Why Shashi Kapoor the Producer Is a Bigger Deal than the Actor

Shashi Kapoor was a dream producer, ask Aparna Sen.

2 min read

What really made Shashi Kapoor special was the fact that though he was mostly seen in typical Bollywood films, doing typical Bollywood stuff, but his heart always lay with parallel cinema. This Kapoor indulged in his passion for “good cinema” by producing several brilliant films while he could.

In 1979, Shashi Kapoor made his debut as a producer with Junoon, a film based on Ruskin Bond's A Flight of Pigeons, set around the Mutiny of 1857. Directed by Shyam Benegal, it won 3 National Awards and 6 Filmfare Awards.

“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.”
Shyam Benegal, Filmmaker

Kapoor then produced two films in 1981, 36 Chowringhee Lane and Kalyug. Aparna Sen made her debut as a director with 36 Chowringhee Lane, a touching portrayal of love and longing featuring Kapoor’s wife Jennifer Kendal. The film went on to win 3 National Awards and several international honours.

“Shashi asked me how much I’d charge (to direct 36 Chowringhee Lane). I said it was my labour of love. ‘Don’t be silly, Reena (Aparna’s pet name). Directors must be paid the most.’ He decided  to give me an unheard of Rs 30,000. But when the  film released he doubled my fee and gave me Rs 60,000. Such generosity remains unheard-of in the entertainment industry.”
Aparna Sen, Actor and Filmmaker

Kalyug, directed by Shyam Benegal again, was a retelling of the Mahabharata set in the modern day as a conflict between two business rivals.. It won the Filmfare Award for the Best Film.

The coming-of-age of a young man who wants to be a fighter pilot, Vijeta, produced by Shashi Kapoor featured his son Kunal Kapoor, Rekha and Kapoor himself. Directed by Govind Nihalani, Vijeta picked up 3 Filmfare Awards.

Utsav, released in 1984, starring Rekha, was a film produced by Kapoor based on the 2nd century BC play Mrichakatika. It won 1 National Award and 2 Filmfare Awards.

Kapoor then went on to mount the ambitious Ajooba - a fantasy film starring Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor. The big budget film was produced in collaboration with Russia. However, Ajooba bombed at the box-office and reportedly devastated Shashi Kapoor. It was the last film he ever produced.

(This story is from The Quint’s archives and is being republished to mark the late Shashi Kapoor’s birth anniversary.)

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