Junglee? Janwar? Budtameez? No way!

And so another personality from yesteryear Indian cinema goes over to the great beyond - one that I was fortunate to have met a couple of years ago in the midst of many meetings I’ve had with various stalwarts of the Hindi film Industry - Shammi Kapoor, the ‘Yahoo’ man or the ‘Rebel’ star who ruled Hindi filmdom right through the late 1950s and the 1960s!


The usual suspects - Shivi, Arwa and me - landed up at his South Mumbai flat as he regaled us with tales that were supposedly to focus primarily on his interactions with Guru Dutt (with whom both he and his first wife, Geeta Bali, were good friends) but what we got were not just wonderful memories of his moments with Guru Dutt but Shammi Kapoor’s own journey down memory lane as well! In spite of having to go for dialysis regularly, he was quite upbeat as he gave us a good 2 ½ -3 hours of his time and spoke of enjoying going out for long drives as and when he could!

Shammi Kapoor was in his element as he recalled a film party where a then-starlet-now-famous-TV-hostess was rocking on a superstar’s lap with everyone around taking bets as to who she would leave the party with! Especially since she had come to the party with someone else before throwing herself at the star! Of course, he mentioned the names involved but I will choose to be correctly discreet! He revealed that Waheeda Rehman was the original choice as his heroine for Dil Deke Dekho (1959) and that Nasir Hussain decided on Asha Parekh at the last minute (incidentally, he and Waheeda never worked opposite each other). He revelled in the various fishing trips he made to Powai with Guru Dutt, fondly remembering their drinking binges together and the narration of Kaagaz ke Phool’s script that Guru Dutt gave him and Geeta Bali of on the steps of Famous Building - where most film offices were then - a narration that moved Geeta Bali to tears. He relived his badminton games with Guru Dutt, recollected advising Guru Dutt to tell financier KK Kapoor he had no dates to spare so that Guru Dutt could continue as the hero of Aar Paar (1954) as distributors wanted him removed as leading man after the dismal showing of Baaz (1953). He also poignantly reminisced how each time he was shooting at Natraj Studio, he would ask for the last reel of Kaagaz ke Phool (1959) to be screened in the preview theatre there.

Since Shivi and me have studied Indian cinema history at FTII, he was quite surprised - and pleasantly so - when we discussed some of the films his father, the legendary Prithviraj Kapoor had done, particularly in the 1930s for New Theatres – amongst them Manzil (1936), Vidyapati (1937) and President (1937) under the direction of filmmakers like PC Barua, Debaki Bose and Nitin Bose.

A personally signed booklet of Gul Sanobar (1953), where Shammi Kapoor co-starred with Shyama, is my cherished ‘nishani’ of the meeting. Unfortunately, I can’t upload that now as I am posting this piece from out of Mumbai. I will do so later.

RIP Shammi Kapoor! There will never be another like you!



15 comments
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  1. I’d say ‘Lucky, you!’ except- we make our own luck.
    So, Good for you, instead.
    What wonderful, priceless memories.
    R.I.P. Shammi Kapoor. Or, Not. Depending on what he’d have wanted. :-)

  2. Good to know a little bit abt the star. :) RIP Shammi Kapoor.

  3. Great actor, great human.
    You will be missed!
    R.I.P., the unique Shammi Kapoor

  4. Yeah Karan! No one will be like him. I guess Cinema will never have an original like Shammi Kapoor. The feral, oozing with anabashed sexuality, all Maleness. He said rather shy that girls in colleges used to rip his clothes up if he came within touching distance. As a person he clearly is a guy who lived Life King size, on his terms and conditions. The shikari, the football fanatic, crazy about Wimbledon.
    He was gracious but YET the STAR and you could never forget who he was as you stuttered and mumbled in his wesome presence.
    For us Shammi Kapoor spelt Liberation, Madness, Zest, Zaniness, immense Grace as a dancer. The world is sadder and dimmer without him. And I am bereft as if a part of my childhood has died.

  5. @Jyothi, Akash, R Kaul: Thanks for your comments.

    @Tanuja: Well put. You’ve described him perfectly!

  6. Karan, how does one communicate with you or Upper Stall. I looked but was unable to find any ‘Contact us’ link on the site.

  7. What a man what a life! I remember one incident where he and Guru Dutt sat outside famous studio and discussed life after one of Guru Dutts films had flopped and he was very upset.

    When i met him consequently to film him for a documentary, he joked ” i hope you are not making an obituary.” He saw humour in life and in death. When i heard about his death i said ” wow what life he has had…”

    btw could not find the GD photos, but found some stills from the docu which i have put up on fb.

  8. @R Kaul: Have e-mailed you my contact details.

    @Arwa: Yes quite a man and quite a life! Still can’t forget him talking in glee about the ‘party’ happeninings and then stopping suddenly saying but why am I talking about her??? :)

  9. what u have penned down here is part of film lore in a way, the stuff people abroad studying Indian films will treasure. keep going Karan

  10. Thanks Ajay!

  11. Nice blog. Shammi was one of my favourite heroes. Liked his immense energy and Rockstar spirit. And reading your blog he seems to be man with great joie de vivre. RIP Yahoo man! There will be no one like you.

  12. Very well written…can completely understand the experience of meeting this super star, as I ws also fortunate enough to interview him once as mentioned in my FB status and his graciuous treatment of my lightmen. But he was even more amused to meet my wife who is not even 5 feet, when she told him she was a lecturer at TISS. Shammi Kapoor was so amused that while we did the lighting and all at leisure he had already gathered enuf info on my wife’s discipline and could just not get over the fact that such a small youngster teaches such heavy duty stuff. My wife who doesnt care a damn about films and film stars was also very impressed by the man’s humility, keeness to know about things and good manners

  13. Thanks Sharad. And I get what you mean about being fortunate to meet an icon like Shammi Kapoor. I felt extremely fortunate even if it was for just a single meeting. People like him come but once in a lifetime and have a knack of making their interaction with you unforgettable!

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