Shammi Kapoor

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Shammi Kapoor

Dinesh Raheja

Shammi Kapoor broke the sound barrier in Hindi films. In the gentlemanly 50s and 60s, Shammi yelled the loudest (yahoo! suku suku!) and courted his heroine with the unmistakeable arrogance of good looks laced with pure, almost manic boisterousness.

Here was an effervescent hero who had so much energy that even a 35 mm screen could barely contain it.

Today, the 70-year-old Shammi Kapoor wears a benign expression and a string of holy beads, but in his 20s and 30s, the tall, handsome and light-eyed hero wore a rakish grin and had a string of beauties vying for his attention.

Shammi was born Shamsherraj Kapoor in Mumbai in 1931. His father, Prithviraj Kapoor, a handsome hero with Grecian looks, had just appeared in Alam Ara. By the early 50s, Shammi's elder brother Raj Kapoor too had become famous as a star-director.

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Not surprisingly, Shammi Kapoor also joined the family profession in 1953 at the age of 22. But the gawky young Shammi who sported a pencil-thin moustache and greasy, slicked back hair, soon found himself amidst a heap of flops, including Rail Ka Dibba (Madhubala), Shama Parwana (Suraiya) and Mehbooba (Nalini Jaywant).

Shammi's onscreen romantic image was under a cloud; but off screen, his sunny charm had spunky beauty, Geeta Bali, eating out of his palms. A smitten Geeta Bali even convinced Kidar Sharma to cast her in a man's role in his Shammi starrer Rangeen Raatein so that she could accompany Shammi to the Ranikhet outdoor of the film.

The Shammi-Geeta Bali marriage resulted in the birth of son Micky. No longer a carefree bachelor, Shammi was compelled to do some serious rethinking about his screen career. Taking a cue from his Hollywood screen idols, James Dean and Elvis Presley, Shammi decided to reinvent himself in the 'rebel star' mould and minted it to advantage in his first smash hit --- Nasir Hussain's rollicking romance, Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957).

He cashed in on the public adulation showered on the brash, brattish lover by working out extensions of the same in many of his subsequent films. Big-time stardom came Shammi's way with Nasir Hussain's Dil Deke Dekho (1959) and Subodh Mukherjee's Junglee (1961). In Dil Deke Dekho, he was paired with ebullient newcomer Asha Parekh, while Junglee saw him wooing yet another newcomer, the frail beauty with the shrill voice, Saira Banu.

Famous songs picturised on Shammi Kapoor
Song Film Singer
 Yun toh humne lakh haseen  Tumsa Nahin Dekha  Mohammed Rafi
 Yaar chulbula hai  Dil Deke Dekho  Mohammed Rafi, Asha Bhosle
 Yahoo, chahe koi mujhe  Junglee  Mohammed Rafi
 Aye gulbadan  Professor  Mohammed Rafi
 Dil tera deewana hai sanam  Dil Tera Deewana  Mohammed Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar
 Baar baar dekho  China Town  Mohammed Rafi
 Tareef karoon kya uski  Kashmir Ki Kali  Mohammed Rafi
 Aaja aaja  Teesri Mazil  Mohammed Rafi, Asha Bhosle
 Aasman se aaya farishta  An Evening In Paris  Mohammed Rafi
 Aaj kal tere mere pyar ke charche  Bramhachari  Mohammed Rafi, Suman Kalyanpur

With Junglee, Shammi gifted the Hindi film screen dictionary with a new word of exultation: Yahoo! Charged by the word and the accompanying Shankar Jaikishen-composed song, Chahe koi mujhe junglee kahe, Shammi gleefully tumbled down snow-covered hills while shooting this number. His knees hurt to date.

Hugely-catchy Mohammed Rafi songs, pretty new heroines and a plot often as fluffy as the Simla snows became an important part of the Shammi Kapoor experience. Aware of the import of songs, Shammi Kapoor took a keen interest in music sittings and also ensured he had as many, if not more, song as the heroine. Producers were more than happy with Shammi's keen interest in music because his uninhibited dancing to songs like O haseena zulphonwali and Aaj kal tere mere pyar ke charche became the rage.

Shammi's sense of rhythm and timing also helped him generate big laughs. One of Teesri Manzil's most treasured scenes is the train sequence where Shammi attempts to give an overweight co-travellor an attack of the giggles. In Professor (1962), Shammi gave an undervalued performance, proving to be a mirthquake as the disguised-as-an-old-man professor who unwittingly melts the heart of an iron-hearted old lady (Lalita Pawar).

Through the sixties, Shammi spawned a constant flow of successes like Raajkumar, Janwar and An Evening In Paris. However, while he soared as a star, his capabilities as an actor were suspect. Titles like Junglee, Budtameez, Bluff Master only strengthened his image of an actor up to monkey tricks.

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But Shammi jolted the critics with his charged performance of a murder suspect wanting to exonerate himself in the racy thriller, Teesri Manzil (1966). His turn as the sensitive bachelor who provides home and love to orphans in Bramhachari (1968) won him the Filmfare award for the Best Actor.

Unfortunately, Shammi lost Geeta Bali to small pox in 1965. His second wife Neela Devi, brought a semblance of serenity in Shammi Kapoor's turbulent life and proved to be an ideal mother to his son and daughter.

However, at the close of the 60s, Shammi Kapoor proved to be a walking monument to bad career moves. Pairing with a new generation of heroines like Leena (Preetam) and Babita (Tumse Achcha Kaun Hai) underlined the fact that he had let himself go --- his hair was thinning, his girth expanding.

The emergence of a new romantic icon, Rajesh Khanna, also had major repercussions. Shammi's regular director Shakti Samanta shifted sights to Khanna. The Khanna-Samanta combine produced a megahit like Aradhana while Shammi and Samanta had a dud that came down with a thud, Jaane Anjaane. Even Shammi's paring with lucky mascot, Asha Parekh, now resulted in disappointments like Jawan Mohabbat and Pagla Kahin Ka.

Shammi Kapoor's Landmark Films
Year Film Actors
1957  Tumsa Nahin Dekha Ameeta  Ameeta
1959  Dil Deke Dekho  Asha Parekh, Bhumika
1961  Junglee  Saira Banu
1962  China Town  Shakira
1962  Professor  Kalpana
1964  Rajkumar  Sadhana
1966  Teesri Manzil  Asha Parekh
1967  An Evening In Paris  Sharmila Tagore
1968  Bramhachari  Rajshree
1971  Andaaz  Hema Malini

But all was not lost yet. Shammi Kapoor delivered an remarkably restrained performance in Andaaz (1971) as the widower who falls in love with a widow (Hema) --- his most uncharacteristic and one of his best roles. Unfortunately, here too, he had to share the limelight with Rajesh Khanna who thundered with Zindagi ek safar in a special appearance.

Recognising the signs of the times, Shammi Kapoor changed tracks to direction. He chose to remake the raunchy comedy, Irma La Douce, and cast Zeenat Aman as a street walker in love with a bumbling cop, Sanjeev Kumar. Shammi played a jovial pub owner. Produced by his loyal producer and business associate, F C Mehra (Singapore, Professor, Prince), Manoranjan boasted of R D Burman delights like Goya ke chunanche but failed to give a new twist to Shammi's career. Shammi next made an Arabian Nights' fable, Bundalbaaz, with Rajesh Khanna and played a genie, but the magic failed to rub off on the film.

Today, Shammi Kapoor occasionally acts in films and makes rare appearances at premieres. The virtual reality of computers and the spiritual realm take up more of his time than than the make-believe world of films.

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