Shammi Kapoor continues to gather Lifetime Achievement Awards, as the country still dances to his songs. One of India’s first major dancing stars, with a fabulous selection of music to back his moves, he never toppled from the pantheon of film greats, no matter how many superstars came after him.
The Rebel Star- the middle son of the great Prithviraj Kapoor, dominated the 60s with his musicals. Contemporary Indian cinema is indebted to him for liberating the Hindi film hero from the strong, silent, traditional role.
The book traces his career with its ups and downs, touches upon his tempestuous life and gives credit where it’s due, thereby unraveling the mystery and charm of Shammi Kapoor- the eternal dancing star of Hindi films.
Deepa Gahlot is a journalist and critic, as well as editor, author and screenwriter. She writes extensively on cinema, theatre, arts, Women’s issues and general features for several publications and websites. She won the National Award for Best Ward for Best Film Criticism in 1998. Her writings have appeared in books entitled Bollywood: Popular Indian Cinema, Behind the scenes of Hindi Cinema: Visual Journey through the Heart of Bollywood, Janani and other anthologies. She has Written The Prithviwallahs (co-authored with Shashi Kapoor) and a book on Shahrukh Khan, Titled King Khan.
It is never easy to be the son or the daughter of famous father or mother! And when to that is added a famous older brother, the situation becomes doubly fraught. When Shammi Kapoor decided that he, in his turn, wanted to follow the profession of his father and brother, he had a tough act to follow. But follow it he did. He scaled the heights to superstardom in his own manner with seemingly effortless ease. He became the darling of the masses, especially the young. His casual, reckless approach to life was in tune with a period when the country was opening up to Western mores: Elvis Presley had swept the world and Shammi Kapoor took up the challenge in a new India. He became known as the ‘Rebel Star’ because he wanted to sweep out the old and usher in the new.
Gone was the gravitas of the Kapoor family. Here was a scion of the great Prithviraj Kapoor who discarded the grand manner, put on his dancing shoes and carried the audience along on the wave of a song.
To get that initial break was not easy, despite the Kapoor aura. He spent four years with Prithvi Theatres, playing Shakespeare and the classics. As many as 18 successive flops before destiny smiled! It was pure chance but he took it and launched on a glittering journey. He dropped the earlier Errorl Flynn manner and appearences he had adopted and switched to the young with-it look – slacks, duck tail, cowboy boots, flamboyant swagger. Romance took on more than a hint of sexuality in all the exuberant song and dance numbers. This handsome dancing star often had new young actresses as his partners – Asha Parekh, Saira Banu, Sharmila Tagore, Mala Sinha, who started on their own starry careers opposite the irresistible Shammi Kapoor. The sixties, as Madhu Jain writes in her book on the Kapoor dynasty, could be said to belong to Shammi Kapoor, adding, “ the older brother created an institution, the younger became one.” His ‘yahoo’ heard first in the hit Tumsa Nahin Dekha became his signature after Junglee and entered the folklore of Indian cinema. Two years ago when he was presented a lifetime Achievement award in Mumbai, the applause and cheers that greeted him proved that his aura had not faded despite his disappearance from the screen.
Deepa Gahlot, who has observed and written about the cinema for many years, pays homage to one of the Indian cinema’s favorite sons in this book. She writes about him with affection and enthusiasm and in doing so, brings alive a carefree, joyous era of the Hindi cinema.
When the rebel star burst on the scene, he broke the mould of the upright, soft-spoken gentlemanly hero. The dancing, learning, whooping, teasing, romantic hero that Shammi Kapoor portrayed. Changed the idea of romance forever. His ‘yahoo’ exuberance and mischif made romance look like fun and carried away the suffering, brooding Dilip Kumar- style.Hinsi cinema had done away with the intense post-Independence period. Modernisation was Knocking, unban Centres were booming and the young generation of the sixties was looking for a change of pace. The light musical romance that had come to be associated with Nasir Hussaion, found the perfect face in the from of the dashingly handsome Shammi Kapoor. Why just the face, Shammi Kapoor’s strapping frame was made for exuding enery. With a succession of young, chirpy Kittenish heroines in tow, when he danced, every limb, every muscle danced along with his light, sedutive eyes. Joy Mukerjee, Jeetender, Mithun Chakraborty, Rishi Kapoor, Govinda, Shah Rukh Khan an all the dancing heroes own a debt to Shammi Kapoor. If it wasn’t for him, perhaps, though guys would still be tripping over two left feet.
Long after the roguish romantic hung up his dancing shoes, each successive generation of moviegoers discovered and was enchanted by the Shammi Kapoor musical. As the star collects a cache of Lifetime Achievement Awards decades later, youngsters still dance to ‘O hasina zulfonwali…’ which does not look dated even today.
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