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Article Hindi

Shashi Kapoor was an artist in the true sense, says filmmaker Sudhir Mishra

Calling his death a huge loss, the director said future generations may never realize the magnitude of Kapoor's dedication to cinema and theatre.

Shashi Kapoor with Leela Naidu in The Householder (1963)

Shriram Iyengar

As fans and the film fraternity rushed to pay their last respects to Shashi Kapoor in the unseasonal rain in Mumbai today, director Sudhir Mishra praised him as a 'true artist'.

The director, a regular on the Prithvi theatre circuit, praised its founder as a man "from the world of cinema and theatre; a man who lives for it, who would put his life on the line for it".

Mishra said Kapoor's contribution as a producer was immeasurable. "This is the kind of man which the young will not understand," he remarked. "There is no comprehension of a man like Shashi Kapoor [today]. You mortgage your studio for a film. Can any young person do it today? Not possible! In an era where you take other people's money and blow it up, you will not understand people like Shashi Kapoor who earned money one way and gave it to Shyam Benegal's Junoon (1979), 36 Chowringhee Lane (1981), Vijeta (1982) and suffered as a result."

A versatile actor, Shashi Kapoor juggled his commercial projects and artistic ouevre with international projects like The Householder (1963) and Shakespeare Wallah (1965). Mishra said this quality could be seen in Kapoor's performance on screen as well.

Sudhir Mishra

Pointing to films like Deewaar (1975) and Kaala Patthar (1979), the director said, "Of course he was handsome. He was a heartthrob. But he was a very good actor and did some great films. He was the perfect foil to a lot of people. He understood that films are about a story. He never tried to grab the limelight. When the scene required him to stay in the background, he stayed in the background. He was a cinema man."

Sadly, the actor was mostly sidelined by commercial Hindi cinema. Audiences never really took to him in the same way they did to Amitabh Bachchan or, before him, to Rajesh Khanna, despite Kapoor possessing far better looks and acting talent. Mishra agrees that the audience let him down. "In another time, another place, to a more intelligent audience, he would have been a great actor," he said. "The audience let Shashi Kapoor down. I think they did not appreciate what he did."

Even the films Kapoor produced, the director argued, failed for lack of an understanding audience. "They did not appreciate what he did. He put his money where his mouth was. Everybody says why don't you make good cinema? The audience is ready for it. Well, Shashi Kapoor did and he lost money. He made damn good films! Not like amateur films!"

A courageous actor, "he acted in international cinema a long time ago. He was in Shakespeare Wallah (1965), Heat And Dust (1981)... Many films with Merchant and Ivory. He experimented. He didn't stay in that, you know, leading man image," Mishra added. 

It is not for his stardom that Shashi Kapoor needs praise, the director said. "He was an artist in the true sense of the word. [One of] those who emerged from their profession and gave back to it. That's why you call the Kapoors the first family [of Hindi cinema], and Shashi Kapoor was an example. They gave back to the industry."