When Prithviraj Kapoor asked Shashi Kapoor, Jennifer Kendal to wait for their wedding: ‘My God’

Often called the ‘first family of Bollywood’, the cinematic legacy of the Kapoor family began with the late legendary actor Prithviraj Kapoor. The current generation might know actors Ranbir Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor Khan or Karisma Kapoor as the famous members of the family, but films of Prithviraj Kapoor, Raj KapoorShammi Kapoor and Shashi Kapoor are still remembered. Born in Samundri, Punjab Province, British India, on November 3, 1906, the iconic actor traveled far and wide with his vision for Indian cinema.

Remembered for his performances in films such as Sikandar, Alam Ara, Mugal-E-Azam and Kal Aaj Aur Kal, he started his career in silent films era and successfully transitioned into talkies. He also established Prithvi theaters, which continues to be a cultural icon in India today. While his children — Raj Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor and Shashi Kapoor — continued his legacy, it was Shashi who was most closely associated with Prithvi.

Shashi, along with wife Jennifer, had a deep interest in theater. In fact, that is how the duo met. He met Jennifer when he was part of a theater company and was working in her father’s theater production. As reported by India Today, Jennifer’s sister Felicity Kendal writes in her autobiography White Cargo that Shashi saw Jennifer at the then Bombay’s Shakespearana house (which merged with Prithvi theater eventually) and it was love at first sight for him. Both of them were quick to fall in love with each other but faced a lot of opposition from Jennifer’s father, Goeffrey Kendal, who was heading Shakespearana.

Aseem Chhabra, who wrote Shashi Kapoor’s biography, wrote that Shashi and Jennifer’s daughter Sanjana had told him, “When they were doing theater (Shashi and Jennifer), they were poor. They were under-slept and underfed and my father would tell me how they would be tormented by hunger while strolling down the streets – both my parents trying to decide if they could get half a paratha. Then, they would walk past a restaurant and there would be my grandfather, Geoffrey Kendal, having a huge meal with a beer. My father couldn’t walk in. He was his employee, and he was also stealing his daughter. So, there was no way he could march into the storm.”

Ultimately, after separating from Geoffrey Kendal and facing many disappointments in international circuits of theaters and plays, Shashi finally asked for help from brother Raj Kapoor. He was quick to help his brother and sent two tickets to call Shashi and Jennifer to Bombay. It was then that the Kapoor family got to know about Shashi and Jennifer’s relationship.

In one of his last interviews before his demise in 2017, Shashi revealed how Prithviraj Kapoor reacted to his intention of marriage. In an interview with News Tak, Shashi had said, “When I saw Jennifer, when I was 18, I wanted to marry her immediately. My parents (shocked expression) said, ‘My god 18 is a bit young’. So I said, ‘Okay, I’ll wait’. I waited two years, then they asked me ‘Do you still want to?’ I said, ‘Yes’ and they said okay.”

Shashi Kapoor with Jennifer Kendal
Late actor Shashi Kapoor and his wife Jennifer Kendal. (Photo: Express Archives)

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