Saturday, October 1, 2011


The bold and charming Indian actor Shammi Kapoor, who died of renal failure aged 79 on 14th August,2011, changed the face of Bollywood cinema with his first hit film, Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957). The rock'n'roll-inspired movie turned the young actor into an overnight sensation and he continued to incorporate elements of western culture and fashion in his subsequent films. By dancing in the big musical numbers, the hip-swinging Kapoor raised the Bollywood trend of a static hero. His energetic sensuality and confidence made him irresistible to male and female fans and he became arguably the first male pin-up in the Indian film industry.

Shammi Kapoor was a member of one of Bollywood's most distinguished acting dynasties. The second son of the actor Prithviraj Kapoor, Shamsher Raj Kapoor (Shammi Kapoor) was born in Mumbai on 21st October, 1931 and grew up in the heart of India's young and inexperienced film industry. His father had risen from relative poverty to become a respected film and theatre actor. Shamsher's(Shammi) brothers, Raj Kapoor and Shashi Kapoor, also became successful actors. Shamsher spent a major part of his childhood in Kolkata but his education is done in various schools in Mumbai being St Joseph's Convent, Don Bosco school, New Era school and Ruia College.

He joined his father's theatre company as a junior artist in 1948, and left four years later to pursue a career in cinema, with his name shortened to Shammi Kapoor. Instead of throwing him to stardom, his debut film Jeevan Jyoti (1953) was a flop. Over the next three years, his films continued to crash at the box office, despite Kapoor acting opposite some noted heroines.

The hearty young actor upped the stakes after he married, in 1955, the A-list actor Geeta Bali, with whom he had a son, Aditya Raj, the following year. Having responsibilities as a father, and being seen primarily as the husband of a famous film star, prompted Kapoor to change direction. He decided to model himself on a young American singer: Elvis Presley. Shammi shaved off his moustache, cut his hair to get the ducktail style, acquired a rock'n'roll arrogance, put on cool western clothes and gave it his all in Tumsa Nahin Dekha.

For his 1959 hit Dil Deke Dekho, Shammi persuaded the film's director to add an Indian version of the Paul Anka song . Kapoor consolidated his position as the number one youth icon in India with his first colour movie, Junglee (1961), in which he has played a role of a rich man who has been serious all his life is taught how to love by a poor girl. His rebellious "yahoo" cry in the title song became iconic and was forever associated with him. The film co-starred Saira Banu, one of several Bollywood debutantes whom Kapoor starred alongside and who became major actors in their own right.

In 1961, Kapoor and Bali had a daughter, Kanchan. Four years later, Bali died of smallpox at the age of 35. Kapoor has described that phase as the the worst chapter in his life. Although he continued to appear in films, and won his first major acting award, in 1968, for Brahmachari.

In 1969, he married Neela Devi Gohil from the former royal family of Bhav- nagar in Gujarat. He embraced spirituality, retired from being a leading man and made his directorial debut with Manoranjan (1974). Kapoor made the transition to character actor and won the Filmfare award for his performance in Vidhaata (1983). He slowed down significantly in the 1980s and 1990s, and was given a Filmfare lifetime achievement award in 1995.

Although he had the quality of a king, Kapoor was a fun-loving individual who found pleasure in simple things. In later life, he embraced the internet, ran his own website and kept in touch with fans on Twitter. He also remained committed to acting and despite having painful kidney dialysis came out of retirement to make a cameo in the forthcoming film starring his nephew Ranbir Kapoor in Rockstar, in the lead.

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