A director actor

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 06 Dec 2017 10:36:35


By Vijay Phanshikar,

When a photographer requested Shashi Kapoor, who was chief guest at a very rare social ceremony, to pose again with an award-winner, the charming actor said somewhat amusedly, ‘You never get such a chance on stage. You do the act and get over with it, good, bad or indifferent.’

That off-the-cuff remark, which a handful people heard that evening, almost summed up Shashi Kapoor’s ability with the art of acting. His spontaneity, his electric responses to the situation in the sequence, and his dismay at other people’s slow reactions -- all these were the legendary actor’s very special qualities. Many other actors of equal merit, too, have shown such abilities all right. But in Shashi Kapoor’s case, they were more fully pronounced because the man had nursed his art very consciously on those fine nuances.
At an almost impromptu lecture at Pune’s Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), he had told the students, in effect, that refining those nuances, fine-tuning those responses, becoming extra-sensitive to the unstated expectations of how a story goes on in the spectators’ minds is the cumulative body of the science of acting.

In his own case, however, Shashi Kapoor did not stop only at that level of science. He went further, perfecting the science into the art of the finest variety. That explains his naturalness in acting. True, countless other actors -- men and women -- have demonstrated such a naturalness almost all the time. Yet, in Shashi Kapoor’s case, it was something that seemed to have been born with him.

But there was also a flip side that many notice and most don’t -- the intensity of spontaneity came from his regular appearance on the stage where everything is only for the first and the last time, no retake, no second chance. Shashi Kapoor belonged to a category of actors who honed their skills of acting on live stage where the spectators’ patience is terribly temporary. They want the very best that fits the bill once and for all, and nothing else.

In cinema, things are of course different. There is the facility of retake, of editing, of cutting off entirely a badly done sequence...! To Shashi Kapoor, even in films, all those were the luxuries he hated. As an actor, he did show that famous impatience of his with anything that was substandard. As a director and producer of classic films, however, Shashi Kapoor had the ability to conceal his impatience with the substandard and allow a lumbering process of production that seemed to take interminable time.

These paradoxes were the essential dimensions of Shashi Kapoor’s persona. They were perplexing to many of his colleagues, but also assuring to the regulars in his group. For, in those very many expressions of his emotion or efforts to conceal those, the quintessential Shashi Kapoor showed up.

When Junoon was being shot, things got tense particularly when that scene was being shot when Shashi Kapoor the leader of the revolutionaries raises his sword and brings it down with a heavy hand on the British officer, played by Tom Alter, and the British officer holds the swiping sword in his firm grip. For, what mattered most in that sequence was not just the act of gripping the crashing sword. What mattered more was the accuracy of smallest nuances. Both were masters -- Shashi and Tom -- and discussed the nuances in great detail. And then came the actual shooting which got over actually in no time.

At such moments, Shashi Kapoor’s attention to detail, insistence upon spontaneity, made the difference.
The story of films across the world is full of such masterly moments. In Indian films, too, masters have gone beyond all limitations of human weaknesses and performed splendidly. Among such masters, Shashi Kapoor was known to be in the top league.

All that was the training in live theatre. In the Kapoor clan, nobody really followed father Prithviraj Kapoor’s footprints in theatre except Shashi Kapoor. He followed his father’s model to the hilt, and made such a critical difference to his art. It was not without reason that a celebrated director like Shyam Benegal called Shashi Kapoor a director’s actor.