In 1975, the team of Ghashiram Kotwal was looking for a chief guest to grace the 100th show of the seminal Marathi play written by Vijay Tendulkar to be staged in Mumbai’s Shanmukhananda Hall. At that time, Shashi Kapoor and Smita Patil were shooting for a film in Pune’s Ghorpadi Railway Yard. Since Smita was a close friend, actor Mohan Agashe, who plays Nana Fadnavis in the play, took his chance and went to meet Kapoor on the sets.
“Despite being a huge star, Shashiji was extremely polite and nice to me. He also readily accepted the invite to attend the 100th show of Ghashiram Kotwal. It so happened that by this time, Dilip Kumar too had agreed to grace the occasion with the help from another friend. Now, we had a ‘chief guest’ and a ‘guest of honour’ as both Dilipji and Shashiji came for the function,” Agashe reminisced while talking to the The Indian Express about the legendary actor of the Hindi film industry who passed away in Mumbai on Monday. Agashe feels that Kapoor was much more handsome in real life than the silver screen showed him.
“A few years later, I was walking down Malabar Hill when a Mercedes came menacingly close to me. I rushed aside to give way to the vehicle. To my surprise, it stopped and to my shock Shashiji was inside. He asked me ‘Kehan chale doctor sahab?’ I told him that I was looking for a government guest house to stay. He asked me to sit in the car and took me home. That was the first time I saw him without the makeup. He was much more handsome in real life,” said Agashe. Agashe worked with Kapoor in the TV series Kissa Kathmandu Ka years later in 1985, forming a bond with the Deewar actor.
Amit Tyagi, who now heads the film wing at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), remembers how Kapoor used to visit the institute when he was shooting for Govind Nihalani-directed Vijeta (1982). “We were students then. He used to come down and chat with us. He was a very jovial person,” said Tyagi.
Besides those in the film fraternity, there are many others who have fond memories of Kapoor. Meena Pinto, who now stays in NIBM area and had a long association with him, remembers him as a “good- hearted man”.
Pinto helped Shashi and his wife, Jennifer Kapoor, set up the ‘Prithvi Cafe’ on the legendary Prithvi Theatre premises. Pinto, who is credited with inventing the cafe’s popular ‘Irish Coffee’, says that her bond with Kapoor continued even after she shifted her base to Pune. “Whenever he used to visit Pune for his cancer-related work, he used to make it a point to visit my home to have ‘crab curry’. It was his favourite. He would have lunch, chat with me and then go,” remembered Pinto, now 77.
During his last visit to her house, Pinto could tell that all was not well with Kapoor’s health. “I think he came about 5-6 years ago. He was not his jovial, lovely self. I could see that his health was going down. In fact, Jennifer’s death had hurt him deeply. He was in the intensive care unit for the last three months. When I heard about his demise, I felt that he was relieved of the suffering,” said Pinto.
N S Nyayapati, director and founding trustee of Care India Medical Society (CIMS) which works for cancer control and care, said that the trust is deeply indebted to Kapoor for his help and association.
“If there is any one individual to whom CIMS is deeply indebted, it’s Shashiji. His support and kindness to patients suffering from cancer was immense. He used to travel with us and pay visits to the patients suffering from the disease. A big celebrity like him visiting them at their home used to alleviate the pain of the patients to a great extent,” said Nyayapati. Kapoor was associated with CIMS between 1998 and 2009 when his deteriorating health started affecting his travels.