Jennifer Kendal was older to
Shashi Kapoor, born Balbir Prithviraj Kapoor on March 18, 1938, was the youngest of the legendary Kapoor clan, a family that had made an indelible mark on the Indian film industry. Jennifer Kendal, born on February 28, 1933, in Southport, England, hailed from a family deeply rooted in the world of theatre. Their paths crossed in 1956 when Shashi Kapoor joined his father Prithviraj Kapoor’s Prithvi Theatres, where Jennifer was already an established actress. Her father Geoffry Kendal was the owner of the theatre group Shakespeareana and their travels across India, led them to a collaboration with Prithvi Theatres, a crossover where Shashi and Jennifer’s first meeting happened. Their initial interactions were marked by mutual respect for each other’s talents, which gradually evolved into a deep and abiding affection.
Love at first sight happened backstage in Prithvi Theatres
As Shashi and Jennifer spent more time working together in the theater, their friendship deepened. Shashi’s charismatic charm and Jennifer’s grace and beauty made them a captivating pair both on and off the stage. Love blossomed gradually, and their relationship became more than just a professional partnership.
Shashi had spoken candidly about his first meeting with love and wife Jennifer Kendal. He had revealed in an 80s interview with Filmfare, “While with Prithvi Theatres one day I saw a beautiful girl with a scarf and heavy eardrops sitting in the audience. That moment was the turning point in my life. Two years later I married Jennifer. She belongs to the stage too.”
Their love story was not without its challenges, given the cultural and geographical differences between them. However, their unwavering commitment to each other helped them overcome these obstacles. They decided to embrace their differences and celebrate the uniqueness of their love.
Collaborations of the heart and art
Shashi Kapoor and Jennifer Kendal’s marriage in July 1958 marked the union of two worlds. It was an intercultural marriage that surprised a lot of fans and film industry peers. While Shashi had already made a name for himself in the Indian film industry, Jennifer settled down in India to be with him, leaving behind her own successful theater career that was expanding both in India and England. But new opportunities would define the future of both her pursuit as an actor and that of her theatre-driven family.
The culmination of their union led to a film called Shakespeare Wallah (1965) collaborated with Merchant Ivory Productions and it chronicled Jennifer’s father, Geoffrey’s Shakespearana theatre group’s legacy. In the movie, Shashi starred opposite Jennifer’s sister Felicity, while Jennifer played a small uncredited role. Later on, they would feature together in movies like Bombay Talkie (1970) and Junoon (1978). Unlike other movie stars, Shashi Kapoor hated to party and would rather spend his time with family. He was quoted as saying, “It’s more important to take Jennifer and the children for a movie and coffee than hobnob at the same old dreary party, with the same old dreary people, doing the same dreary things.”
Heartbreak and loss
Shashi Kapoor and Jennifer Kendal faced their share of trials. Their busy careers often kept them apart for long stretches, but their love remained strong. Together, they founded Prithvi Theatre in Mumbai in 1978, a homage to their own roots and ever-lasting bond. Jennifer was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1982. Her battle with cancer in the subsequent years tested their bond, but Shashi’s unwavering support and her remarkable strength saw them through the ordeal.
Tragedy struck in 1984 when Jennifer Kendal passed away due to cancer. Her loss was a profound and heartbreaking moment in Shashi Kapoor’s life, and he publicly mourned her for the rest of his days. The depth of their love was evident in his dedication to preserving her legacy through the Prithvi Theatre, which they had founded together.
Enduring love’s loss and warding off bitterness
Shashi Kapoor continued to work in the film industry, but Jennifer’s memories remained an integral part of his life. His unwavering love for her was always evident in the way he spoke about her, even after her demise. He was known to carry her photograph with him wherever he went.
Their three children – Kunal Kapoor, Sanjana Kapoor and Karan Kapoor all turned to acting in films and theatre in the 80s and 90s. All three managed to make a mark in the two industries that united their parents. Sanjana and Kunal continue to look after Shashi and Jennifer’s passion project – Prithvi Theatre – to date.
The enduring love story of Shashi Kapoor and Jennifer Kendal serves as a reminder that love knows no boundaries. Their marriage was a testament to the power of love, transcending cultural, geographical and societal expectations.
Why does their love story deserve its own epic romantic film?
Shashi Kapoor and Jennifer Kendal’s love story is a captivating tale of love, sacrifice, and resilience. It shows that when two people are truly committed to each other, they can overcome any obstacle, no matter how significant. Their love, even in the face of cultural differences and personal tragedy, remains an enduring example of the power of love. From love at first sight, to being creative collaborators, to starting off businesses and passion projects and then finally bidding adieu to each other through tragedy, their love story has all the trappings of an epic. If a screenwriter were to use Shashi-Jennifer’s love story as inspiration, he/she would need no assistance from imagination to carve out a compelling story.
The legacy they left behind continues to inspire couples to pursue love, respect, and unwavering commitment in their own relationships. Surely Shashi Kapoor and Jennifer Kendal’s love story is one of the most cherished romances in the history of Indian cinema.
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