Adieu to the Adonis

Born as Balbir Prithviraj Kapoor, Shashi Kapoor was the third and youngest son of theatre and film doyen Prithviraj Kapoor. Growing up in a household steeped in movies and stage biz, Shashi Kapoor made his debut as a child actor in RK Films' 'Aag' (1948) and later as the young Raj Kapoor in 'Awara' (1951). In 'Sangram' (1950), he played the younger version of Ashok Kumar and also acted along with Bharat Bhushan in 'Dana Paani' (1953). He worked in four Hindi films as a child artiste from 1948 to 1954.

Born in Kolkata, bred in Matunga, Mumbai and a Don Bosco alumnus, Shashi Kapoor started his career as an assistant stage manager for his father's theatre company. Before he became a matinee idol, Kapoor worked as an assistant director for three years. His debut was with 'Dharmputra' in 1961 directed by Yash Chopra. Despite his charming looks and natural ease, his initial phase of career was harrowed with a series of flops until 'Jab Jab Phool Khile' in 1965. By then he had also ventured on an international career with the Merchant Ivory Productions, including 'The Householder' (1963) and 'Shakespearewallah' (1965). The Householder marked his global debut, making him the first Indian actor to go international. 
Later, he assisted his elder brother Shammi Kapoor on his directorial debut, 'Manoranjan' (1974), a remake of the Jack Lemmon classic, Irma La Douce. By the early 80's, Shashi Kapoor became one of the busiest actors. His elder brother Raj Kapoor started calling him a "taxi metre", shuttling from one set to another, hopping from one studio to another, doing six shifts a day. Shashi Kapoor's most popular and successful phase was when he co-starred with Amitabh Bachchan, in multi-starrers like 'Deewar' (1975), 'Kabhi Kabhi' (1976), 'Trishul' (1978), 'Suhaag' (1979), 'Namak Halaal' (1982), etc. Their association lasted for 21 years and 16 films. 
The mellifluous and picturesque songs like 'Pardesiyon se na ankhiyaan milana' from the movie 'Jab Jab Phool Khile' (1965) composed by Kalyanji Anandji, 'Likhe jo khat tujhe' from 'Kanyadaan' (1968) composed by Shankar Jaikishan, 'Bekhudi mein sanam' from 'Haseena Maan Jayegi' (1968) composed by Kalyanji Anandji and 'Tum bin jaun kahan' from the movie 'Pyar Ka Mausam' (1969) composed by RD Burman can induce anyone into nostalgia and evoke Shashi Kapoor's unbeaten attributes.
He met Jennifer Kendal, daughter of English actor Geoffrey Kendal, while working in plays in Kolkata in 1956 and they eventually fell in love while working together. After facing initial opposition from the Kendals and support from sister-in-law Geeta Bali, Kapoor and Jennifer got married in July 1958. In order to carry forward the legacy of both their fathers (the Kendals too had a theatre company called Shakespearana), Shashi and Jennifer founded Prithvi Theatre, one of Mumbai's best known institutions for performing arts in 1978. This is where Naseeruddin Shah, Ratna Pathak Shah, Nadira Zaheer Babbar, Dinesh Thakur, Makarand Deshpande, Sunil Shanbag showed - and have continued to show their work. 
Prithvi is a small auditorium, accommodating only 200-220 people. Tickets are priced under Rs 500, seating is on a first-come-first-served basis, and new groups can afford slots. The complex is a low structure with an eclectic bookshop and has a café skirting around a half of the building. Yet, it stands there defiantly in upscale Juhu, the address of some of India's most wealthy and iconic personalities. Prithvi has inspired innovative theatre and music artistes to replicate the idea in other places. In his later years, Shashi Kapoor would be seated there in his wheelchair, smiling, waving and allowing selfies. His special chair would be wheeled in after the last bell and placed near an exit. 
In 1978, Shashi Kapoor set up his production house, Film Valas, which produced critically acclaimed films such as 'Junoon' (1978), 'Kalyug' (1981), '36 Chowringhee Lane' (1981), 'Vijeta' (1982) and 'Utsav' (1984). In the 1980s, Shashi Kapoor also collaborated with Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani, Aparna Sen, Girish Karnad to make some larger-than-life movies. The death of his wife due to cancer in 1984 was a tragedy he never fully recovered from. He greyed overnight, put on weight and stopped doing leading roles. However, in 1991 he produced and directed a fantasy film titled 'Ajooba' which had his frequent co-star Amitabh Bachchan and nephew Rishi Kapoor in the lead. However, it failed to stir up the box-office.
Kapoor was awarded the Filmfare Best Supporting Actor for Deewar in 1976, National Award for the Best Film for Junoon in 1979, Filmfare Award for the Best Film for Kalyug in 1982 and National Award for the Best Actor for New Delhi Times in 1986. At the 55th Annual Filmfare Awards in 2010, Shashi Kapoor received the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award. He was also honoured with the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award in 2011 for his contribution to art and cinema and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2015. He was the third member of Kapoor dynasty to receive it after Prithviraj Kapoor and Raj Kapoor. 
The ever-lasting Salim-Javed dialogue "Mere paas maa hai" from the movie Deewar was delivered with the right mix of irreplaceable pathos and pride by Shashi Kapoor. Kapoor's last memorable performance was of an ailing poet in the film 'In Custody' in 1993 (based on Anita Desai's novel), the character of which was a heart-rending reminder of the actor's own mortality. In 1998, he retired from acting after his final film appearances in Jinnah (1998) and Side Streets (1998). The last scion of the illustrious Prithviraj Kapoor, who ruled Hindi cinema for a major part of the previous century - Shashi Kapoor, the Adonis of Hindi cinema, finally breathed his last on 4th December, 2017 leaving behind the splendid legacy of Prithvi theatre and an unmatched contribution to cinema, art and theatre. The lights will stay on, but his special seat near the exit will forever be vacant in Prithvi.