"The average Indian is not rich. He can go to see a film which is very cheap. This is the cheapest form of entertainment.... And it's marvelous when he goes there. Now, he has no education.... Right now, the present Indian... when he goes there, he's tired, he's worried, he's had lots of problems, and he's been brainwashed into sort of living the life that he knows he's going to live for the rest of his life because there's hardly any future for the poor. So when he goes to see this film, he sits there in the cinema, and he expects fantasies, he expects fantastic things. Laughter, humor, emotions, sentiments, music, love, romance, grandeur, you know, lots of things. He doesn't want to be told about the realities of life."
On the one hand, who doesn't want those things! Nobody reading this site, I bet. And I especially want them when they're delivered via Shashi Express, with the eyelashes, beautiful profile, moppety dancing, and committed, varied performances. But on the other, I don't think what he says is quite all that's going on in this clip. I don't know if it's the rich, low tone of voice or the indulgent-looking smile, but after three viewings of this, I think he might be blowing sunshine. Is that because he's in an interview generally, putting on his beneficent hat, or is it aggravated because he's talking to the BBC specifically? He sounds very smooth, which gives me the impression that at least some of what he's saying is a line. Or maybe that effect is just because he's introduced driving off in his Mercedes (though at least he drives it himself) as people clamor to talk to him - and his clip is followed by typical documentary footage of harsh rural life. There's a disconnect between him and the people he's describing, between his leisured luxury and their toiling, that is a little off-putting. There's also the unspoken conclusion of his description: "people want fantastic things, and, as part of the film industry, I am so magical that I can provide them." But maybe that's what stars of the 70s were supposed to sound like - to play up the idea that they have enchanting, fabulous lives far away from the metaphorically and literally impoverished reality of vast populations of workaday India - and there was probably no point for a Kapoor to pretend to be an everyman even if that's how some stars liked to spin themselves. And far be it from me to say Shashi Kapoor is not magical, not capable of transporting mere mortals from their daily grind into a world of snuggles and giggles and twinkling fairly lights! I also think it's interesting that the idea of movies needing to provide fantasy to audiences who have more than enough "reality" in their daily lives was as much in parlance in 1973 as it was in the books on Indian cinema I began reading in 2005. Either a majority of filmmaking hasn't changed much in this regard or the conventional wisdom about it hasn't kept up.
Anyway, it's a treat to watch this, isn't it? It's the first interview I've seen him do that isn't about a particular film (like the commentary on some of the Merchant-Ivory DVDs), And it must be said that this is, er, better vintage Shashi than those early 2000s Criterion Collection special features. This is grace and curls and The Voice; he looks mighty pleased with himself, and who can blame him. Le sigh.
Many thanks to Richa for the find and youtube user Pavitra66 for sharing!
A bit of housekeeping to close: I don't think I can keep up with the "one post per day" promise I made at the start of the week! Nahiiiiin! There is just too much going on at work and elsewhere in my head, and despite my best intentions I did not plan enough in advance to have posts queued up and ready to publish. I'm so sorry! I will have substantial posts for Saturday and Sunday, though. With Helen as my witness, I will triumph!