Shashi Kapoor The Householder, the Star by Aseem Chhabra
Shashi Kapoor’s biography by Aseem Chhabra talks about one of the most loved stars of Bollywood. Incidentally, I just finished reading the biography of his elder brother Shammi Kapoor where he makes an appearance as his younger brother. Reading both books one after the other put many things together. Though I must say being independent works, there is hardly anything in common – even the way biographies have been approached is distinctly independent. I also recall Prithviwallahs – a book that Shashi Kapoor authored with Deepa Gahlot.
Who does not love Shashi Kapoor – when I think of him, I see an extremely handsome man, a gentle human being smiling with his broken tooth smile against the backdrop of Himalayas. We do not know much about his journey as a film star. We assume it would have been easy with the family he came from. And we know a bit about his family but nothing much. We know he worked in alternative cinema. We know his films like Junoon and 36 Chowrangee Lane but not many of us have seen them or appreciate them.
In this slim volume, Author Aseem Chhabra looks at some aspects of Shashi Kapoor – the actor and the human being. He brings out the lesser known aspects of both his personality as well as his works. To read about the amount of international cinema Shashi Kapoor has been a part of it is revealing. Much before our stars started flaunting their international work, here was Shashi Kapoor a part of Merchant Ivory Productions. He has acted in so many films outside India was a delight to learn. The fact that Hindi cinema was just a means for him to earn his living hurts a bit, but you understand. His commitment to the theater – his first love, that he probably inherited from his father is something I wanted more of. But I understand the material may not be available as the star himself is more or less inaccessible.
You get to go through his failed business ventures. That somehow shows that Shashi Kapoor wanted to take tips from his rather successful eldest brother but he failed at managing the business part of his ventures.
A good book always leaves you wanting for more. This book left me wanting for way more than usual. I do get a well-known story of Shashi Kapoor – Jennifer Kendal romance, but do not get to understand their relationship. He is one of the few stars of Bollywood who remained committed to one woman all his life despite her passing away rather early – we want to know more about them. We want to know how they worked as a team – when they launched various business ventures. How did they manage children with hectic and traveling careers? I wanted to know more about what his children are doing. We only know a bit about his daughter.
I also wanted to know more about the films he did. And anecdotes from his star days. There are a few, but far less than a biography deserves. And here I think there was no lack of resources as most people who worked with him are still around. I think that part got brushed aside a bit either assuming that the audience knows about it or Aseem Chhabra did not find this aspect fascinating enough to explore it further. There is some focus on the human aspect of Shashi Kapoor but it primarily comes out as a jovial actor who respects everyone or as a dream producer who did not look at the budgets.
I am not sure if the author got to meet the star, it seems he did not. But I want to know if he wanted to if he tried to and how he felt about the meeting or not meeting him.
The highlight of the book is, of course, the international cinema that Shashi Kapoor was a part of. It is probably the lesser known part of his work. And to that extent, Aseem Chhabra has done a great job of putting light on it. If you do not know Shashi Kapoor as an Indian cine-goer, you would think of him as someone who worked primarily in International cinema.
The cover design is a dampener. Show me the Shashi Kapoor with his trademark smile and his ‘Oh so Adorable Mane’.
If you love Shashi Kapoor, you have to read it!