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How Shammi Kapoor made a 5-year-old's day

Last updated on: August 16, 2011 14:44 IST

How Shammi Kapoor made a 5-year-old's day

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Sukanya Verma in Mumbai

The day at school hadn't gone too well. Not only was I admonished by the class teacher for my poor handwriting but also got into a verbal scuffle with my best friend.

Rather disheartened, I dragged my five-year-old self back home not quite sure what to say or do. Back then, the only thing that truly comforted me was listening to radio on my red Philips transistor. I turned it on without realising my life is about to change.

'Aiy yai ya, karoon main kya, Suku, Suku? Dil mera ho gaya, Suku Suku!' That I had never heard this amazingly lively song before is a shame. That it cheered me up no end is unquestionable. To have such a cool song about your nickname is not an everyday occurrence.


Image: Shammi Kapoor and Helen dance to Suku Suku

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That same evening, Junglee's Suku Suku turned out to be the last video featured on Doordarshan's weekly music compilation, Chitrahaar.

Bashful, flattered and ecstatic, I was, yet again, thrilled to be a part of this unintended dedication.
At the same time, I couldn't get over the free style dancing of its animated, handsome leading man. He was having so much fun singing my name. It was love at first sight and my first introduction to the awe-inspiring magic of Shammi Kapoor.

Around then, I watched Betaab on big screen. And although I was too young to realise why Shammi was so vehemently opposing the liaison between Sunny Deol and Amrita Singh, I knew he is the same, beloved Junglee in a now bearded, paunchy, patriarchal avatar.


Image: Shammi Kapoor and Sharmila Tagore in Kashmir Ki Kali

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At every juncture, I warmed up to him. As much as I appreciated his bounce and beam as the flamboyant icon of the 1960s, I was endeared by Shammi's cuddly frame as an benevolent grand/fatherly/ figure in later films like Yeh Vaada Raha, Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya, Ajooba or Chamatkar.

He embraced both roles with such tremendous grace, carving a new niche and identity for himself, every single time.

Gradually, I watched a whole lot of his films like Teesri Manzil, Kashmir Ki Kali, Junglee, Rajkumar, Prince, Brahmachari, Boyfriend, Andaz and so on; discovering different facets to his personality.

The romantic. The hotstepper. The clown. The style icon. The rebel. The dude. The joy.


Image: Shammi Kapoor and Mumtaz in Brahmachari

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His bright, blazing eyes could gaze into a woman's soul and convince her that he would, indeed, cease to exist if she didn't accept his proposal.

His disgust was just as genuine after bumping the bad guy off a frame. His complete lack of inhibition allowed him to do the silliest things, inspiring generations to follow suit long before it became acceptable to do so.

He could dance a storm without following any precise technique allowing his body to play in tandem with a song's rhythm, creating his own style.


Image: Shammi Kapoor and Vyjayantimala in Prince

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And his dapper fashion sense boosted with accessories like caps, hats, mufflers, patchwork coats, brocade blazers, bow-ties contributed to his groovy image.

It is remarkable how he appeared completely in control, comfortable and content with the genre he excelled in, that is, of either a lovelorn or lovesick young man from either an aristocratic or humble background with a bunch of zingy numbers to serenade the heroine.

At a time when most actors were engaging in cordial courtship, wooing the lady from a painful distance with garrulous poetry, here was Shammi Kapoor -- rolling in the snow or dangling out of a shikara, blasting heartfelt Yahoos out of his system and without any beating around the bush, announcing to the girl and the world that he's in love.

He was always in love. With life and all that it has to offer.


Image: Shammi Kapoor in Junglee

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After I learned the news of his demise, I spent hours watching his recorded interviews on the internet. His zest for life, in addition to an astounding memory, provided wonderful insights and amusing anecdotes on the various chapters of his personal and professional life.

Unlike any other legend I've heard, he was accessible, friendly, real and good-humoured. As he spoke and smiled, I felt a sense of familiarity that one does while listening to those warm, nostalgic stories from one's grandparent.

He'd been in a lot of physical pain for a long time owing to an enduring renal illness but his spirit was unwavering. An emblem of unbridled joy and infectious spontaneity, I bid him a fond farewell and an eternity of peace.

I love you Shammi Kapoor. You gave me a lot to Suku about.


Image: Shammi Kapoor

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