Bollywood’s evergreen charmer Shashi Kapoor was on Sunday conferred the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, the highest honour in Indian cinema, by Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley at the iconic Prithvi Theatre here.
The 77-year-old was wheeled on to the stage by his son Kunal and daughter Sanjana before an august gathering.
Shashi — the star of over 150 films in his over 40-year career — was all smiles upon receiving the Swarn Kamal (Golden Lotus), a cash prize of Rs.10 lakh and a ceremonial shawl, which he accepted with reverence and folded hands.
“Shashi Kapoor is undoubtedly one of the most versatile personalities Indian cinema has produced. An actor par excellence, who competed in his time with the very best and almost competed with different generations of film actors,” Jaitley said.
“He even produced and directed various kinds of films; combined commercial cinema with alternative cinema; defined languages and brought Hindi cinema and Hollywood closer. Then also, he didn’t leave his love for theatre,” he added.
The gathering saw the presence of Shashi’s nephew Rishi Kapoor, grand-nephew Ranbir Kapoor, grand-neice Karisma Kapoor and others like Neetu Singh, Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan, Waheeda Rehman, Asha Parekh, Nafisa Ali, Saif Ali Khan and Rekha.
Due to Shashi’s ill health, he could not travel to the capital for the National Awards ceremony on May 3. So, minister Jaitley flew in here to confer the award on him at Prithvi Theatre, which Shashi launched with his late wife Jennifer Kendal in 1978.
Jaitley said it’s a “a fitting tribute…the award is being physically and symbolically conferred on him in an institution that he himself created – the Prithvi Theatre”.
This is the third Dadasaheb Phalke Award for the illustrious Kapoor family after Shashi’s father Prithviraj Kapoor and elder brother Raj Kapoor.
“The way it (the family) produces talent, I’m sure that it’s not the last one. My best wishes to you for a improved health and a very long life. We wish you all the best, Shashi Kapoor,” Jaitley said.
A special audio-visual celebrating Shashi’s film and personal journey was also screened at the event. It featured Amitabh, Shabana Azmi, Sharmila Tagore, Rishi, Randhir Kapoor among others talking about the cinematic icon.
Amitabh, who has co-starred with Shashi in films like “Trishul”, “Silsila”, “Kabhi Kabhie” and “Kaala Patthar”, thanked him for always being a “compassionate person and a generous and caring friend”.
Since it was also Mother’s Day on Sunday, Rishi aptly recounted Shashi’s trademark dialogue — “Mere paas maa hai” — to a loud applause.
Shashi started his tryst with acting at the age of four, with plays directed and produced by his father Prithviraj.
He started acting in films as a child artiste in the late 1940s. His best known performances as child artiste were in “Aag” (1948) and “Awaara” (1951), where he played the younger version of the character played by his elder brother Raj.
When he grew up, he made his debut as a leading man in the 1961 film “Dharmputra”, and went on to appear in more than 150 Hindi films.
A popular name in Bollywood during the 1960s, 1970s and until the mid-1980s, Shashi was one of India’s first actors to go international. He is known internationally for starring in many British and American films, notably Merchant Ivory Proudctions run by Ismail Merchant and James Ivory, such as “The Householder” (1963), “Shakespeare Wallah” (1965), “Sara Akash” (1969), “Bombay Talkie” (1970) and “Heat and Dust” (1982).
He also starred in other British and American films such as “Siddhartha” (1972) and “Muhafiz” (1994).
In 1978, Shashi 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).
He also produced and directed a fantasy film titled “Ajooba”, which had Amitabh and Rishi in the lead roles.
In 2011, he was honoured with the Padma Bhushan, and he is also a proud recipient of three National Film Awards.