Golden Era

75 years Yahoo! : Shammi Kapoor – The Rebel Star

The original founder of todays most popular webportal – Yahoo !. Surprised ?
Well, was just kidding, but the word ‘Yahoo’ was actually derived from one of Shammi Kapoor most popular song – Yahoo !. Koi Mujhe Junglee Kahe (Junglee). Popularly known as Indian Elvis Presley in the 1960s, Shammi Kapoor was the first to introduce swing musicals in bollywood. On 21st Oct, this year he celebrated his 75th birthday and we wish good health & happiness to the ONLY swing king of bollywood till date !

Its was not always glitz & glitters with Shammi. Inspite of being son of Prithivi Raj Kapoor, the great actor himself, he hardly had galant start as Raj Kapoor (his elder brother). After working for more than a decade in his own fathers theater when he stepped in indian cinema, he was immediately rejected. His soulful, romantic & gentleman image was discarded by the viewers and the critics both. There was a time when he was even written off from the industry after sequential number of flops (more than 10).

Failure is the stepping stones for the success, and who can justify more than legendery Shammi Kapoor. After marriage with actress Geeta Bali, he slowly changed his outlook. Sober and peaceful image soon got transformed into brash, cocky swagger & energetic Yahoo rich brat.

The opportunity came his way with Filmistan’s romantic comedy Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957) directed by Nasir Hussain. For the film, Shammi Kapoor shaved his pencil mustache and cut his hair in the famous ducktail style of the 50s and started evoking James Dean and Elvis Presly while following the more freewheeling approach elaborated by Dev Anand in earlier Filmistan films like Munimjee (1955) and Paying Guest (1957), significantly written by Hussain. Shammi Kapoor’s new haircut and clean-shaven face suddenly focused attention on his fabulous eyes, which were henceforth to become his trademark as he melted his heroines with a mere glance. Aided by O.P. Nayyar’s zingy musical score with such foot-tapping numbers Tumsa Nahin Dekha made a star out of Shammi Kapoor.

This new hip, mod image was further reinforced in Hussain’s Dil Deke Dekho (1959) and ‘Yahoo’ Junglee (1961) saw him become the definitive icon of the swinging 60s – The Rebel Star! Shammi Kapoor recalls that one evening as he was sitting with friends deciding how to present himself, it was film publicist Bunny Reuben who came up with the title – The Rebel Star – rebelling against the reigning trio – Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand!

Shammi Kapoor was perhaps Hindi Cinema’s first consistent attempt to address a Westernized teenage audience. In fact the western influence was marked in Shammi’s acting and deportment – it was the first time someone had shown such refinement in clothes. He wore leather jackets and tee shirts at a time when tee shirts were not part of Bollywood’s vocabulary. His preference for casual collars instead of fuddy-duddy shirts all added up to the image of a star who was making a statement with lots of exclamation marks to it!

Following Junglee’s success, throughout the 1960s it appeared that Shammi Kapoor could do no wrong. Hit followed hit as films like Dil Tera Deewana (1962), Professor (1962), Rajkumar (1964), Jaanwar (1965) and Teesri Manzil (1966) swept the box-office. New heroines like Asha Parekh, Saira Bano, Kalpana and Sharmila Tagore (in Hindi – she was already well known in Bengali Cinema) were successfully launched in his starrers. But since his films were essentially lightweight fun films focussing mainly on skirmishes of the sexes, critics tended to ignore his films even though he had the entire youth of India swinging to his tune. But given the chance as in Brahmachari (1968), he surprised one and all with his emotive ability playing a man looking after abandoned children. The film besides scoring at the box-office won him the Filmfare Award for Best Actor for his performance.

Besides Shammi’s exuberance and dancing ability a large part of his appeal was also due to the extremely hummable and catchy songs (mainly composed by Shankar-Jaikishen and O.P. Nayyar) picturised on him. Songs like Suku Suku, Ae Gulbadan, Govinda Aalaa Re, Deewana Hua Badal, Tumne Pukara Aur Hum Chale Aaye, Tumse Achha Kaun Hai, O Mere Sona Re, Akele Akele Kahaan Jaa Rahe Ho, Aajkal Tere Mere Pyaar ke Charche, Badan pe Sitare and Hain Na Bolo Bolo are remebered and hummed even today. And special mention must be made of his ‘voice’ Mohd. Rafi, who always gave a Shammi Kapoor song that something extra! Their special tuning made it impossible to differentiate when Rafi stopped singing and when Shammi Kapoor began enacting the song. The two are one.

However, tragedy struck during the filming of Teesri Manzil (1966), when Shammi’s first wife, actress Geeta Bali, died of small pox, leaving him with two small children. It led to a failed romance with Mumtaz, his co-star from Brahmachari (1968).

In 1969, he married his second wife Neela, and his significant weight gain ended his career as a romantic hero in the early 1970s, with Andaz (1971) being one of his last hits. He turned supporting actor and in the 70’s was among the most successful character actor, playing Saira Banu’s father in Zameer (1975), when he had been her leading man a decade earlier in Junglee (1961) and Bluff Master (1964). He also directed Manoranjan (1974) a copy of Irma La Douce and in which he played a supporting role himself and Bandalbaaz (1976), but neither were successful.

Shammi KapoorToday he is also a well-known computer buff and is the Chairman of the Internet Users Club of India. However he will always be remembered primarily as the most dashing dapper hero of the colourful musicals of the 60s. Even today video libraries vouch for the fact that Shammi Kapoor’s movies are rented out the maximum and in a poll conducted by a Film Magazine a few years ago, he was named the best ever dancing hero that Hindi Films has seen!



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