New Delhi: Veteran film actor and producer Shashi Kapoor died on Monday at a Mumbai hospital, following a prolonged illness. He was 79. The third and youngest son of legendary film actor Prithviraj Kapoor, Shashi Kapoor was the younger brother of movie stars Raj Kapoor and Shammi Kapoor, who together make up the Kapoor family, Indian cinema’s oldest film family.

Unwell for some time, Shashi Kapoor breathed his last at the Kokilaben Hospital in Mumbai.

Having begun his acting career as a child artiste with films like Sangram (1950) and Dana Paani (1953), Kapoor made his debut as a leading man with the 1961 Yash Chopra directed vehicle Dharmputra, a social drama on the 1947 Partition and Hindu fundamentalism. Blockbusters in the 1960s and 70s, his peak as a leading man and the ultimate suave romantic hero included Jab Jab Phool Khile (1965), Waqt (1965), Aa Gale Lag Jaa (1973), Deewar (1975) Kabhie Kabhie (1976) and Doosara Aadmi (1977), among others.

His unique appeal wasn’t just restricted to eternal love stories and mainstream potboilers. Kapoor was also the first actor to work in Western films, starring in several Merchant Ivory productions, a company run by Ismail Merchant and James Ivory; the outings included The Householder (1963), Shakespeare Wallah (1965), Bombay Talkie (1970) and Heat and Dust (1982) in which he co-starred with his wife Jennifer Kendal, The Deceivers (1988) and Side Streets (1998).

Kapoor was one of the first actors of his generation to turn producer and invest in non-commercial, experimental films like Junoon (1978), Kalyug (1981), 36 Chowringhee Lane (1981), Vijeta (1982) and Utsav (1984). His sole directorial venture, a 1991 fantasy film titled Ajooba starring Amitabh Bachchan and nephew Rishi Kapoor, remains one of Hindi cinema’s most ambitious projects.

Kapoor’s romance with wife Kendal, an English actor, remains one of Bollywood’d most enduring love stories. Together they established Mumbai’s iconic Prithvi Theatre in 1978 and her death in 1984 is said to have left the style icon devastated and unable to ever return to normalcy.

Kapoor, who was last seen in Jinnah (1998), a biographical take on the life of Mohammed Ali Jinnah and another Merchant Ivory production titled Side Streets (1998), won the National Award for best actor in 1986 for political drama New Delhi Times and for producing the Shyam Benegal directed Junoon in 1978, based on Ruskin Bond’s novella A Flight of Pigeons. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2011 and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2015.

He is survived by the large Kapoor family, particularly his children, Kunal, Sanjana and Karan.

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