Shashi Kapoor with wife Jennifer Kendall
Yesterday after reading about the critical health situation of Shashi Kapoor and Shammi Kapoor, I read an interesting piece about Shashi Kapoor and how he met his wife. I have heard only very little about him and his foreigner wife but that was pretty much it. However, their love story is very beautiful and worth sharing as my sister has asked me to share it on this blog rather than the Bollywood one because it beyond Hindi cinema.
Most of us already know, that Shashi Kapoor is the youngest son of Prithvi Raj Kapoor and the younger brother of Raj Kapoor and Shammi Kapoor, which automatically makes him a part of the filmi Kapoor khandan who have spent decades in performing arts and acting. Even more they have given true cinema and lots of good movies with thought provoking subjects to movie lovers. The younger generations are taking this tradition of acting further but they are not as significant as people such as Shashi Kapoor.
Shashi Kapoor was very seriously involved in his father's theatre - The Prithvi Theatre. He used to perform in plays and actively participating in theatre when he saw Jennifer Kendall, a British actress for the first time in 1956 at Calcutta. She was also a theatre actor and worked for another troupe called Shakespeareana. Shashi Kapoor was 18 at that time and the first time he saw, he kind of fell for her instantly. He said that before that time he had never had an affair and that the only girls he talked to were from his family. He didn't know how to talk to the girl. Quite surprising to hear from somebody who belonged to a family with so much of exposure. Anyway, Shashi admitted that he couldn't stop thinking about her. So, a few days later, he asked one of his cousins to come with him to the hotel where Jennifer was staying.
Shashi Kapoor with eldest brother Raj Kapoor
Shashi saw her having dinner with her family. He was too shy to talk to her but managed to talk to her father Geoffery Kendall. Jennifer didn't even bother looking at him while Shashi had the conversation and he left feeling absolutely dejected. But the next day, he saw Jennifer at the theatre. She came to watch his play and asked him to come and see her play, The Tempest. Shashi was so happy...he went obviously. He has stated he never really understood much of the difficult pucca english but that he was absolutely in love with Jennifer's beauty in that play. Since then they started seeing each other.
They were together but Shashi was so shy he had never even held her hand. The first time he held her hand was when he was taking her to some place in the train. The train had a jerk and he just held her hand to make sure she doesn't fall off. That was the first time he held her hand. Shashi didn't much then so he used to take her to very cheap cost effective vegetarian restaurants. As per him, he was a coward and if it were upto him the courtship would have never ended.
His brother, Shammi Kapoor who called Shashi ... SASHA with love asked his younger brother to bring Jennifer home to meet the parents but Shashi chickened out. He took her to meet his bhabi and brother ... Shammi Kapoor and Geeta ji instead and of course they loved Jennifer. In fact, his bhabi helped him in their affair by offering him to take the car whenever he wanted to go on a date with Jennifer and also lent him money for a decent meal.
However, by now Jennifer was tired of Shahsi's delaying tactics so she said herself that "You've known me for so long and never even made a pass at me. And I am so much in love with you." That did it. Shashi finally became the man. He asked his brother Shammi to talk to their father that he wanted to marry Jennifer but their father was not very happy about having a British bahu. Also he wanted to make sure that this was not puppy love but Prithviraj gave them a chance to prove their love. Jennifer's father was a bit shrewed though. He didn't want Jennifer to go because she was managing his theatre as well so he bluntly said that marriage was out of the question for a good two years at least.
Shashi had no choice. He did work for them in their theatre to stay close to Jennifer. In 1958, he asked Geoffery again if he could marry Jennifer now but he refused again. This time, Jennifer took a stand and said she can make her own decisions now. So both Jennifer and Shashi came back to Bombay and got married in 1958 in traditional Indian style. Nobody from Jennifer's family attended their wedding.
Shashi and Jennifer with their children, Kunal, Karan and Sanjana
Shashi and Jennifer with their children, Kunal, Karan and Sanjana
Jennifer was a few years older than Shashi and so was extremely protective about him in every way. It is said she was particular about everything he ate so that he stays fit and healthy. He loved to drink and eat but Jennifer monitored it all well so that he doesn't go over board. They had three kids together, two sons and one daughter - Kunal, Karan and Sanjana. Kunal is an actor who did act in 2-3 films while Sanjana is actively involved in their family theatre working on her parent's love for theatre and art. While Karan Kapoor who was a famous model in the 1980's in India and who did 2 movies is a photographer and now lives in London with his wife and daughter.
Sanjana and Kunal Kapoor
Sanjana sitting with her father Shashi Kapoor
However, like all good things come to an end, Jennifer suffered from cancer and fought a long battle with it before she died in 1984. Shashi never re-married. He said that he had his share of friends and enemies but Jennifer only had friends and everybody who knew her fell in love with her. Thirteen years after her death, Shashi Kapoor said that he still felt her presence in the home and that he didn't change the house or anything in it. It is all the same as it was in Jennifer's time.
Shammi Kapoor with his lil brother Sasha ...somehow Shammi looks more fresh while Shashi is down
Shashi Kapoor given a lifetime achievement award. Shahrukh Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Kunal Kapoor and Yash Chopra.
Shabana Azmi brings Shashi Kapoor on stage
We felt Shashi Kapoor's love for his wife is so genuine and true. True love for the one and only person with no mixing and variety. Falling for someone once and then to never fall out of it even when one is gone. It is so sad also to see when such true love is parted away though. Imagining how he has lived alone with the memories since 1984 is so painful itself. Losing somebody close to you is always terrible and those who are left behind may be strong but they suffer immensely.
Shashi Kapoor was not only a cute and handsome actor but a true gentleman who knew how to love and cherish it forever. We wish him better health.