Shashi Kapoor passed away on 4 December after a prolonged illness. The legendary actor was one of Bollywood’s most adored stars and most progressive filmmakers. His colleagues swear by his charm and innate sophistication and his contribution to Indian theatre can’t even be begun being talked about.
In one of his last interviews as the director of Ajooba, Shashi Kapoor talked about his journey to give us a glimpse into his mind and heart. Excerpts from the interview.
Theatre was always my first love, still is. When I came to the movies, it was to get a job, do the roles that came to me. I wanted to earn enough money to support my family. I never aspired to be a star.Shashi Kapoor, Actor-filmmaker
I would change nothing (if I had a second chance). I would have may be tried to act better (laughs). Among my brothers, I was absolutely always sure about what I wanted to do – whether acting or marriage. When I saw Jennifer I was 18, and I immediately wanted to marry her… I had made up my mind to be in the show business at the age of six. When I was 12, I made my first 16mm movie.
I am a bit embarrassed at my contemporaries playing lead parts and singing around trees, singing love songs to little girls when their sons sing love songs to the same girls! I quite like playing character roles.
Jennifer was working on stage with me till 1963-64 – by then she had had two kids. Then after a gap, she was with Shakespearewallah. She was in Bombay Talkie in 1970, then Junoon and 36 Chowringhee Lane. So it’s not like I stopped her from working at all.
In the mid-70s, I was working almost round the clock but I didn’t find any satisfaction in it. I had just lost my parents and there was this vacuum. So I asked my wife what I should do. She asked me to do what I wanted to do. So we built a theatre (Prithvi) and I made Junoon, Kalyug, 36 Chowringhee Lane, Vijayta and Utsav. They bombed! (laughs)
The Merchant Ivory films stand out for me. Siddhartha, Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, all the films Amitabh and I did together were a lot of fun. It was a great camaraderie. I worked with Bimal Roy – I still use some of the techniques I learnt then. I did a film with Meena Kumari ji who taught me how to say my lines in a way that would resonate with the audience. My own films… Kalyug, Vijayta, 36 Chowringhee, Utsav… and now Ajooba. I loved being with Shakesperaiana and Prithvi. I learnt a lot. I feel very sorry that kids don’t have any theatre to go to where they can learn. They go to these crash acting courses.. which are all sham.
Oh Christ, no! (on the question of re-marrying). I didn’t. Why? I don’t think I can. I don’t think I can find anyone better. I know I can’t. They don’t make them like that any more.