Shaikh Ayaz in Mumbai
There are stars, there are superstars and then, there was Shammi Kapoor.
Unmatched and incomparable, Shammi was the last word in the unrehearsed, boisterously impromptu style of acting.
In the latter part of his life, just before his death, he was confined to his South Mumbai home, his movements hemmed in. But who could have reined in the 'Yahoo' streak?
We bring back a 2008 interview with the legend, where he spoke about his favourite actors, the stars his grand niece Kareena Kapoor and grand nephew Ranbir Kapoor were dating at the time, and his failing health.
Aamir Khan visited you to take your blessings for his new film. You are being feted at the Osian Cinefan Festival. The spotlight is suddenly back on Shammi Kapoor once again.
It's a wonderful feeling that there's a film festival of my films at Osian. As for Aamir, he's family to me. I have always liked his work, I am fond of him. He screens his films for me and shows great respect towards me. I would say the same thing for the others in the industry. It feels good to know that the industry still remembers me.
Do you ever feel like getting back to the studios?
Even if I feel like that, my health wouldn't permit (he did go on to sign Imtiaz Ali's Rockstar, his last film). I have to go for a dialysis twice, sometimes, thrice a week. If I don't do it, I will die. So, there's no choice.
I have been immobile for years now. I am getting weaker. It's not possible to return to acting. But you never know, if through some magic my health stabilises, I will do it. However, let me tell you I have enjoyed my life and I have enjoyed my career.
'Amitabh Bachchan is still the best'
Do you have any favourites among today's actors?
Oh, of course. There's Aamir, Shah Rukh (Khan), Salman (Khan)... they are all so good. Some of them are kids who have grown up in front of my eyes. And then of course there's Amitabh (Bachchan), who's still the best.
Why do you say so?
Amitabh has survived and he's doing very well. How long can you go along? Amitabh has maintained himself, he has improved with every film and he has stuck on. People love him.
Do you see a young Shammi Kapoor in Salman Khan? Especially, his unrestrained acting style is similar to yours?
I have been told that before. Salman is a great guy. In fact, I take that as a compliment when people say Salman acts like me. But Salman has his own style. He has an endearing quality.
I am very happy that these young actors are carrying forward our legacy because they are deserving and very good at their job.
'I just pray that Ranbir is always happy'
Do you catch up on the new releases?
Yes. I liked Taare Zameen Par. Recently, I saw Jodhaa Akbar and it was very good.
What do you think of your grand niece Kareena Kapoor's relationship with Saif Ali Khan, with whose mother Sharmila Tagore you have enjoyed working?
What can I say? This is a new generation and they know what they are doing. It's their life and they are living it their way. There's nothing wrong in that. Saif is a good boy and he's a fine actor. He was excellent in Kal Ho Naa Ho, Hum Tum and Omkara.
Do you approve of your grand nephew Ranbir Kapoor's relationship with Deepika Padukone?
Again, I ask you, who am I to approve? I just pray that Ranbir is always happy. He made a great debut in Saawariya. I was very happy for him. Deepika was also good in Om Shanti Om.
'I see every Kapoor in Ranbir'
Do you see Raj Kapoor in Ranbir?
(Laughs) I see every Kapoor in Ranbir. He's a bright boy and has the Kapoor blood in him. He will go very far and our love is always with him. Some years from now, he will have his own following and his own image; then you will not link him with other Kapoors. He will be on his own.
Do Kareena or Ranbir meet you often?
Yes, the children drop into the hospital sometimes. They are always there. They are also busy like we were in our time. God bless them.
'I think I wouldn't have been anybody without my father'
Photographs: Pradeep Bandekar
Growing up, you wanted to become an aeronautic engineer. Ever regret anything, especially acting?
Never. It was my choice. Yes, while in Ruia College (Matunga, in suburban Mumbai), I wanted to pursue engineering and I thought someday, I would make planes. But I am glad I joined my father's Prithvi Theatre. That changed my life.
My family was passionate about theatre. Rajji (Raj Kapoor, his elder brother) came to my school one day since papaji (Prithviraj Kapoor) was busy with something. The principal complained that I have not been attending and that I must not go to theatre. When Rajji saw that the principal was speaking of theatre insultingly he pulled me and said, 'Let's go.' He told my father later that we should not send Shammi to that school because they don't respect theatre. That's how much we respected our work.
What's the most important thing you have learnt from your father?
Everything. He was my guru, he was Rajji's guru, too. We learnt everything from him. I think I wouldn't have been anybody without him. Unka aashirwaad hamesha raha hai hum par.