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A tribute to Shashi Kapoor (1938-2017)
Posted:Dec 9, 2017
 
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By Ishtiaq Ahmed
 
The youngest son of Prithviraj Kapoor (1906-1972), died in Mumbai a few days ago. His brothers Raj Kapoor and Shammi Kapoor died earlier. Some of his nephews and nieces continue to be big names in Bollywood.
 
The KAPOOR STORY began in our part of the Subcontinent: in Peshawar where their elders were settled. THEY WERE PUNJABIS WHO SETTLED IN PESHAWAR. At home they all spoke Punjabi. Their mother belonged to the Lahori Mohalla of Peshawar which suggests a strong connection especially to Lahore.
 
The Kapoors were also connected to SAMUNDRI IN WEST PUNJAB where their grandfather was a thesildar. He bought some land there and began to live there as well.
 
PLEASE READ BELOW THE LETTER RAJ KAPOOR WROTE TO ME IN RESPONSE TO MY LETTER TO HIM IN 1986.
While Prithviraj and Raj Kapoor were born in Peshawar Shammi Kapoor was born in Bombay and Shashi Kapoor in Calcutta. At home the family spoke Punjabi. Theirs was a proud family which represented Pathan-Punjabi culture and values at their very best: they were proverbial hosts who always had guests at their home.
 
I first saw Shashi Kapoor in AWARA (1952). He played Raj Kapoor's early life as a child abandoned by his father played by his real father Prithviraj Kapoor. His mother was played by Lila Chitnis. She brings him up in a rundown locality of Bombay. Shashi Kapoor played that part with such commitment that for years I used to cry over the fate of that unfortunate boy struggling to go to school but is thrown out because his mother cannot pay the fees.
 
I saw Shashi Kapoor subsequently in scores of films including Siddharth which I saw in Stockholm. He was a very good looking man, perhaps too good looking. In all the characters he played he was convincing and good. In Dharmputra produced and directed by BR Chopra of Lahore and many other movies his performance was outstanding.
 
SHASHI KAPOOR DEVOTED HIS LIFE ALSO TO CONTINUING WITH HIS FATHER'S PRITHVI THEATRE. Now his daughter Sanjana carries on the tradition.
 
PRITHVI THEATRES PRODUCED PLAYS BASED ON SOCIALLY AWARE THEMES AND IDEAS AND WERE DEVOTEES OF THE GANDHIAN-NEHRUVIAN HUMANISM ON WHICH THE FOUNDATIONS OF PRISTINE INDIAN STATE WERE BASED AFTER INDIA BECAME INDEPENDENT.
 
From what I have gathered from books and reports he was a thorough gentleman, courteous, refined and magnanimous. A Yaaraan daa Yaa, as we say in Punjabi, Shashi Kapoor was. I never met him but my friend Najum Latif and his daughter spotted him in Lahore when he had come to shoot for the film on Jinnah of Akbar S Ahmed. They went up to him while the shooting was going on outside Lahore Fort. I was told he met them with great courtesy and gentleness.
 
With his departure the link between West Punjab from which a very large part of the Bollywood film fraternity hailed is now greatly diminished but that link will always be there in one way or another.
 
Best Regards,
 
Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed
 
Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Stockholm University; Visiting Professor Government College University;  and, Honorary Senior Fellow, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore. Latest publications, The Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed, *(Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2012), won the Best Non-Fiction Book Prize at the 2013 Karachi Literature Festival and the 2013 UBL-Jang Groups Best Non-Fiction Book Prize at Lahore and the Best Book on Punjab Award from Punjabi Parchar at the Vaisakhi Mela in Lahore, 2016. And , Pakistan: The Garrison State, Origins, Evolution, Consequences (1947-2011), Oxford, 2013.  I can be reached at: billumian@gmail.com
 
 
 
 
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