Shashi Kapoor
Kapoor in 2005
Balbir Raj Kapoor

(1938-03-18)18 March 1938
Died4 December 2017(2017-12-04) (aged 79)
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
  • Actor
  • film producer
Years active1945–1998
Height5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
(m. 1958; died 1984)
FamilyKapoor family

Shashi Kapoor (pronounced [ʃəʃi kəpuːɾ]; born Balbir Raj Kapoor; 18 March 1938 – 4 December 2017) was an Indian actor and film producer who is best known for his works in Hindi films. A recipient of several accolades, including four National Film Awards and two Filmfare Awards, he also featured in a number of English-language international films, particularly films produced by Merchant Ivory. The Government of India honoured him with the Padma Bhushan in 2011, and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, in 2014, for his contribution to Indian cinema.

Born into the Kapoor family, he was the third and the youngest son of Prithviraj Kapoor. He began his career as a child actor in 1948 with his brother Raj Kapoor's maiden directorial Aag, and had his first role as an adult in the year 1961 with Yash Chopra's political drama Dharmputra.[1] He established himself in 1965 with two blockbusters - Waqt and Jab Jab Phool Khile.[2] This was followed by a period of lukewarm success, with Kanyadaan, Sharmeelee and Aa Gale Lag Jaa being the major exceptions.[3][4] He made a big comeback in 1974 with Chor Machaye Shor.[5] With the mega success of Chor Machaye Shor, Kapoor became the top five to six saleable stars of the time and starred in top grossing Hindi films since the early 1970s to 1980s, such as - Roti Kapada Aur Makaan, Deewaar, Chori Mera Kaam, Kabhi Kabhie, Fakira, Trishul, Suhaag, Kranti and Namak Halaal.[6][7] He received critical acclaim for his portrayal of a reckless chieftain in Junoon, a businessman in Kalyug, a strict father in Vijeta and an honest journalist in New Delhi Times for which he won National Film Award for Best Actor.[8][9] The last film to feature him was the much delayed Ghar Bazar which released in 1998.[10]

Early life

Shashi Kapoor was born as Balbir Raj Kapoor[11] to Prithviraj Kapoor and his wife in Calcutta, British India, on 18 March 1938. He was the youngest brother of Raj Kapoor and Shammi Kapoor. Actor Trilok Kapoor was his paternal uncle.[12]

Kapoor as a child artist (left) with Baby Madhuri (Meena Kumari's sister, center) & Baby Shakuntala (right) in the film Bachpan (1945).

Kapoor acted in plays, directed and produced by his father Prithviraj Kapoor, while travelling with Prithvi Theatres. He started acting in films as a child in the late 1940s under the name of Shashiraj, as there was already another actor by the same name who used to act in mythological films as a child artiste. His best-known performances as a child actor were in Aag (1948) and Awaara (1951), where he played the younger version of the characters played by his older brother Raj Kapoor,[13] and in Sangram (1950), where he played the younger version of Ashok Kumar and Dana Paani (1953) where he acted with Bharat Bhushan. He worked in four Hindi films as a child artiste from 1948 to 1954.


Debut and rise to stardom (1961-1965)

After appearing as a child artist in some highly successful films like Sangram (1950), Samadhi (1950) and Awaara (1951), Shashi Kapoor made his debut as a leading man in 1961 with Yash Chopra's partition drama Dharmputra.[14] This was followed by another release the same year in Char Diwari. Both Dharmputra and Char Diwari didn't do well at ticket counters.[15]

In 1962 and 1963, he saw minor successes with - Bimal Roy's Prem Patra and Kanak Mishra's Yeh Dil Kisko Doon, respectively.[16] Kapoor also made his English film debut in 1963 with James Ivory's acclaimed family drama The Householder.[17] This was followed by S. Khalil's Muslim social Benazir (1964) which also had Meena Kumari, Ashok Kumar and Tanuja in the lead, but contrary to expectations, it was a box office failure.[18]

The year 1965 changed his fortune as he starred in two highest grossing films of that year with Yash Chopra's masala film Waqt and Suraj Prakash's romantic musical Jab Jab Phool Khile.[19][20] Waqt went on to become a massive blockbuster at the box office, receiving praise for performances of the cast, Chopra's direction and cinematography. Today, it is widely regarded as an evergreen classic.[21] The mega success of Waqt was followed by another blockbuster in Jab Jab Phool Khile which had Kapoor paired with Nanda.[22][23] It too got highly positive response from critics, especially for its soundtrack which was the fourth best-selling Hindi film album of the 1960s with a number of melodious songs, like "Ye Samaa Samaa Hai Pyar Ka", "Affoo Khudaya", "Ek Tha Gul Aur Ek Thi Bulbul", "Na Na Karte Pyar Tumhin Se", "Pardesiyon Se Na Ankhiyan Milana".[24][25] Jab Jab Phool Khile made Kapoor a star and won him that year's BFJA Award for Best Actor (Hindi) for his moving performance of an innocent boatman in the film.[26][27]

Sporadic success, resurgence and critical acclaim (1966-1986)

Despite establishing himself, Kapoor's career fluctuated from late 60s to early 70s as very few of his films emerged successful during this period.[28]

In 1966, he starred alongside Kishore Kumar, Mehmood, Kalpana Mohan, Rajasree, Mumtaz in C. V. Sridhar's Pyar Kiye Jaa.[29] Pyar Kiye Jaa proved to be a hit, but his other release Neend Hamari Khwab Tumhare again opposite Nanda did only average business at the box office.[30] After seeing two more moderate successes in 1967 with Dil Ne Pukara and Aamne Samne, the following year, he delivered a blockbuster in Kanyadaan opposite Asha Parekh and a hit in Haseena Maan Jayegi co-starring Babita.[31] The soundtrack of Kanyadaan composed by Shankar-Jaikishan was also very successful with a Mohammed Rafi solo - "Likhe Jo Khat Tujhe" topping the musical charts.[32]

From 1969 to 1972, Kapoor had only one major success with Samir Ganguly's romantic thriller Sharmeelee (1971) opposite Rakhee Gulzar.[33][34] In 1973, he reunited with Sharmila Tagore for Manmohan Desai's romantic drama Aa Gale Lag Jaa.[35] Backed up with chartbuster music, it proved to be one of the highest earners of the year, eventually emerging a superhit at the box office.[36][37]

The year 1974 changed the trajectory of Kapoor's career and marked his comeback.[38] It started with Ashok Roy's action comedy Chor Machaye Shor which also had Mumtaz, Asrani and Danny Denzongpa in the lead.[39] Chor Machaye Shor proved to be a blockbuster in India as well as overseas, putting a line of producers outside Kapoor's house and making him top five to six saleable stars of the time.[5][40] The massive success of Chor Machaye Shor was followed by Manoj Kumar's social drama Roti Kapada Aur Makaan.[41] Roti Kapada Aur Makaan went on to become an All Time Blockbuster and is regarded as one of the most influential movies of its time.[42][43] Roti Kapada Aur Makaan and Chor Machaye Shor took 1st and 2nd spot, respectively at the box office in 1974.[44] Apart from their box office success, both the films had superhit music and were the best selling Bollywood albums of the year.[45] The song "Le Jayenge, Le Jayenge Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge" from Chor Machaye Shor was so popular that it went on to inspire the title of Shah Rukh Khan starrer Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.[46] 1975 proved to be another iconic year for Kapoor as he formed a hit pair with megastar Amitabh Bachchan and together both of them gave many successful and iconic films to Hindi cinema.[47] His first release Anari underperformed commercially, but his second release, Deewaar directed by Yash Chopra, written by Salim-Javed and co-starring Bachchan, Parveen Babi, Neetu Singh, proved to be a major critical and commercial success, eventually emerging a huge blockbuster at the box office.[48] Deewaar is considered one of the best films ever made in the history of Indian cinema and got featured in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.[49][50][51] Kapoor's line "Mere paas maa hai" ("I have mother"), is widely known in India and has become part of Indian popular culture.[52] Kapoor's impactful portrayal of a police officer torn between love for his brother and duty met with acclaim and won him Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actor.[53] His next release was Raj Khosla's romantic drama Prem Kahani which also had Rajesh Khanna and Mumtaz in the lead.[54] The film received good response from reviewers as well as the audience and proved to be a hit at the box office.[55] He delivered another major hit that year with Brij Sadanah's action comedy Chori Mera Kaam opposite Zeenat Aman.[56] Kapoor began 1976 with Yash Chopra's romantic musical Kabhi Kabhie.[57] It had a huge star cast comprising of Waheeda Rehman, Bachchan, Rishi Kapoor, Rakhee and Neetu Singh.[58] Despite its heavy theme, Kabhi Kabhie went on to become a blockbuster at the box office.[59] It also had a highly successful soundtrack composed by Khayyam with lyrics written by Sahir Ludhianvi.[45] Rakesh Budhu of Planet Bollywood gave 9.5 stars out of 10 to the album stating, "Kabhi Kabhie will remain an ode to brilliant melody".[60] For his performance in the film, Kapoor received a nomination in the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actor category.[61] After the huge success of Kabhi Kabhie, he reunited with the team of Chor Machaye Shor and delivered another blockbuster in Fakira, which was also remade in Telugu as Dongalaku Donga (1977).[62] This was followed by a hit in Shibu Mitra's Shankar Dada and a semi-hit in Mohan Kumar's Aap Beati.

In 1977, he reunited with Bachchan for Desh Mukherjee's highly anticipated actioner Immaan Dharam, which took a bumper opening, but collections dropped afterwards due to poor reception and it ended up as a flop venture by the end of its run.[63] His most of the other releases that year, such as Hira Aur Patthar, Farishta Ya Qatil, Chor Sipahee met the same fate, with the exception of Ashok Roy's Chakkar Pe Chakkar co-starring Rekha, Pran and Amjad Khan.[64] This changed in 1978 when he starred in two of the highest grossing films of the year with Raj Kapoor's romantic drama Satyam Shivam Sundaram and Yash Chopra's action drama Trishul.[65][66] While Satyam Shivam Sundaram opposite Zeenat Aman proved to be a hit, the latter in which he was paired alongside Hema Malini was a blockbuster.[67][5] Kapoor also set up his own production house, Film-Valas in 1978.[68] The following year, he reunited with Bachchan for two big-budget actioners, The first one was Yash Chopra's Kaala Patthar and the second was Manmohan Desai's Suhaag.[69][70] Kaala Patthar did average business at the time of release, but gained cult status afterwards and is now considered an action classic.[71] Its song "Ek Raasta Hai Zindagi" sung by Kishore Kumar and filmed on Kapoor remains highly popular till date.[72] Suhaag, on the other hand, was a blockbuster as well as the highest grossing film of 1979.[73] The same year, he produced and starred in Shyam Benegal's art-house film Junoon which also had Nafisa Ali, Shabana Azmi, Jennifer Kendal and Naseeruddin Shah in the lead.[74] Junoon met with acclaim, winning Kapoor National Award for Best Feature Film (Hindi) as well as Filmfare Award for Best Film.[75]

In 1980, Kapoor delivered a hit with Swayamvar, but his other releases, such as Do Aur Do Paanch and Neeyat failed to leave a mark while Ramesh Sippy's mega-budget action crime film Shaan ended up as an average grosser.[76] In 1981, he co-starred alongside Dilip Kumar, Manoj Kumar, Hema Malini, Shatrughan Sinha and Parveen Babi in the historical drama Kranti.[77] It went on to become the biggest patriotic hit of all time, topping the box office chart in 1981 and emerging an All Time Blockbuster.[78][79] The same year, he saw moderate successes in Ek Aur Ek Gyaarah, Maan Gaye Ustaad and received acclaim for his performances in Yash Chopra's romantic drama Silsila and Shyam Benegal's crime drama Kalyug (which he also produced).[80] 1982 was a good year for him as both critical and commercial success came his way with Govind Nihalani's coming-of-age drama Vijeta and Prakash Mehra's action comedy Namak Halaal.[81][82] Vijeta which starred his son Kunal Kapoor in his debut, received enormous praise with many reviewers hailing it as one of the best films of the year.[83] On the other hand, Namak Halaal opened to thunderous response from the audience and proved to be a blockbuster with Kapoor receiving another nomination in the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actor category.[5][84]

Post-1982, Kapoor's star power began to wane as he shifted his focus majorly towards parallel cinema and limited his work in mainstream films, accepting only few offers.[85] After not seeing any success in 1983, the next year, he produced and starred in Girish Karnad's critically acclaimed erotic drama Utsav.[86] It was filmed in Hindi and English simultaneously, the post-production work of latter version was done in London.[87] He also played a supporting role in K. Bapayya's superhit drama film Ghar Ek Mandir.[88] In 1985, he appeared in Babbar Subhash's Aandhi-Toofan and Shakti Samanta's Alag Alag. While Aandhi-Toofan emerged a hit, Alag Alag fared poorly at the box office.[89]

1986 proved to be a notable year for Kapoor as he won his first National Award for Best Actor and second BFJA Award for Best Actor (Hindi) for the extraordinary portrayal of an honest journalist in Ramesh Sharma's highly acclaimed political thriller New Delhi Times.[90][91] His another major release of the year was Shibu Mitra's multi-starrer actioner Ilzaam co-starring Shatrughan Sinha, Govinda, Neelam and Anita Raj.[92] The film proved to be a major commercial success and also one of the top grossers of the year.[93]

Final works (1987–1998)

Shashi Kapoor at Rajesh Khanna's prayer meet

In 1987, he reunited with Govinda and Neelam for K. Ravi Shankar's actioner Sindoor which also had Jaya Prada in the lead.[94] He also did a guest appearance in Gulzar's romantic musical Ijaazat.[95] Although Ijaazat flopped commercially, it won massive critical acclaim.[96] On the other hand, Sindoor emerged a hit and also proved to be Kapoor's last box office success.[97] In 1988, he acted with Pierce Brosnan in The Deceivers.[98] He also collaborated with Sudesh Issar and Manoj Kumar in 1989 for Akhri Muqabla and Clerk, respectively.[99]

Shashi Kapoor requested Amitabh Bachchan to star in his ambitious directorial debut film Ajooba (1991).[100] Bachchan made a notable exception and agreed to do the film due to their friendship, even though at the time Amitabh was not signing any new films.[101] Despite having a lavish budget and a huge star cast, the film flopped miserably at the box office.[102] Kapoor also won Special Jury Award for his performance in the 1993 film In Custody and played the Rajah in the TV miniseries Gulliver's Travels (1996).[103]

In 1998, he retired from acting after his final film appearances in Jinnah, Side Streets and the much delayed Ghar Bazar.[104] He was seen in the limelight at the Shashi Kapoor Film Festival held in Muscat, Oman (September 2007). At the 55th Annual Filmfare Awards in 2010, Shashi Kapoor received the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award.[105]

Kapoor was of particular note in the Kapoor clan. He has been the solo hero more times (61 films) and also as a lead protagonist in more Hindi films (116) than his nephews Rishi Kapoor, Randhir Kapoor and Rajiv and even more than his brothers Raj Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor, his grand-nephews and grand-nieces.[106]

Personal life

Shashi Kapoor with daughter Sanjana in 2010

Kapoor attended Don Bosco High School in Matunga, Mumbai. He met English actress Jennifer Kendal in Calcutta in 1956 while both were working for their respective theatre groups. Shashi was both assistant stage manager as well as an actor for his father's theatre group, Prithvi Theatre. Geoffrey Kendal's Shakespearean group was also present at the same time in Calcutta and Jennifer was Geoffrey's daughter. After their subsequent meeting, the couple fell in love and after facing initial opposition from the Kendals and support from sister-in-law Geeta Bali, they got married in July 1958.[107] They acted in a number of films together, most notably in Merchant Ivory productions. They had three children: Kunal Kapoor, Karan Kapoor and Sanjana Kapoor. Jennifer and Shashi established Prithvi Theatre on 5 November 1978 in Mumbai. Jennifer died of cancer in 1984 which shattered him. After losing her to cancer, Shashi Kapoor fell into a deep depression that he never recovered from.[108] The English actress Felicity Kendal is his sister-in-law.

His eldest son Kunal is married to director Ramesh Sippy's daughter. Kunal moved on to ad film direction and established his production house Adfilm-Valas. Shashi's daughter Sanjana, is a theatre personality and married to wildlife conservationist Valmik Thapar.[109] They have a son named Hamir. Shashi's younger son Karan became successful in modeling and later settled down in London and runs a photography company. His grandson Zahan who is son of Kunal made his debut in Faraaz (2023).[110]

Kapoor was admitted to the Kokilaben Hospital, Versova, Mumbai, for what was speculated to be chest infection, and died on 4 December 2017.[111] According to The Guardian, he was in hospital for treatment from long-standing liver and heart complications, and was always helping other patients.[112] Officially, his cause of death was attributed to liver cirrhosis.[113][114] His body was cremated.[115] Kapoor and actress Sridevi, who died in 2018, were the only two Indians honored posthumously in memoriam at 90th Academy Awards.[116]

Filmography and awards

Main article: Shashi Kapoor, roles and awards

The President, Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil presenting the Padma Bhushan Award to Shashi Kapoor
The President, Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil presenting the Padma Bhushan to Shashi Kapoor

In 2011, the Government of India honored him with the Padma Bhushan for his contributions to Indian cinema.[117]

Reception and legacy

Kapoor is regarded as one of the greatest actors of Indian cinema.[118] Apart from his work in mainstream Hindi films, he is also known for acting and producing several highly acclaimed and award-winning movies belonging to the genre of Parallel cinema, such as Junoon (1979), Kalyug, 36 Chowringhee Lane (both 1981), Vijeta (1982) and Utsav (1984).[119][120]

Kapoor's deep attachment and commitment to theatre which started in childhood remained almost untouched even when he was immobile due to age-related complications. After renovating Prithvi Theatre in the western part of Mumbai, he was able to successfully create an environment congenial for creative pursuits. The lanes that reach Prithvi Theatre especially in the 1980s were not just routes to the theatre. They were a testimony to principles such as clarity of purpose, commitment to nonconformity and alacrity and utmost willingness to be part of creative process which would have enduring value and which would be incorruptible by market forces. Till date, Prithvi Theatre oozes out an infectious creative energy which can compel people to become dedicated theatre artists and earn a decent living. This has become possible because of consistent efforts of Shashi Kapoor who would be present for special theme-based theatre festivals at the theatre.[121]

In 2022, he was placed in Outlook India's "75 Best Bollywood Actors" list.[122]


Further reading

See also


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  2. ^ Jain, Madhu (2009). The Kapoors : the first family of Indian cinema. New Delhi: Penguin. ISBN 978-81-8475-813-9. OCLC 890552316.
  3. ^ "Box office 1973". Box Office India. Archived from the original on 20 October 2013. Retrieved 12 November 2013.
  4. ^ "Worth Their Weight in Gold! - Box Office India : India's premier film trade magazine". Archived from the original on 15 September 2017. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d "Blockbusters Of Twenty-Five Years (1973-1997)". 13 October 2023.
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  7. ^ "Rewind - Greatest Indian Film Sholay Is 43 Years Old - Box Office India". Retrieved 25 January 2020.
  8. ^ Trehan, Madhu (26 February 2014). "Film review: Kalyug, starring Shashi Kapoor, Rekha, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Raj Babbar". India Today.
  9. ^ Chatterjee, Saibal; Nihalani, Govind & Guljar (2003). "Kapoor, Shashi (b. 1938)". Encyclopaedia of Hindi Cinema. Delhi: Popular Prakashan. p. 568. ISBN 81-7991-066-0.
  10. ^ BollySwar: 1981 - 1990. Mavrix Infotech Private Limited. 14 April 2020. ISBN 9788193848227.
  11. ^ "From Balbir Raj Kapoor to Shashi Kapoor: Here's how the actor got his name changed". Archived from the original on 16 June 2018. Retrieved 5 January 2019.
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  30. ^ "Box Office 1966". Archived from the original on 22 September 2012.
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  36. ^ Dhirad, Sandeep (2006). "Filmfare Nominees and Winner" (PDF). p. 38. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 June 2009. Retrieved 17 October 2009.
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  46. ^ Uberoi, Patricia (November 1998). "The diaspora comes home: Disciplining desire in DDLJ". Contributions to Indian Sociology. 32 (2): 305–336. doi:10.1177/006996679803200208. ISSN 0069-9667. S2CID 146570568.
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