By Sushil Kutty
Actor Shashi Kapoor passed away Monday. The same day talk of the imminent elevation of Rahul Gandhi to the party president’s post rose to a crescendo. A smart Alec commented on Times of India Monday evening ‘A day when both actor Shashi Kapoor and the Congress died.’
Funny! But Shashi Kapoor’s death was not funny. It was yet another reminder that death spares no one human or less than human. Famous or commoner. All left to litter the human wasteland that is Planet Earth. We’re all passing through.
But actors when they have passed through leave behind memories in the public mind. In the individual’s. My memory of Shashi Kapoor goes back to the days when I was a teenager and the black & white Doordarshan used to telecast Thursday night movies.
It was then that I saw Shashi Kapoor and actress Nanda in Jab Jab Phool Khile. I liked the song and the film with the slim Kapoor. There was no way not to. Only four Thursdays to a month and only four movies to compare. So every movie that was telecast was worthy of appreciation. At least to a film-starved adolescent.
Shashi Kapoor was more than 20 years my senior. When he broke through, elder brother Shammi Kapoor was already jumping circles on the Big Screen and eldest brother Raj Kapoor was a Russian phenomenon because of his wanderlust as typified in Awaara and Shree 420.
But I found Shashi Kapoor was a good foil to his famous siblings. He was in a class of his own. There was a clean-cut English look to him. That he had an English wife added to that aura.
I have heard of his Merchant & Ivory films but never sat through one. An hour after his death, I saw a snatch of one on a television news channel. In the scene he is seen talking to his wife, miffed with her for pining for her family and home and not taking care of chores. I’m in the same boat, he tells her.
And then…‘I want everything spic and span. Remember spic and span,’ he tells the actor playing his wife. That in fact spells Shashi Kapoor – ‘Spic & Span’. If anything, he spelled cleanliness, in person as well as on screen.
And though lacking Amitabh Bachchan’s baritone and stature, Shashi Kapoor in Deewar was the perfect character to dent the angry-man image of Amitabh with ‘Mere Paas Maa Hai’, the dialogue of the century (20th century).
The Indian male identified with those four words. In every man’s life comes a moment when he could have said ‘Mere Paas Maa Ma Hai’ to feel avenged but before Deewar and before Shashi Kapoor said it, nobody ever said it.
Deewar and shashi Kapoor brought down that wall!
The Kapoor family is the Gandhi-Nehru family of Bollywood. But its record in excellence leaves the Gandhi family far behind. The Kapoor family can say with pride ‘Hamaare Paas Shashi Kappor tha’. I think a RIP is in order.