Get Ready for a Shashi Kapoor Retro at IFFI 2015
IFFI 2015 will hold a retrospective of Shashi Kapoor’s films
The International Film Festival of India (IFFI) 2015, has a treat lined up for Shashi Kapoor fans and film lovers. IFFI will hold a special retrospective of Kapoor’s choicest films to cherish the many facets of filmmaking that he contributed to. The retrospective opens with Junoon (1978) and then, goes on to screen New Delhi Times (1986), Utsav (1984), In Custody (Muhafiz) (1993), Kalyug (1981), Deewar (1975), Shakespeare Wallah (1965) and House-holder (1963).
We spoke with filmmaker Shyam Benegal who worked with Kapoor on films like Junoon, Kalyug and others and also, had the chance to talk to Shashi Kapoor’s son, Kunal Kapoor, who recounts fond memories of his father for us.
Shashi Kapoor, the Co-worker
Q. What, according to you, separates Shashi Kapoor from the other actors?
Shyam Benegal: Without a doubt, it was his commitment. He was fully committed to not just films but also theatre. It was almost as if it were his religion.
I can’t help but recollect this one incident when we were shooting Junoon and somebody lit a cigarette and made the mistake of stubbing it on the set in Shashi’s presence. He was so furious to see the man disrespect his very workplace that he would have beaten him unhesitantly if it weren’t for us on the same set. Basically, for him, “work was worship”. His sense of discipline was absolutely uncompromised.
Q. Do you think he was a more accomplished producer than an actor?
Shyam Benegal: Before I answer this question, I need to lay down the background to help you understand how passionate he was about theatre and hence, why he took to a completely different genre of films when it came to production.
Before he became his hugely successful film star, what he had etched in his mind and heart were the aesthetics of theatre. After all, ever since he was in his crib, he had grown up to see drama all around him. Geoffrey Kendal, who was a British producer, brought his troupe to India to perform Shakespearean plays in different parts of the country. Just when Shashi was halfway through his college, he became a part of his troupe and that came to him only as a natural response because he was so passionate about theatre right from his very childhood.
Later, he also went on to marry his eldest daughter, Jennifer Kendal who, by the way, if not more, was equally passionate about theatre. As time passed, his passion only grew stronger. As his father and father-in-law had both wished, he revived this lost art by opening (what is now called) the Prithvi Theatre on a small piece of land in Juhu. Nobody could have imagined that this place would soon be a cultural hub of the city.
So, now that you’ve understood how strongly he felt about acting and theatre, you’ll understand why he chose to produce the films he did. He never waited for anybody, he did what he liked and to make that kind of alternate cinema popular, he invested his money in it. He and his wife called themselves the ‘Filmwallahs’ and Junoon, in fact, began with it. In my opinion, Shashi is the propagator of good cinema, he never worried about whether he’d make money or not, and he actually never did but it was for the love of the art that he kept fuelling such projects.
Q. Any particular memory of Shashi Kapoor that you hold very dear to your heart?
Shyam Benegal: I don’t know if this qualifies as a memory but I do always think of him as the best producer I have had the good fortune to work with. He had this uncanny ability to perceive things from the eyes of the director and so, he always understood the director’s needs. How rare that is, I can’t begin to tell. He was so good at anticipating my needs as a director that he would jokingly say, “I think I am the best producer-manager in the world.”
And, it didn’t end at anticipating needs, he went all out to fulfil them and for that I will always be grateful to him.
And as I talk about his incomparable virtues, I have to add that he was a thorough gentleman. How he valued other people’s time is something worth learning from him. In fact, as an actor when he was working with others, he would always reach the location on or before time. That’s the kind of man we are talking about.
Shashi Kapoor, The Father
Q. You had the golden opportunity of being able to share screen space with your father in Vijeta, which he also produced. Tell us about your experience.
Kunal Kapoor: I can’t help but say that he was a thorough professional. Also, because he had always worked with his own brothers, so it wasn’t an entirely new concept for him. I was undoubtedly a little nervous initially, but he made me ease into it. He made me very comfortable and soon I knew he was another co-actor who I needed to give my best with.
Q. It’s only obvious that the films he chose to do as an actor were in stark contrast with those he chose to produce. Would you be able to tell us more about what brought about this difference in choice?
Kunal Kapoor: See, the commercial cinema that he was a part of as an actor was the work he was fulfilling for another director or producer. That wasn’t his own idea of cinema yet he was helping others accomplish their goals. As a producer though, he planned films that he truly wanted to make. That was the kind of filmmaking that he believed in and he never gave up on it.
Q. Can you share one cherished professional and personal memory of your dad, Shashi Kapoor?
Kunal Kapoor: You know, one of my earliest recollections of his movies is that of Jab Jab Phool Khile. It was shot in Kashmir and I was a kid then, who was enjoying holidays.
I particularly remember that it was my fifth birthday and so my family decided to spend my special day with my father in Kashmir. The location was so beautiful that I distinctly remember it till date. But to see the movie on screen, having seen all of it in person was such an amazing experience. I absolutely loved it.
On the personal front, picking one out is just so challenging because he is the closest family that one can have. But, I do remember how he never worked on Sundays. It was our family day and we would always sit down to have breakfast together. No matter how late he’d returned from work the previous night, he made no exception when it came to us spending time together on that breakfast table.
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