Celebrating The Legendary Debonair Actor Shashi Kapoor On His 86th Birth Anniversary

The date March 18th is a very special day to remember since it marks the birth anniversary of the legendary debonair superstar Shashi Kapoor. 2024 marks the 86th anniversary of the unforgettable superstar! A man who was known to charm everyone with his infectious energy, versatile histrionics, gifted skills in acting, stage performances, directing, producing, and above all chivalry. As you can tell by his illustrious last name, he was the youngest son of Prithviraj Kapoor, the pioneer of the Indian Film Industry and the youngest brother to India’s Showman Raj Kapoor and India’s Elvis Presley Shammi Kapoor. Acting was something he began as a child in Raj Kapoor’s home production Aag (1948) and post that he never looked back. Whether it was performing on theatre or on the big screen, his voracious nature toward his work was vividly showcased in each and every character he portrayed. Indeed, he left behind intricately woven pieces of his full-fledged personality in all his characters and made them larger-than-life.

My fascination with him and his multiple works of art stemmed from my father who idolizes him and always felt an uncanny resemblance to him and his style of dressing and talking. Honestly, I always feel like I see my father in him since their personalities are strikingly similar.

There will never be anyone like him because his dedication and passion toward his craft is inexplicable. Like they say, an actor can never be forgotten since they leave behind a treasure trove of exemplary works of art. Legend Shashi Kapoor received numerous accolades and recognition globally for his cinematic masterstrokes. For instance, he was awarded four National Film Awards, two Filmfare Awards, Padma Bhushan, Dadasaheb Phalke Award, and the Oscars posthumously.

As an invaluable gem in the world of cinema, he has definitely set the bar high in films such as Waqt (1965), Jab Jab Phool Khile (1965), Aamne Samne (1967), Kanyadaan (1968), Haseena Maan Jaayegi (1968), Sharmeelee (1971), Aa Gale Lag Jaa (1973), Chor Machaye Shor (1974), Roti Kapda Aur Makaan (1974), Deewar (1975), Kabhi Kabhie (1976), Fakira (1978), Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978),  Trishul (1978), Suhaag (1979), Kaala Paathar (1979), Junoon (1979), Shaan (1980), Kranti (1981), Silsila (1981), Namak Halaal (1982), Gehri Chot: Door Desh (1985), Pighalta Aasman (1985), and many more. Alongside his phenomenal performances in films, theatre held a special place in his heart. In many of his interviews, he has often mentioned Prithvi Theatre which he worked to renovate in the late 70s post his father’s passing and how he aspires to uphold the legacy. He has also talked extensively about his evolution as an actor and how he would often improvise the diction and tone of his dialogues. His everlasting devotion and love toward his wife Jennifer Kendal, a legendary English actress was a huge motivator behind his successes, failures, and career aspirations.

In this article, my goal is to delve into the nuances and aesthetics of his awe-inspiring and award-winning performances to provide the audience a glimpse into his inimitable caliber and outstanding talent. In conjunction, to take readers down to memory lane by revisiting his spellbinding dialogues that were relevant yesterday and are still relevant today! This article will focus on one of my favorite films Aa Gale Lag Jaa (1973) which translates to “Come, Embrace Me.” It is a classic romantic film directed by the exceptional director Manmohan Desai and stars Shashi Kapoor with one of his favorite co-star and lifelong friend Sharmila Tagore. In addition, veteran seasoned actors such as Shatrughan Sinha, Om Prakash, and Sulochana Latkar added more substance to the film. Most importantly, Master Titu added the much needed cherubic innocence to the film.

This film is one of my personal favorites because the plot is well-constructed with a whole range of depth and pathos. In addition, the organic on-screen chemistry between the lead pair is heartwarming and soul-stirring to watch. Indefinitely the result of multiple collaborations with each other and their off-screen friendship!

The film begins with the suave Shashi Kapoor (Prem) falling head over heels in love with Preeti (Sharmila Tagore) when he spots her arriving at a department store to purchase a Mac Crème Frost Lipstick while working. It is indeed love at first sight for him and he begins to chase her, coming face to face with her at an Ice Skating Fancy Dress Dance Competition where everyone is dressed up in various characters. Preeti looks breathtaking dressed as a Laila who is eagerly waiting for her Majnu. Hence, Prem arrives all dressed as Majnu but Preeti feels he looks more like a Pathan than a Majnu. The first trendsetting duet starts playing titled “Wada Karo Nahin Chodoge Tum Mera Saath” sung by legendary Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar.

After this rhythmical and mellifluous performance, the judges announce both Prem and Preeti to be the winners of the contest. Prem being the romantic Romeo he is (which is very similar to Shashi Kapoor’s personality in real life) starts flirting with Preeti by openly expressing his love for her. However, Preeti is still a bit weary and consults her friends to assess whether Prem is just fooling around or is indeed a decent young man. Within a few minutes, Preeti reveals that she is a medical student at Bombay Medical School, has come to Shimla for the holidays and politely requests Prem to come to the clinic the next day since they need a person to perform an experiment on. In a way, she is testing his self-proclaimed love for her and what he can do for her.

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The experiment is titled “Freezing Cold Versus Human Body.” The experiment is testing what extreme freezing cold temperatures medically known as Hypothermia can do to the human body. If a person is exposed to extreme cold temperatures, then their blood levels will sink, and it may become difficult for them to survive if they fall unconscious.

The proposed primary method of treatment is to administer the patient with Coromine and Phentermine Injection. The second method is to administer Glucose saline if the previously mentioned medications are unavailable. However, without medications, brandy, or a hot water bottle can be utilized to provide body heat to the patient. If none of these medications are available, then the physiological transfer of body heat is the last resort to save the patient. In other words, the physical act of love if a man is trying to save a female patient. Taking the other person’s body close to you and transferring your body heat to the person who is shivering.

While he delivers this dialogue “Ishq cheez hee asi hai. Joh lagai na lage. Aur bujhai na bane” with his baritone voice and youthful enthusiasm, Preeti’s father Heerachand (Om Prakash) hears him from behind and confronts him about it, displaying his disproval for this budding relationship. This dialogue echoes the harbinger of first love.

There have been 2 renditions of the iconic song “Tera Mujhse Hai Pehle Ka Naata Koi Yuhi Nahi Dil Lubhaata Koi” which translates to “You Have a Previous Relationship With Me, It Is Not Casual For Someone To Rejoice My Heart” forms the foundation behind the film and the overall climax of the film. The first rendition is picturized on Shashi Kapoor (sung by Kishore Kumar). It is truly a melodious evergreen song that always tugs my heartstrings and unleashes positive vibes within the atmosphere. The second rendition picturized on Rahul (Master Titu) when Prem and Preeti finally come face to face at the party thrown by Dr. Amar’s younger sister Tikki successfully drives the emotional message home. This was sung by both Kishore Kumar (the voice of Shashi Kapoor) who later joins his son since he forgot some of the golden lyrics and Sushma Shrestha (the voice of young Rahul).

While finally succeeding in his plan which was to carry Preeti in his arms while singing “Tera Mujhse Hai Pehle Ka Naata Koi Yuhi Nahi Dil Lubhaata Koi” merrily. Disaster strikes and he accidentally drops Preeti in the freezing snow and into the even more freezing lake.

As Prem cannot bear to witness his beloved Preeti in such a painful state, he then remembers the experiment and the treatments for it if medications are not available. Without any other choice, he decides to transfer his body heat to her body and thus the physical act of love occurs.

This film was path-breaking in the sense that pre-marital sex was introduced which was not the usual norm back in the early 70s. Shashiji has enlightened the audience with a myriad of complex roles and educated the world about many controversial topics that were considered taboo at the time. In fact, he was the first actor who acted in Hollywood films such as The Householder (1963), Shakespeare Wallah (1963), Bombay Talkie (1970), Heat and Dust (1982), and many more. A true global artist and cinematic icon in his own right!

After transferring body heat, Preeti regains consciousness the next morning and realizes what happened. Prem expresses his discomfort in doing what he did since he was not expecting to do it but was left with no other alternative. Hearing this, Preeti reciprocates to his love and affection, thus falling in love with him since she owes her life and heart to him from now on.

She agrees to marry him after he proposes. Unfortunately, Preeti’s father objects to this union and insults Prem regarding his socioeconomic status. However, as passionate, and stubborn Prem is, he does not pay heed to her father’s refusal and leaves a note for Preeti stating that her father is against their marriage, and he must rush since his mother is sick. He writes that he will come back to meet her. Preeti’s father witnesses Prem handing over the note to the hotel receptionist requesting that only Preeti should receive this note. Demonstrating a streak of malicious intent, he changes the letter to something else that is the opposite of what Prem had originally written, deliberately creating misunderstandings between the two lovers, and subsequently separating them.

The altered letter written by Preeti’s father states that whatever Prem did with her was only due to money since she is the only daughter of a very wealthy father. The letter also requested to give him 5 lakhs on the day of the wedding and do not consider this as blackmail.

Reading this letter leaves Preeti shattered and heartbroken. She then decides to break up with Prem and leaves for Bombay with her father. Her father wants her to get married to Dr. Amar (Shatrugan Sinha) and gets them engaged once they return. Dr. Amar has been Preeti’s closest friend for many years and loves her. Once they get engaged, Amar flies to Germany for future medical studies and Preeti is left alone with the bittersweet memories of her first love, Prem. Subsequently, Preeti faints and realizes she is pregnant with Prem’s child. This further startles Preeti’s father who demands an abortion from Preeti but her maternal instinct kicks in causing her to remain adamant about giving birth to her child and bringing the child up as a single mother.

Preeti’s father comes up with the plan of shifting her to his friend Dr. Sudhin Majumdar’s nursing home in Khandala where she can deliver the baby, and nobody will find out that she was ever pregnant. The irony of fate is that Prem and his ailing mother are in the clinic. Since Preeti requires a female companion to take care of her during her pregnancy, Prem’s mother offers to take care of Preeti unaware that Preeti is indeed Prem’s beloved. As Preeti gets into labor pain, Prem finally sees her being carried on the stretcher and realizes that she is pregnant. While he rushes to take care of her, he is interrupted by the thorn in their love story who is none other than Preeti’s stern father.

After hearing that he plans on sending the newborn to one of his owned orphanages, Prem offers to accept the newborn and to raise him on his own as a single father. While promising Preeti’s father that he will stay away from Preeti and will never reveal to his son that Preeti is his mother. Tragically, Prem’s mother passes away due to cardiac arrest but breathes her last peacefully when Prem finally reveals that the newborn is indeed his and Preeti’s son, her grandson. The second half of the film captures the essence of an ideal father-son relationship adding more complexity to his performance. Prem names their son Rahul and tragically he is diagnosed with Polio leaving him handicapped.

Later in the story, we discover that Prem becomes a Skating Instructor and a search for new career opportunities brings him to Bombay where he runs his own Skating School. Skating is the hobby that brought Preeti and Prem together and is a salient theme in the overall narrative. Interestingly, both Shashi Kapoor and Sharmila Tagore learned how to skate prior to shooting for this film. As you can guess, the two separated star-crossed lovers encounter each other once again and begin to rekindle their lost romance. Their son Rahul (Master Titu) acts as the catalyst that ultimately reunites them, and the film is filled with many twists and turns. Without a doubt, a child does indeed melt the heart of even the most arrogant person and the same case happened when Preeti brings Rahul to her place, and he ends up playing marbles with Preeti’s father. Preeti’s father’s eyes begins to well up with tears as he begins realizing his mistake and how he was fully responsible for separating Rahul from his mother. In order to find out more about the end of the film and what happens to the characters, Aa Gale Lag Jaa is a mesmerizing film to watch!

Some of his memorable and immortal dialogues include “Mere Paas Maa Hai” from the blockbuster film Deewar (1975) directed by the legendary Yash Chopra highlighting the most significant possession a man can ever have in response to his brother (Amitabh Bachchan) claiming that he has wealth, property, and bank balances. The camaraderie and on-screen chemistry between the two brothers were heavily influenced by their genuine friendship, affection, and respect for each other in real life. Despite the dialogue being only a single line, it carries tremendous amount of gravitas. As a result, this dialogue has left a lasting impact on cinephiles for many decades. Below is a list of some of the most profound and evergreen dialogues from his other films.

“Woh afsana jise anjaam tak lana na ho mumkin, usse ek khoobsurat mor dekhar chorna accha hai” – Aa Gale Lag Jaa (1973)

 To translate: “The fantasy that is impossible to reach fruition, leaving that fantasy in a beautiful direction is best.”

“Khwaab zindagi se kai zyada khubsoorat hote hai” – Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978)

To translate: “A dream is much more beautiful than life itself.” This gem was from one of his most treasured classics starring another favorite co-star Zeenat Aman. Their westernized outlook further cemented their working relationship and friendship.

“Yeh mat socho ke desh tumhe kya deta hai, yeh socho ke tum desh ko kya de sakte ho” – Roti, Kapda aur Makaan (1974)

To translate: “Don’t think what the country gives you, instead think what you can give to the country.” This captivating dialogue delivered by him sparks a flair of patriotism to arise and reminds citizens that we are bestowed upon the responsibility to make our nation proud with whatever we decide to pursue in life.

“Iss duniya me aadmi insaan ban jaye toh badi baat hai” – Kabhi Kabhie (1976)

To translate: “In this world, if a man becomes a human then that is a big deal.” Again, this powerful point of view spoken in his riveting voice is a gentle reminder to what humanity entails and how being a “good” human being in this world is ultimately the most desired outcome. This marvelous dialogue was uttered in response to Raakhee Gulzar’s question regarding the type of man he is. She was another favorite co-star of Shashi Kapoor. Both have delivered multiple successful films like Sharmeelee (1971), Trishna (1978), Basera (1981), Pighalta Aasman (1985), and many more.

“Hum gayab hone waalon mein se nahi hain… Jahan jahan se guzarte hain jalwe dikhate hain… Dost kya dushman bhi yaad rakhte hai” – Silsila (1981)

 To translate: “I’m not from those who disappear out of the blue… Wherever I pass by, I show my talent… Not just friends, even enemies remember me. This dialogue perfectly captures the essence of who Shashi Kapoor was, is, and will always be remembered as! In a sense, this dialogue serves as his identity as if this line was written specially to describe him.

“Yeh prem rog hai, shuru mein dukh deta hai, baad mein bahut dukh deta hai” – Namak Halaal (1982)

To translate: “This is the disease of love. In the beginning it gives pain, later it gives more pain.”

“Zyada paisa aaye toh neend nahi aati, neend aaye toh zyada paisa nahi aata” – Deewar (1975)

 To translate: “When you have a lot of money, then you can’t fall asleep. When you fall asleep, you don’t get a lot of money.” This line depicts the real-life of the middle-class population back in the 70s and is still relevant today.

“Aapna toh ek hee usool hai, jeeyo toh apne liye, sochon toh dusron ke liye” – Ek Aur Ek Gyrah (1980)

To translate: “I have one policy, live for yourself, think for others.” Quite a policy to live by, don’t you think?

“Maa, iss duniya mein apna paraye kuch nahi hota. Kuch log apnon ko paraye samajkar thukradeta hai. Aur kuch paraye ko apna lete hai” – Aa Gale Lag Jaa (1973)

To translate: “Mom, in this world there is no such thing as insider and outsider. Some people consider their own to be an outsider and reject them. And some accept the outsider and make it their own.” An immensely relevant dialogue that mirrors the values of humanity and the importance of creating affectionate bonds with all people.

“Mein zara romantic kissam ka aadmi hoon… shaadi ke baad ishq karna toh chhod diya hai…iss liye biwi se romance karke kaam chala leta hoon” – Kabhi Kabhie (1976)

 To translate: “I’m a romantic type of man… After marriage, I stopped falling in love… That’s why I romance my wife to make up for it”

“Libaas badal dene se aatma nahi badal jaati” – Jab Jab Phool Khile (1965)

To translate: “When you change your clothes, your soul does not change.” Immaculate words to live by as there is a wholesome amount of realism in this one line.

Finally, the legendary Shashi Kapoor brought life to each role he portrayed, was referred to as a perfect human being since he was a pure soul always friendly with colleagues, a humble gentleman, and a whole class apart. He is indeed one in a million and it is truly an absolute honor for me to write a tribute article celebrating his exuberant zest for life, lifelong passion for acting, magnetic screen presence, and the way he lived his life with full dignity and respect.

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Erikka Chowdhury

A scientist who has an immense appreciation for the arts and enjoys creating innovative content designed to engage the audience from all spectrums of life. read more...

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