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May 20, 2016

Aseem Chhabra On The Bollywood Legend

Text by Natasha Sahjwani

The writer/ Journalist talks about tracing the life of the legendary Shashi Kapoor in his first book ‘Shashi Kapoor – The Householder, The Star’

1. What inspired you to write about Shashi Kapoor?
“I’ve been a fan of Shashi Kapoor since my teenage years. I suppose I was preparing for this book long before I actually started writing it. In the 35 years that I have lived in the US, I have eagerly followed Shashi Kapoor’s career outside India! In the recent years, I began to realize that most people in India had forgotten. So I felt this book had to be written to introduce Shashi Kapoor to a new generation of Bollywood fans.”

2. What are the main challenges of writing the biography of a film personality, who’s frequently been covered by the media?
“I had to research Shashi Kapoor’s life, the beginning of his career, his romance with his wife Jennifer. Much of the details that I have in the book, have not been reported or covered in recent times. So the challenge was to find a fresh story about Shashi Kapoor, who was mostly forgotten.”

3. One thing you discovered about the actor that really fascinated you?
“I learned a lot about how generous a man he was. People like Sharmila Tagore told me how Shashi would walk up and talk to every technician and junior artist. It was the training he got from his father – Prithviraj Kapoor, to respect everyone. He would say ‘Mera naam Shashi Kapoor hai,’ shake hands with them, drink chai with them. He didn’t have a sense of hierarchy — which is usually the norm in the Indian film industry.

4. Does any film star match his large-heartedness and generosity?
“No, Shashi Kapoor is a unique being in that sense. Bollywood hasn’t produced another one like him.”

5. Is there something you had to consciously keep in mind while writing a biography?
“I wanted the readers to feel as if they were there with him, during the shoots, experiencing his friendships. At all times, I wanted to capture the mood and times when Shashi Kapoor was acting and producing films. I tried to bring the Shashi Kapoor of the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s to readers now.”

6. Which other film personalities – currently working – would make interesting subjects for biographies and why?
“I think Sharmila Tagore and  Simi Garewal are both equally fascinating. Like Shashi, both Sharmila and Simi joined the film industry when they were young and had rich careers.”

7. Many years down the line, what do you think the world will remember Shashi Kapoor for?
“Most people only remember him for the ‘Mere paas maa hai’ dialogue in Deewar. But few people know that long before Priyanka and Irrfan, Shashi Kapoor was the first Indian actor in Hollywood. By writing about many of his films produced outside India I want people to see this other facet of the man. I would like Shashi Kapoor to be remembered for his good looks, his acting, but also for his generosity as a producer.”

8. Your favourite Shashi Kapoor movie?
“A few of them are Kalyug, Junoon, In Custody, Jab Jab Phool Khile, and the first film of Yash Chopra — Dharamputra. Oh and one more — a film most Indians haven’t seen, Sammy & Rosie Get Laid.

9. If you had to sum up Shashi Kapoor in one sentence…
“A charming, handsome actor, who truly believed in art, good cinema, theatre and loved his family.”

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