KARACHI : “It was during the late 90s,” says Salman Ahmed as he reminisces about Shashi Kapoor’s visit to Pakistan. The former Junoon guitarist and musician is speaking to The Express Tribune about his meeting with the late Bollywood veteran, who passed away on Monday.
“Shashi was playing the role of a narrator, co-starring opposite Sir Christopher Lee as Jinnah in Jinnah the film,” he adds, when asked how the two happened to cross paths. “I had been asked by the film producers to compose the theme song Azadi for it.”
“Shashi and I were introduced to each other on the film set by Dr Akbar Ahmed, the producer. When Shashi found out that I was in a band called Junoon, he told me that one of his most successful films was also named Junoon . I mentioned that both my parents and my siblings were huge fans of his and even my Nani would watch his films with us in Lahore on DoorDarshan, broadcast from Amritsar.”
Salman continued, “I remember there was a huge controversy created in the press about Shashi and Christopher’s roles in Jinnah. Some in the Pakistani-English newspapers assumed that he was playing the role of the Archangel, Gabriel! But Shashi laughed it away. ‘Apne hi log hain…the same people, the same culture. I don’t feel like I am shooting outside India,’ he said.”
Undoubtedly, meeting Shashi was a very memorable moment in my life. “Great actor; very charming and an extremely down to earth human being , despite his huge personal standing as an international star and the Kapoor family brand,” recalled Salman. “I remember Shashi said, ‘I’m honoured to be part of a film that will create history.’ To him the crowd scenes were very moving to watch. When Jinnah walks through the crowds, it reminded Shashi of the shooting of Gandhi in India. ‘I revere both Jinnah and Gandhi as great leaders’, he said at that time’.”
Nonetheless, the Kabhi Kabhie actor was very conscious of the personal responsibility that he carried playing a role in a film about Quaid-e-Azam.
Asked how was his experience on working in Pakistan was, Salman responded, “At lunches and dinners, the cast and the crew of Jinnah was invited which moved the legend immensely. Shashi felt deeply touched by the love and all the sumptuous food he received while in Karachi.”
So was this the only time Salman crossed paths with the legendary actor? “No. A couple of years later I met him again in Bombay at his acting academy in 1998, when Junoon won the Best International Group award in India. We received the award from Nafisa Ali, Shashi’s co-star in his blockbuster Junoon,” revealed the Sayonee hit-maker. “He was a great humanitarian as well and wanted to promote peace, love and harmony in the sub-continent. I will miss him!”
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