As requested by Beth, here’re my top ten must-watch Shashi Kapoor movies. Except they’re not my real Top Ten because she’s already seen a bunch of my favorite Shashi movies like Kaala Patthar, Junoon, Trishul, Aa Gale Lag Jaa (oh, come on! Admit it, you loved it too!), Do Aur Do Paanch, Namak Halaal, Sharmeelee, and, of course, Shakespearewalah. That’s almost a top ten right there.
And this is why Shashi Kapoor is so awesome. There aren’t a lot of actors out there who can bring out the amazing so consistently for so many years and do the movie star thing so well, especially when they’re asked to be a lean, mean roller-skating machine.
I’ve only ever run into him at an airport and while he wasn’t the Shashi of the movies by then – he was clearly somebody’s overweight pawpaw – he smiled that beautiful gentle smile at all of us lesser mortals as we parted for him to make his way to his seat and I swear to God, I’d have jumped his bones if he’d so much as looked at me. He’s lovely. And if any of your heathens have gory stories that say different, kindly keep them to yourself – I do not want to know. Leave me my illusions!
In no particular order I’d recommend:
Dharmaputra – There are two things about this movie that shock the hell out of me. One is that this was directed by Yash Chopra (shortly after he survived the Partition, I might add) and the second is that nobody seems to remember this movie was ever made. If I were Chopra, this is the movie that I’d bring up in every conversation about my films. It’s a movie about families and the communities they live in; the search for rationality in religion. It was also Shashi Kapoor’s first lead role, I believe.
The Householder – Going by his taste in the movies he produced (36 Chowringee Lane, Junoon, Utsav – but also, apparently, Ajooba!), I don’t know if he thought of the Merchant Ivory movies as his real work and the Bollywood movies as a bill paying job, but there’s a depth to the work he did with them that’s missing in most of his other efforts. Of course, that just might be a testament to Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s writing as well. In any case, The Householder is in turns funny, sad, odd and quite moving. I also found it pretty romantic, which seems to shock a lot of people. I say, those people have no soul. And if ever there was a woman for whom I’d turn lesbian, that woman is Leela Naidu.
Utsav – I believe, generations of young Indian men have been desperately in love with this movie. Or rather, the sight of Rekha in full seductress mode. Personally, I’d have been turned off by the fact that the recipient of her affections was Shekhar Suman, who channels a dead fish throughout the movie, but whatever. I suppose they didn’t notice. However, the story here isn’t really about sex, although everybody in the film talks about it all the time. It’s about the need for love and fidelity – and the price we’d pay for those two things. Shashi plays a small but pivotal character, but I think this qualifies as a Shashi movie coz he produced it.
Pyaar Ka Mausam – There is only one thing you need to know going in: this movie was made by Nasir Hussain. Therefore things are delightfully proto-Bollywood (I’m one of those who firmly believe ‘Bollywood’ didn’t come into its own until Salim Javed met Amitabh Bachchan) and nothing really makes sense but everything comes out alright in the end. But there is a lot of good music and the only reason I can forgive Asha Parekh for being such a bleating ninny is because I suspect I too would have swallowed the lines Shashi fed her with such elan.
Kanyadaan – This is the kind of movie I watch when I’m feeling lachrymose. There isn’t anything especially great about it but it’s so comforting to watch the usual “Hero Jerkface acts in the best interests of everybody only to completely shatter Idealistic Bride when she finds out his deep, dark secret” story when it’s done so well. Sigh.
Deewar – Duh!
Doosara Aadmi – Strictly speaking, this is a Rishi Kapoor film and Shashi has a special appearance. But it still blows my mind that this movie got made. Not only is it all sorts of scandalous but it also creepy and – get this! – age appropriate! No wonder they never made anything like this ever again.
Heat and Dust – I’m probably going to get strung up for saying this, but I really liked this movie. I usually can’t stand the whole Raj nonsense, especially the vast array of literature and movies that came out around the same time as this movie, but this one I rather… loved. You shouldn’t judge me until you see the movie.
In Custody – This list is turning into a Merchant Ivory love fest but I can’t help it. I was reminded of this movie just recently when watching that flashback sequence in Khoya Khoya Chand. It sort of kills you to see Shashi as the bloated old man living off his glory days, reciting couplets in that beautiful soft voice of his, and to see glimpses of the poet in his younger days in those eyes – especially because we have seen old Shashi. I love it.
Jinnah – Shashi is the narrator here so I think it qualifies by the skin of its teeth. I thought this was a really good movie, if a little worthy in the manner of all such biopics, and I’ve always been sad that a performance as painstakingly crafted as Christopher Lee’s became a matter of such controversy. Not that it affected his career but I really do think the movie got shafted.
That’s my ten. And looking at IMDB, I realize I still have a bunch of movies that I haven’t seen.