FOY: Shammi Kapoor

This edition of Fragrance of Yesteryears puts the spotlight on the iconic superstar of the '60s, an effervescent performer and the original rockstar: Shammi Kapoor.

Friday, November 02, 2012 | 9:00:00 AM IST (+05:30 GMT)
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This edition of Fragrance of Yesteryears puts the spotlight on the iconic superstar of the '60s, an effervescent performer and the original rockstar: Shammi Kapoor.
Shamsheraj, alias Shammi, was born October 21, 1931 into a dynasty of exceptional talent: the Kapoors. After completing his studies, he entered his father's Prithvi Theatre company.  The company also served as the launchpad of numerous other stars from the family, including Raj Kapoor and Shashi Kapoor.

After his debut alongside Chand Usmani in Jeeva Jyoti and another film with Madhubala, Rail ka Dibba, Shammi Kapoor tried to create a niche for himself in costume dramas like Laila Majnu (alongside Nutan) and Shama Parwana (with Suraiya). However, his career was slow to take off even though he possessed both talent and good looks.  He needed to develop an identity, and that was initiated by Nasir Hussain who cast him in Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957) followed by Dil Deke Dekho (1958).

In 1955, he secretly married fellow film star Geeta Bali, and his family was less than supportive of the union. The actress, already a bankable name due to films like Albela and Jaal Baaz, also served as a valuable professional collaborator who inspired many of his career choices. For the first time, the image of Shammi Kapoor underwent a drastic makeover, and he began to appear as a flashy star complete with a signature hairstyle for crazed youths to copycat.  The change was received with immediate success via Junglee (1961).

Dissatisfied with the chemistry he shared with established actresses in the past, filmmakers tested out new combinations with starlets suited for modern characters. These included Asha Parekh, Sharmila Tagore, Saira Banu and Sadhana. For dance scenes, his partnership with Helen proved to be electrifying, resulting in hits like "Suku Suku" from Junglee and "Oh Haseena Zulfon Waali" from Teesri Manzil.

The cry of "Yahoo!" from Junglee's Subodh Mukherjee, has embodied the impatience of a generation asserting individuality, influenced by the rock and roll movement raging in the West - particularly Elvis. Shammi Kapoor became a global hero.Though he never studied dance, he created his own style that prioritized enthusiasm over technique, indulging in any level of exuberance to please and energize his audience. In Professor he donned funny disguises as an old and sickly guardian, in Tumse Achha Kaun he rolled between the telephone wires, in Kashmir ki Kali he performed perilous pirouettes to seduce a lovely Sharmila Tagore. In Rajkumar he was a lover, and in the bold comedy-thriller Singapore he was a dancer. Budtameez with Sadhana and Janwar reinvigorated the aggressive approach of Junglee. Shammi Kapoor was reinventing himself several decades before Madonna built a reputation on doing the same.

Filmaker Shakti Samanta, before drawing attention to Rajesh Khanna, found the most effective way to utilize the flamboyant stage personality of Shammi Kapoor by giving him films rich with musical numbers and outdoor locations. The films also contained a number of "club scenes", which were scenes wherein the hero performed westernized song and dance routines (rock, twist or a Latin dance), with disguises ranging from tastefully exotic to downright strange. The highly stylized elements also applied to the heroines, such as Sharmila Tagore's hula inspired costumes in An Evening in Paris or Helen's tribal trousseau in Singapore.

Under the supervision of Nasir Hussein, the man who launched the second phase of his career, Shammi starred in the evergreen favorite Teesri Manzil.  It was a spectacular triumph of excess, a unique film where the noir plot melds with an eccentric, livewire performance. The uncontrolled nature of it may appear senseless, almost animalistic, the character's manners are abrupt and then, as if by magic, princely. Shammi was truly unique in his ability to portray a charismatic hero, a rebellious dancer, a witty comedian, and a wacky oddball simultaneously. This gave him the ability to diversify his career so that it would include both the weird and the sincere in equal measure. His contribution opened the door for greater freedom of expression in Indian Cinema, and body language became bold and uninhibited like never before.

After the success of Brahmachari, he gradually abandoned the image of the young man in love and began acting in supporting roles alongside Amitabh Bachchan (Zameer) and much later, nephew Rishi Kapoor in the RK productions Prem Rog (1982) and Prem Granth (1996). He also launched two ventures as a director. The first was Manoranjan (1974), a remake of Billy Wilder's Irma la Douce, and the second Bandalbaaz (1976). Though neither of them garnered much success at the box office, they did well to showcase his potential behind the camera.
Tragedy struck in his personal life when his wife Geeta Bali died of smallpox in 1965, leaving him to raise two children on his own. He tried to find happiness again with his 1969 marriage to Neela Devi Gohil.

The actor received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Filmfare in 1995, Zee Cine in 1999, the Star Screen Awards in 2001, and IIFA in 2002.  Shammi Kapoor was a beloved personality, not only among adults who grew up watching his films but also the younger generation who adored both his sweet, grandfatherly appearance in contemporary films and his electrifying personality from decades past to which their parents introduced them. Despite health issues, the star did not give up on public appearances and acts of kindness and generosity.

The legendary actor passed away on August 14, 2011 due to renal failure. With the death of Shammi Kapoor closed an entire chapter in the history of cinema, just as it had in 1988 with the passing of Raj Kapoor.

From cheerful to moody, from romantic to sympathetic, from prankster to dancer, from poised to unpredictable - Shammi Kapoor was and shall always remain an icon of youth, a personification of the cry of revolt against the old system.
Curiosity Corner
# Mohammad Rafi was his number one choice amongst playback singers. The actor used to attend his recordings to make sure that the artist had sung the song with the same emphasis, that he would be bringing to the big screen.
# If Helen set fire to the desires of men with her sultry numbers as an "item girl", Shammi Kapoor could be termed the first "item boy" for his rock and roll tracks.
#He received his first Fimfare Best Actor Award for Bramhachari in 1968.
#His last movie as a hero was Andaaz.

Editors: Lola K. & Gunia M.
Graphics: Komal

User Rating Rating(8 Votes)
NBT_MM, shwetha85, napster, Juicee_Sushie, zara990, rimitimi2000, jmoyee200, samicute

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Posted on: 28 April 2013 at 6:37am
"aja aja mehu pyar tera...", great song performed by shammi kaapoor, RIP Shammi

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Posted on: 02 November 2012 at 12:43pm
Shammi sir u had alwayz been my fav...a rebellious star ahead of his time... A true n geneuine rockstar...luv u lottts

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Posted on: 02 November 2012 at 9:42am
Shammiji, you are and have always been my all time favorite actor...Love you and miss you...A true legend!!

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Posted on: 02 November 2012 at 8:02am
Shammi ji all time awesome actor! A legend!...

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Posted on: 01 November 2012 at 11:39pm
Shammi Kapoor was a unique actor, charismatic, funny and strangely attractive! Junglee, Kashmir Ki Kali both were too good!

3 member(s) Liked the above comment :
namitagloryz, NandzLuv, rimitimi2000

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