Shammi Kapoor and Nostalgia

Shammi Kapoor and Nostalgia

Once when I was a kid, my father took me to his office in central Mumbai to keep me from pesking my mother during the summer holidays. There, to keep me from pesking him and his staff , he asked his peon to buy tickets for a film in the cinema house nearby, which was showing ”Professor”, a Shammi Kapoor hit. When I returned to his office, I boasted that during the movie I stood up and sang all the songs when they came on the screen, and viewers around me applauded me and egged me to sing louder! Leading to much amusement in my father’s office, lol!

Shammi is still my favourite, along with Dev Anand – the two were competitors in the same light romantic genre – I have seen all his movies from the rebellious 50’s to the swinging 60’s to the colour movies of the 70’s.

My house in Mumbai is just a two minute walk from where the famous Kapoor clan of Indian cinema lived. For 11 years I walked past their street 2 times every day on the way to and from school.

The famous trio of Kapoor brothers studied in my school. Once, Shashi Kapoor was the chief guest at the Republic Day parade and assembly, and I heard him disinterestedly, squatting on the school grounds with all the other students. Just the other day, forty five years later, I saw Shashi Kapoor, sitting quietly alone, at the Prithvi theatre. I went up to him, meaning to talk to him about the neighbourhood that we shared. I shouted, “How are you, sir!” He replied testily, “I can still hear very well”. I beat a hasty retreat.

I never saw any of the 3 famous brothers while I was in school. I did once see their father, the grand Prithviraj driving a jalopy out of his street. However, my father-in-law, who also grew up in this neighbourhood, speaks of the time when they used to play cricket, with a grand tree for stumps. If Raj or Shammi walked by, they would ask to bat for some time, with an eye on the tram route. The moment they saw a tram leave a station, they would fling the bat and run to catch it at the next stop. Film stars were common folk and did not have airs in those days.

In the sixties, during the 10-day Ganesh festival, housing societies would show movies in the building compounds. The films of that time were clean, fun, family films with great songs, most of them Dev Anand or Shammi Kapoor films. At around 9 pm, entire families would come out of their flats with mats and chairs, and squat. The film was screened on a dhoti, and those sitting on the other side of the dhoti would see a mirror image. When one reel ended, there would be a wait for the next reel to be brought by a person on a bicycle from another venue. Ganesh festivals were the days when I watched all Dev Anand films, Jab Pyaar Kisi Se Hota Hai, Tere Ghar ke Saamne, Nau Do Gyara, Hum Dono, Asli Naqli, Munimji, etc.; and Shammi Kapoor films like Dil Deke Dekho, Bluff Master, Tum Sa Nahi Dekha, China Town; and assorted films like Gumnaam and Ashok Kumar’s Howrah Bridge. All Black and White films. The comedian would be Rajendra Kumar and the villain would be a Pran or K.N. Singh. Funny, I’ve watched so many movies on a dhoti, lol!

Shammi Kapoor styled himself on Elvis Presley in action and singing. Watch this video of a Dil Deke Dekho song: a better-than-original adaptation of a Paul Anka number: Songs of Shammi films were usually merry songs. O.P. Nayyar, Mohammed Rafi and Asha Bhosle belted number after number of hits for him, with great lyrics too.

An iconic Shammi Kapoor scene is the classic “Govinda Aala Re” number from Bluff Master, shot on Janmashtami day with real crowds and amidst the chawls of Dadar. Shammi actually climbed the human pyramid to break the handi, and gave a genuine shot in the genuine ambience of the festival. To-date it remains the authentic video of a Govinda song.

To conclude, Yun to hamne laakh hasin dekhe hai, Tumsa (Shammi jaisa) nahi dekha