hop around catching the late night worm. Shashi Kapoor, trimmer, younger, more sober, and his charming wife Jennifer, are on a health food kick. Vegetarian, adds Shashi dolefully.
Even the house has taste. No garish colour clashes or gilded self portraits, no screaming hostility between carpet, the walls and furniture. Books, from Buchwald to Nehru to Proust to Wodehouse to Godard. Pleasant, well-mannered servants.
So how come, Shashi, you don't choose your roles with the same discrimination as you do your life style. Good start! "I wish I could. I am definitely doing roles that should legitimately be given to Class 'C' stuntmen. Commercial cinema is so well entrenched in its formula it offers little."
"It is believed your roles are being massacred to cut you down, and you've been duped, 'Deewaar' being a questionin point."
"I don't think that's quite true. A lot of people have been talking this way especially after 'Deewaar.' Now I think it's ridiculous to say that Amitabh's role was engineered to show me up. After all, before I took the role I knew I was playing the second lead. So the idea of a conspiracy against Shashi Kapoor is Bullsh*t. And in any case why do we have this hang-up in our country? About always coming out as heroes. In the West great names like Olivier, Burton, Harrison frequently played second roles. There's nothing demeaning about that."
"Yes, what about the quality of these second rate roles?"
"What can I do if that's all I'm offered. I want to make good pictures in Hindi|English but who's got the guts to take the risks. I won't say i haven't done any good roles but certainly there's a lot more I could have done and still can do given the chance. In fact sometimes I really wonder if I'm anywhere near doing what I'd started as a little boy. I saw my father, my brother, and all the pioneers of Indian cinema and moved in that company. I had a different scenario in my mind. Not the commercial pap we churn out now."
Shashi Kapoor sensibly seems to be sick to the stomach with what he's doing these days and spends a good deal of his time mocking himself, for all the big plans that he had. Once the shooting's done it's home and no time for edging around in the filmalnd's social whirl. "That's quite true," he said, "it's more important to take Jennifer and the children for a movie and coffee at the Shamiana rather than hobnob at the same old dreary party, with the same old dreary people, doing the same old dreary things."
"Talking about saying things you've been speaking out of turn too."
"Oh! sometimes I speak without thinking. Whaddav I said now!"
"Well, for a start you've been saying some very nasty things about Zeenat."
"Oh, that. I've told Zeenat that to her face. Yeah! I told her she's a good looking woman, but she can't act for peanuts. So what's the big fuss about? I've told Shabana she wasn't particularly good looking but she is a very fine actress. I say what I feel that's why people don't like me, they are welcome to say it, it's all a matter of opinion."
"How come the Kapoors haven't made a film together?"
"We haven't been given the script. We wouldn't want to make a gimmick. If something worth while comes up, we will."
"Are you acting in Raj's latest movie?"
"I don't know. He hasn't told me yet."
"You all don't meet each other often, do you?"
"As a matter of fact, we don't. It's not that we aren't a close-knit family. We just don't like to invade each other's privacy. We keep in touch. We are not always breathing down each other's neck. We have our own lives to live. So why be phony about it."
Good looking with lazy eyes, a rather boyish grin, Shashi has just won over a Kapoor bogey—overweight. Keeps himself trim—swimming and a regimented diet. Known for dispensing with star airs Shashi is quite capable of dropping in at a journalist friend's place for 'dosas' or sitting through a friend's theatrical performances in an old tumble down school hall.
He does it without a trace of noblesse oblige but much of the dedication has dissolved into habit, the ideals rust in their own glory. Being commercial is comfortable so why analyse it too deeply. Mr. Shashi Kapoor has come to earth with a big bump. And when he turns around to check what happened it still hurts.