When he was alive, this room on the first floor of this heritage hotel on Sudder Street was one of his favourite refuges, for which he was known to have given up staying in five-star hotels. Whenever Shashi Kapoor was in Kolkata for work or leisure, room number 17 at Fairlawn Hotel was the only address where he would be found. The 238-year-old hotel, which has been restored and re-christened Elgin Fairlawn after a change of ownership, has now renamed the room as Shashi Kapoor Room as a part of a tribute to its legendary guest.
The room has been decorated with rare photographs of the actor and the furniture he used, and the hotel is about to start letting guests stay there.
This was the hotel where Kapoor met his British wife Jennifer Kendal in 1956. She was a guest at the hotel with her family that owned a travelling theatre company, Shakespeareana, that produced Shakespeare plays across India. Kapoor was then a part of his father’s Prithvi Theatre Company as a stage manager and was entranced by Miranda from ‘The Tempest’. Love blossomed and soon the two decided to marry, against the wish of Jennifer’s father Geoffrey Kendal. The hotel witnessed the growing romance of the two who later visited it for their honeymoon.
The couple would often come back to the city to holiday with their children. “He loved to walk around the area and even ordered his kulhad-wali chai from the roadside vendors. From the durwan to the workers at the hotel, the actor chatted with everyone and touched every chord here with his smile,” said Rabindranath Pal, who has been managing the hotel for over 40 years.
Kapoor was born in Kolkata and spent his young days here, so he was comfortable conversing with everyone in fluent Bengali. Even after Jennifer passed away, Kapoor would often come to the hotel to spend time in the room that he and his wife loved so much. The couple’s children, Sanjana, Kunal and Karan, who were frequent guests when their parents were here for long periods, have stayed here subsequently.
“He loved the furniture in the room and we preserved them the way he liked,” Pal said.
The room’s furniture has also been restored. The only change is the sign, which reads: ‘The Shashi Kapoor Room’.