Shashi Kapoor's Marriage: Stage, Jennifer, Love, Struggle, Legacy

Shashi Kapoor has often been regarded as the most handsome Kapoor from the legendary Kapoor clan. The hazel-eyed gentleman has worked in over 175 films in his career, and after Jennifer Kendall and Shashi Kapoor’s marriage, along with his wife he established the illustrious Prithvi theatre in the year 1978. Shashi and Jennifer’s love for performing arts led to the foundation of the renowned theatre, and the same thing drew them close in a bond of love. Their love story is a tale of true love, which transcends beyond life and death. We take a closer look at how they met, fell in love, stayed strong and tied the knot. Here’s more scoop on Shashi Kapoor’s marriage to Jennifer Kendall.

Shashi Kapoor – Actor, Director And Producer

Shashi Kapoor's Marriage - Shashi Kapoor, The Actor, Director And Producer

Shashi Kapoor was born on 18th March, 1938, as the third and youngest son of the famous film actor and stage artist Prithviraj Kapoor. Shashi came from a family whose sole profession was performing arts (his elder brother was Raj Kapoor), and at a very young age joined his father’s theatre company as an actor and stage manager. Shashi’s larger screen career had already begun in the late 1940s with him mostly playing small roles in his brother Raj Kapoor’s films. In 1961, he made his début as the leading man in a Hindi film, and since then has worked in numerous commercially and critically successful Hindi and English films. He has enjoyed success on both the professional and personal fronts, and Shashi Kapoor’s marriage to Jennifer was one if the most beautiful unions in the industry.

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Jennifer Kendal Of The Shakespeareana

Shashi Kapoor's Marriage - Shashi Kapoor And Jennifer Kendal

It was 1956, and the 18-year old Shashi Kapoor was in Kolkata (then Calcutta) for one of the plays of his theatre troupe company. The troupe was performing at the Empire Theatre in Kolkata, and since Shashi was mostly handling stage management, he took some time off from acting. Being a stage manager though, Shashi was quite curious about the audience’s reaction during the play. Therefore, while the play was on, he peered through the corner of the stage curtain to look at the audience and his gaze immediately fell on a lovely woman sitting in one of the front rows in the auditorium. The young Shashi was struck by the simple yet ethereal looks of this lady who was in her early twenties. In an interview, he shared about his thoughts at that moment:

“My glance fell on this fabulous looking girl who looked Russian. Her face glowed pink. I tried to find out who she was and learnt that she was part of another theatre group – one from the U.K.”
– Shashi Kapoor about the moment when he first saw Jennifer Kendall

After digging out some information about the ‘Russian’ girl, Shashi learnt that she was 22-year old Jennifer Kendall, who was part of Shakespeareana, a British theatre troupe visiting Kolkata. The troupe was about to perform at the same theatre where Shashi’s company was performing, but since their contract was extended, the Shakespeareana’s team had to wait till the Prithvi Theatre group vacated. In her free time, Jennifer would visit the performances of Shashi’s theatre company, and she would do so regularly. The more Shashi saw her, the more he felt attracted towards her, and one day he persuaded his cousin to escort him to the hotel she was staying in. It turned out that Jennifer was the daughter of Geoffrey Kendall, the owner of Shakespeareana, and when Shashi arrived at the hotel, Jennifer was having dinner with her father. Shashi had an interaction with the senior Kendall but Jennifer barely looked away from her meal. Shashi definitely felt disheartened and later shared:

“I was very dejected. But the next day, she came for our play again and later came backstage and invited me for her play to be performed at a city college. You can imagine how I felt. I went.”
– Shashi Kapoor on the first interaction with Jennifer

Shashi Kapoor's Marriage - Shashi Kapoor And Jennifer Kendal At A Formal Event

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Shashi was definitely on the top of the world, and needless to say made it a point to attend the play, which he later shared he could not understand due to the ‘Pucca English’ used in the play. What stayed with him was the image of Jennifer who played the role of the leading lady in the play, which left a lasting imprint on his mind. He later met Jennifer backstage, and it was the first time they looked each other properly in the eyes with a smile on their lips. There was something about Shashi that had now started to attract Jennifer towards him. It was the starting point of their romance, and after that day the two young lovers would spend most of their free time with each other. In spite of the palpable love, a small incident created the first big spark between them, which sealed their love forever, the first sparks of the flame that would be Shashi Kapoor’s marriage to his one and only lady love.

The Train Journey

Those days the duo would earn little, and therefore would travel by local trains. On one of the days together, the train coach suddenly came to an abrupt halt, while the both were standing. Instinctively, Shashi tightly held Jennifer’s hand, and that exact moment, in a true filmy style, they both looked in each other’s eyes. It is said that the two love-birds travelled the rest of the journey holding each other’s hands. This incident made it clear for Shashi that even Jennifer shared the same feelings for him. It was now all about taking things to the next level.

“During those courtship days I could only afford to take her to small vegetarian restaurants where a ‘puri-bhaji’ would cost four annas’ and the height of luxury was a slap-up meal at Gordons for the princely sum of Rs. 2 or Rs. 2.50.”
– Shashi Kapoor about his courtship with Jennifer

Shashi and Jennifer’s courtship would go on forever, since he was always shy of taking the first step towards making a proposal. Eventually, it was his elder brother Shammi Kapoor who intervened and encouraged his brother to bring his lady to the house and introduce her to his parents. Shashi feared the prospect of being thrashed by his parents if they learnt that their son has been dating a firangi. Instead, he brought Jennifer to Shammi Kapoor’s place, where Shammi Kapoor’s wife Geeta Bali immediately developed a liking to Jennifer. She was so supportive of Shashi and Jennifer’s relationship that she would often lend them her car and some money for their dates together.

The young Shashi had mustered support from his brother and sister-in-law, but on the other end Jennifer was growing impatient waiting for Shashi’s actual proposal of love. She decided that it was imperative for her to intervene, since the reticent Shashi would take ages to articulate his love. Therefore, on one of their drives together, Jennifer conveyed her anxiety to him, and her fear that their relationship would go on that way forever despite both being aware of their love towards each other. Those firm words invariably nudged Shashi, and he decided to move out of his comfort zone to share the news of his affiliation with his parents. He was still nervous though and therefore requested Shammi Kapoor to share the news with his parents on his behalf.

As expected, Shashi’s father Prithviraj Kapoor and mother Ramsarni were not happy about hearing about Jennifer since they did not want a British bahu. But on Shammi’s persuasion they agreed to give the pair some time, to prove that their love is definitely real, and not some infatuation that would fizzle out soon. It gave a sense of relief to the doting couple but would Jennifer’s father reflect the same thoughts about his daughter and Shashi Kapoor’s marriage?

A Roadblock In Shashi Kapoor’s Marriage To Jennifer

Geoffrey Kendall, Jennifer’s father, was no way pleased to hear that his daughter was in love with an Indian boy four years younger to her. While he did not make it outright evident, the real fact was that he feared losing Jennifer since she was his theatre company’s manager and his leading lady on the stage. He thought that the delay would eventually dissolve their relationship, and thus told Shashi that he had to wait two years before he could marry his daughter. Shashi could not stay without Jennifer though, and decided to tour with the Shakespeareana company since they were looking for a new actor anyway.

Shashi Kapoor's Marriage - Shashi Kapoor And Jennifer Kendal At A Screening

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Two years went by in a jiffy, and in 1958 when Shashi again asked Mr. Kendall’s permission to tie the knot, he brusquely refused. This time though, Jennifer decided to take her own call, and told Shashi that she was a grown-up and could make her own decisions. The two decided to get hitched, and since they were in Malaysia, and with Jennifer’s father, they had to come back to India to get married. Elder brother Raj Kapoor came to their rescue, and gave them some money to return to Mumbai (then Bombay), where Shashi Kapoor and Jennifer Kendall got married in July 1958. Jennifer Kendall and Shashi Kapoor’s marriage was initiated in a traditional Indian wedding but a private one with only family members and close friends being part of the attendees. The Kendalls did not attend the wedding.

Love You Hamesha!

Shashi Kapoor's Marriage - Shashi And Jennifer With Kids Kunal, Karan And Sanjana

Shashi and Jennifer were like two souls with one life. After Jennifer and Shashi Kapoor’s marriage, Shashi made a début on the silver screen with films that did not leave much of a mark on the box office collection. During that tough struggling phase, the couple stood by each other’s side like true soul-mates and worked hand-in-hand to put back the pieces of their life together. Times changed though, and Shashi soon became a star to reckon with in the 1970s. When he started Prithvi theatre in 1978, he handed over the charge of the theatre company and the auditorium to his wife Jennifer, who handled it with zeal all her life.

Shashi Kapoor’s marriage was living paradigm of successful young love, and the couple reportedly never hid a thing from each other except one rare exception. Jennifer was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 1982, and it is said she hid the news from Shashi and her children almost till late 1983. Shashi and her children stood by her side in her painful battle against cancer, but sadly she succumbed to it. Jennifer Kapoor passed away on 7th September 1984 leaving behind a theatre legacy, three children and a totally shattered husband. Jennifer’s death was the tipping point in Shashi Kapoor’s life, and he slowly retracted from public life to become a recluse for some months. The grief is said to have impacted his health as well, and by 1999 due to ailing health, Shashi Kapoor retired from all forms of performing arts to live a peaceful life alone with the memories of his wife.

Shashi Kapoor's Marriage - Shashi And Jennifer's Formal Family Portrait With Kids Kunal, Karan And Sanjana

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Shashi and Jennifer were blessed with three children, sons Kunal (b. 1959) and Karan (b. 1962), and daughter Sanjana (b. 1967). All three had a brief stint in Bollywood, but have since diversified in different fields. Kunal still works as an actor and as an advertising professional while Karan is settled in London where he works as a photographer. Sanjana Kapoor took the reins of Prithvi theatre and has been actively managing it from past many years. Shashi Kapoor continues to live at his Mumbai residence, and was bestowed with the Padma Bhushan in 2011, and Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2015. Even today, he is revered for his work in the domain of theatre and art films, and is considered to be an indomitable icon. Shashi and Jennifer’s love story can be a lesson of sorts to all those souls searching for a stellar example of true love. Let’s sign-off on Shashi Kapoor’s marriage to Jennifer Kendall, the love of his life, with this touching quote from an interview Shashi gave 13 years after his beloved wife Jennifer’s death:

“Everybody loved Jennifer. She was friends with everybody and everybody she came in contact with, loved her. I’ve always had my share of enemies, but Jennifer only had friends.”

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