Indian Actor Shashi Kapoor Dies at 79

Shashi Kapoor 'Heat and Dust' - Still - H 2017
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Kapoor as the Nawab in the 1983 film Heat And Dust directed by James Ivory

A major star at home, he made a name for himself internationally with his work for Merchant-Ivory in films such as 'Heat and Dust.'

One of India’s iconic actors, Shashi Kapoor, passed away Monday in Mumbai after a prolonged illness. He was 79.

Local media quoted his nephew, actor Randhir Kapoor, stating that the actor had been suffering from a kidney ailment and was undergoing dialysis for several years. He was admitted to hospital over the weekend and passed away Monday evening. The funeral will be held Tuesday.

A major star at home, Kapoor became the first mainstream Indian actor to work in Hollywood and international cinema, which was underlined by his long association with the duo of American director James Ivory and Indian producer Ismail Merchant. Kapoor’s English-language film career began with Merchant-Ivory's debut production, 1963's The Householder, which was followed by Shakespeare-Wallah (1965) and Bombay Talkie (1970). Merchant-Ivory’s breakthrough 1983 title, Heat and Dust, saw Kapoor co-starring with Greta Scacchi and Julie Christie.

One of Kapoor's later international films was 1988's British colonial adventure The Deceivers, co-starring Pierce Brosnan, directed by Nicholas Meyer (Star Trek).

His last major performance was in 1994’s In Custody, which was directed by Merchant.

Hailing from what is considered India's first film family, Kapoor was the youngest son of the late Prithviraj Kapoor, an icon of Indian theater and cinema, and his elder brothers Raj and Shammi Kapoor were major stars.

Kapoor began his career as a child actor making his debut in Raj Kapoor's 1948 film Aag. His 100-plus Hindi filmography includes some of India's biggest hits, such as 1965's Jab Jab Phool Khile and 1975's Deewar, in which he co-starred with Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan and went on to work with him on a number of hits such as Kabhie Kabhie (1976), Trishul (1978) and Namak Halal (1982).

Kapoor seemed to effortlessly divide his time between mainstream Hindi cinema and his international forays, something Indian stars only started doing more recently, with Irrfan Khan (Jurassic World) and Priyanka Chopra (Quantico) among the more prominent examples.

At the peak of his career in the 1970s and 1980s, Kapoor used his earnings to fund his banner Filmvalas, which backed offbeat and often riskier fare such as Junoon and 36 Chowringee Lane, in which he co-starred with his wife, the late British actress Jennifer Kendal. The couple also established the Prithvi Theatre in 1978, which runs an annual festival showcasing the best of theatrical talent from across India.

Kapoor is survived by his sons Karan and Kunal and daughter Sanjana.