Mumbai: He could “yahoo” like a “junglee” with roguish aplomb, make girls swoon with his wild dancing and romancing, and not many may know that the much loved Shammi Kapoor was also one Bollywood’s first internet aficionados.
The leading star of Hindi cinema in the late 1950s and 1960s breathed his last Sunday at the age of 79, ending an era of great style, music and acting.
Born Oct 21, 1931 as Shamsher Raj Kapoor, Shammi was the second son of legendary film and theatre actor Prithviraj Kapoor and Ramsarni “Rama” Mehra. The other two being Raj Kapoor and Shashi Kapoor, both of whom were, like their father, successful Bollywood actors.
Though born in Mumbai, Shammi spent a major portion of his childhood in Kolkata, where his father was involved with New Theatres Studios. After coming back to Mumbai, he first went to St. Joseph’s Convent (Wadala) and then to Don Bosco School.
Shammi, who debuted in Bollywood in 1953 with the film “Jeevan Jyoti”, attained the onscreen image of a lighthearted, stylish playboy with Nasir Hussain directed “Tumsa Nahin Dekha” (1957) opposite Ameeta and “Dil Deke Dekho” (1959) with Asha Parekh.
Though he was not conventionally good looking in terms of Bollywood, but tall, lively, fair complexioned, green-eyed Shammi became a heartthrob.
His career saw a high with the success of “Junglee” (1961) and it cemented his image as a dancing star and his subsequent films were all in this genre. In fact the song “Yahoo” in the film was a cult hit. He teamed up with Asha Parekh in four films and the most successful being the murder mystery “Teesri Manzil” (1966).
In the first half of the 1960s, Shammi was seen in successful films like “Professor”, “Char Dil Char Rahen”, “Raat Ke Raahi”, “Dil Tera Diwana”, “Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya”, “China Town”, “Kashmir Ki Kali”, “Bluff Master”, “Janwar” and “Rajkumar”. Although nominated before, in 1968, he received the first Filmfare Best Actor award of his career for the film “Bramhachari”.
In the 1970s, Shammi’s weight problem proved an obstacle in his path of success and ended his career as a romantic hero. One of his last hits, in which he played the lead role, was “Andaz” (1971) with Hema Malini.
With time, he moved to charachter roles and acted in films like “Zameer”, “Hero” and “Vidhaata”. In 1974, he donned the hat of a director and made “Manoranjan” and two years later, he made “Bandalbaaz” (1976). However, both the films failed to create magic at the box office.
He also played a vital role in his brother Raj Kapoor’s 1982 directorial venture “Prem Rog”, which starred his nephew Rishi Kapoor.
His last appearance, as a character actor, was in the delayed 2006 film, “Sandwich”. Recently he decided to act with Ranbir Kapoor, the nephew of his brother Raj Kapoor, in Imtiaz Ali’s next movie, “Rockstar”.
As far as his personal life is concerned, Shammi was married to actress Geeta Bali and they had a son, Aditya Raj Kapoor and daughter, Kanchan. However, in 1965, Geeta died of small pox, leaving Shammi with two small children.
In 1969, he married his second wife Neela Devi Gohil from the Royal Family of Bhavnagar in Gujarat.
Shammi was one of the first actors to adapt the internet boom in the country – he’s the founder and chairman of Internet Users Community of India (IUCI) and also played a major role in setting up internet organisations like the Ethical Hackers Association.
The actor, who was on dialysis for a couple of years, was admitted to Mumbai’s Breach Candy Hospital a week ago. He was on ventilator support and died there Sunday.