death caused us and our father a lot of grief; we had our
own way of dealing with it.
I did not know how popular my father was because we
were not brought up as part of the industry. We knew he
was an actor. Everybody in my mother (the legendary
Jennifer Kendal)’s and my father’s family were actors.
We were aware that going to public places with him in
Mumbai was a problem. If we went to the zoo, it would
have to be at 6.30 in the morning. And we would have to
run away as soon as a crowd gathered.
Dad never worked on Sundays. He spent the whole day
with the family. We would have all three meals together.
He never invited his friends over on Sunday.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he used to work in
many films. He used to do six shifts. We would sit for
breakfast at 7.30 am. No matter what time he came in the
previous night, he would be at the breakfast table at 7.30
Our father was an integral part of our life. He was not
strict. Very few fathers in our culture have a close relationship with their children. Fortunately, we had a great
one-to-one relationship with him.
I am hands-on with my kids; I have washed my son’s
bottom. I have changed his nappies... that is the kind of
relationship I had with my father.
My father didn’t have such a relationship with his father.
My father would try and schedule his outdoor shootings
to coincide with our school holidays so that we would be
together. But we were not taken on the sets of the film.
Nowadays, we shoot early in the morning but, in those
days, the shooting would start at 9.30 am or 10 am and
end by 4 pm, so there was plenty of time to be together.
For five or six years we went to Kashmir every summer
during the shooting, but we would do our own thing with
At home in Mumbai, we would go swimming; you could
say we grew up in the Breach Candy club pool (a well-known club in South Mumbai). We would also go to Juhu
beach and spend the whole day there.
No tantrums, no starry airs on sets
My grandfather Prithviraj Kapoor liked acting and he
got into the business. So did Raj Uncle (14 years older
than Shashi), Shammi Uncle ((7 years older than Shashi)
and my dad. They did not want to be stars; they just
wanted to be actors. Later, Raj Uncle got interested in
making films and turned director. They were not like
today’s generation where everyone wants to be a star.
They were in love with their profession.
The early films my father did — Dharamputra, Waqt,
Householder, Char Diwari, Shakespeare Wallah and Jab
Jab Phool Khile — were very interesting films. In the
1950s, people made good films.
My father was very professional and easy to work with.
He had no tantrums, no starry airs, he never misbehaved
on the sets, he was punctual and everybody liked working
The industry changed and the quality of films made in
the late 1970s started deteriorating. Seeing that good
films were not being made and the industry was run by
loan sharks making commercial potboilers, my father
started his own production company, Film Valas.
He made Junoon (1978), Kalyug (1980), 36
Chowringhee Lane (1981), Vijeta (1982), Utsav (1984) and
Ups and downs
When my father was launched as a lead actor
in Dharamputra, none of the actresses wanted to work
with a newcomer. Nanda was the only actress who agreed
to work with him even though she was a star at that time.
My father directed only one film, Ajooba. The film was a
big party on the sets. Everybody had a blast. I don’t think
he was interested in direction. He is an actor. Likewise, he
is not a businessman to produce a film. He made great
films because he gave his cast and crew whatever they
In the late ‘60s, he did not have any work. We saw a lot
of him then. That was also the time we discovered Goa.
He sold his sports car. Mum also started selling things
because we didn’t have money.
After Sharmilee (1971), things changed again.
There have been many ups and downs, but it never
My father was one of the earliest actors to do crossover
films, with Merchant-Ivory (the successful producer-direc-tor team of Ismail Merchant and James Ivory). He did
films like Householder and Shakespeare Wallah that are
considered classics today.
My father has not been well for some time now. He has
a lot of complications. He has dialysis three times a week.
He is not well enough to go to Delhi for the Dadasaheb
Phalke award ceremony.
My father had a good family, a good life, he made good
films, and he doesn’t care about anything now. I think
they could have given him this award earlier.
If you give it at an earlier age, it means something.
When a man is at the end of his life and you give him an
award, it doesn’t mean much. But then, again, he never
cared about awards.
Prithvi Theater & the Kapoor dreams
My father bought the land and built Prithvi Theater for
plays (in Juhu, Mumbai; it started in 1978). He did it in
memory of his father Prithviraj Kapoor.
My father was also producing Junoon and doing six
shifts a day, so my mother looked after the theater completely.
After my mother passed away, I took over. By the 1990s
I was getting very busy and slowly I gave my sister
Sanjana charge of the theatre. She married (the celebrated
crusader for the tiger Valmik Thapar) and moved to Delhi
10 years ago.
Sanjana should have started her organization, Junoon,
10 years ago. Now she is taking art into the community
and working with children.
All of us in our family have our own identity.
Raj Kapoor had RK Studio and he made films.
Shammi Kapoor and dad were into acting.
Rishi Kapoor, Ranbir, Bebo (Kareena Kapoor) are all
doing their own thing. I made ad films and my brother
(Karan) is into photography.
I studied at the Bombay International School. I was
never treated differently at
school because my father was an actor. After school, I
went to England and joined drama school because I
thought I wanted to be an actor. I slowly realized that I
interested in filmmaking and the technical process of
filmmaking excited me more than acting. I gave up acting
and started doing ad films.
I am lucky that I got the opportunity to make exotic ads.
I never made soap and toothpaste ads. I shot outdoors or
on big sets, they are like mini feature films. I have done a
1,000 of them for Bombay Dyeing, Siyaram, MRF, Bush,
Mahindra’s Bolero, Scorpio and Chevrolet cars, to name a
I didn’t want to make films in the late ’80s and early
’90s because that was the worst time for Hindi cinema.
But now I think of making films because, in the last eight
CINEMA WITH A SOUL/DADASAHEB PHALKE AWARD
years, films have changed and there is room for every kind
of film — like Mary Kom or Detective Bymokesh Bakshy!
My son Zahan is assisting filmmakers; he is interested
in acting and direction.
My daughter Shaira (Zahan and Shaira’s mother Sheena
Sippy is a well-known photographer whose father is the
man who directed Sholay, Ramesh Sippy) is interested in
production design. She has been working with Sonal
Sawant (Lakshya). She also worked on Bombay Velvet. n
no one knows Shashi Kapoor The
India Abroad May 22, 2015
From left to right: Kapoor’s beautiful leading ladies — Waheeda Rehman, Zeenat Aman, Asha Parekh, niece-in-law Neetu Singh, Supriya Pathak, Shabana Azmi, Nafisa Ali and Rekha — pose with their much-loved co-star.