Fairlawn remembers Shashi Kapoor's honeymoon
Kolkata: The guest list includes the likes of James Ivory and Ismail Merchant. Add to that Patrick Swaze, Dominique Lapiere and Felicity Kendal. Bollywood's famed actor Shashi Kapoor also put up at this quaint 19th Century colonial property whenever he was in Kolkata. But few know that Kapoor and Jennifer Kendal celebrated their honeymoon at the Fairlawn Hotel (1958) in Central Kolkata. Old timers remember the room: it was no. 17.
For Rabindranath Pal, a retired manager of the hotel and an old hand, Kapoor was a cherished guest who had made Fairlawn his home whenever he was in Kolkata and who knew each and every staff by first name.
"He always called me Pal. He always asked to be put up in room no 17. That is where he had his honeymoon with Jennifer Kendal. He always came down to the dining room for his breakfast which was a full English breakfast with pork and ham," recounted Pal, a dash of nostalgia lacing his voice.
During the shooting of Aparna Sen's 36 Chowringhee Lane, a number of important guests regularly flocked to Fairlawn where Shashi Kapoor was staying. The year was 1984. "The shot would be prepared and the director Aparna Sen would visit the hotel along with actors like Dhritiman Chatterjee and Debosree Roy. Ashok Mehta was also staying at the hotel," reminisced Pal.
Shashi Kapoor was still very handsome, very charming and quite childlike in his demeanor, remembers Pal. On his later visits, he wore the "Pathan suit" and used the hotel laundry. "But his charm and child-like quality never left him", said Pal.
Kapoor's children, Karan Kapoor, Sanjana Kapoor and Kunal Kapoor, also stayed at Fairlawn on various occasions.
Pal remembers that the Bollywood superstar was very fond of Kolkata and would often tease him about items of Bengali cuisine like "macher jhol bhaat, aloo posto". "He also loved items like rosogolla, sandesh and phuchka (golgappa) but never asked us to get these for him," recalled Pal, who was manager of the property from 1996 to 2016 but still serves the hotel.
Interestingly, amongst the longest staying guests were the Kendal family, (mother and father of the famous British actor Felicity) who stayed here for nearly 30 years.
They were a traditional, theatrical family and earned their living by touring Shakespeare around Indian schools. They would sometimes actually put on plays upstairs in the lounge. Their eldest daughter Jennifer married Shashi Kapoor, who recently passed away.