Indian actor Shashi Kapoor died at the age of 79 in Mumbai on Dec. 4. Kapoor was suffering from a kidney ailment and was on dialysis for several years, his nephew Randhir Kapoor told the media.
One of the first actors in the country to cross the bridge, Kapoor was lauded for his unconventional roles in British and American movies produced by Merchant Ivory productions. He paved the way for many others like Om Puri, who followed his footsteps and acted in English language movies decades after him.
The fact then that the world media has paid the legendary actor a tribute is only expected. Calling him a “Bollywood legend” in the headline, the BBC report went on to elucidate Kapoor’s illustrious career and the fame he achieved not only because of his charming smile, but also because of his choice of films and the roles he portrayed.
“Kapoor began his career as a child actor and appeared in more than 150 films, including a dozen in English. He became known internationally for his roles in Merchant Ivory productions like Shakespeare-wallah and Heat and Dust. Kapoor was known for his charming smile and was often described by his fans as the “handsomest star ever”. He had a huge fan following among women,” the BBC report said.
The New York Times reminisced about an interview that Kapoor had given to the newspaper where he spoke about the need of the hour to make more realistic love stories. “I hope the new rules will encourage directors to make more logical love stories,” Kapoor had said then, talking about the controversial kissing scenes in his film Satyam Shivam Sundaram. “Also, with realistic treatment of the romantic theme, perhaps we can get away from having so much violence in our films.”
International accolades in English and American films won by him was a common theme that featured widely, and showed his contribution to cinema not only as an Indian actor, but as an artiste.
“In 1963 he played a teacher in the domestic comedy The Householder, directed by James Ivory and produced by Ismail Merchant, the first of a series of films Mr. Kapoor made for that production team,” said the NYT report.
American news channel CNN highlighted the acting prowess of Kapoor and his passion for theater. “Kapoor also acted in art films. He worked with Merchant Ivory Productions and later produced films of his own that were dedicated to social realism—a far cry from the glitzy song and dance numbers of Bollywood,” said the CNN report.
His role in Indian films made him a household name, but his international career was what gave him creative satisfaction and turned the heads of foreign media and perhaps changed their perception about Indian actors.
The Guardian talked about his association with Merchant Ivory productions and how his marriage to English actress Jennifer Kendal made him a pillar for films made by American film director James Ivory and Ismail Merchant, a British film director of Indian origin. “In 1963 he played a teacher in the domestic comedy The Householder, directed by James Ivory and produced by Ismail Merchant, the first of a series of films Mr. Kapoor made for that production team,” the Guardian pointed out.
His most popular dialogue, “Mere paas maa hai” in the film Deewar, where he was cast alongside Amitabh Bachchan, made him a cult figure in Indian cinema.
Actors, politicians and fans remember him fondly for his films and someone who gave a platform to theater artists in India through Prithvi Theatre.
His namesake and Congress MP Shashi Tharoor also took to Twitter to express his grief.