Farewell to the YAHOOO man of bollywood

Veteran actor Shammi Kapoor, the ‘Elvis Presley of Indian Cinema’ and his famous yell ‘Yahoo’ signified the arrival of a rebel star, passed away on Sunday morning due to chronic renal failure. He was in ICU of Breach Candy Hospital and breathed his last on Sunday morning.

Name Shamsher Raj Kapoor, he was son of film and theatre actor Prithviraj Kapoor and Ramsarni Mehra. He was the second of the three sons born to Prithviraj Kapoor, the other two being Raj Kapoor and Shashi Kapoor both successful Bollywood actors. He spent a major portion of his childhood in Kolkata, where his father was involved with New Theatres Studios, acting in films.

He joined his father’s theatrical company ‘Prithvi Theatres’. He entered cinema world in 1948, as a junior artist, at a salary of Rs.50 per month, stayed with Prithvi Theatres for the next four years and collected his last pay check Rs.300,in 1952. He made his debut in Bollywood in the year 1953, when the film Jeevan Jyoti was released.

He started out with serious roles but with Nasir Hussain directed Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957) opposite Ameeta and Dil Deke Dekha (1959) with Asha Parekh, he attained the image of a light-hearted, stylish playboy. Tall, athletic, lively, fair complexioned, green-eyed and with handsome features, Shammi was a heartthrob, and his good looks and physique complemented his image. Both the films were debut films of the respective actresses Ameeta and Asha Parekh and both went on to be big hits and are regarded as classics.


With Junglee (1961) his new image was cemented and his subsequent films were all in this genre. He particularly chose Mohammed Rafi as his playback voice. In his early career in fifties, he had often played second fiddle to established heroines like Madhubala in films such as Rail Ka Dibba (1953) and Naqab, “Laila Majnu” with Nutan, “Thokar” with Shyama and “Hum Sab Chor Hain” with Nalini Jaiwant none of them clicked at box office. But producers after 1960 apart from the actresses from southern India, loved pairing Shammi with new heroines, three of them became huge stars in their own right in Hindi films: Asha Parekh, Saira Banu and Sharmila Tagore. Of all his heroines, he said that Sharmila Tagore, Rajshree and Asha Parekh were easy to work with. Sharmila Tagore and Saira Banu made their Bollywood debuts with Shammi Kapoor in ‘Kashmir Ki Kali’ and ‘Junglee’ respectively. He and Asha Parekh were paired together in four films, the most successful being besides debut film of Asha Parekh, the murder mystery Teesri Manzil (1966) and romantic film Jawan Mohobbat.


In the early fifties he accepted serious roles in women oriented films like Shama Parwana (1954), comedy flick Mem Sahib (1956) and thrillers like Chor Bazar (1954), which were all successful at box office and in tragic love story Mirza Sahiban (1957) (a box office flop), but did not gain recognition and fame among the masses. Other than the above hits, he had fifteen films as flops to his credit till 1957. The other hits in late fifties included Mujrim (1958), Char Dil Char Rahen, Raat Ke Raahi (1959).His performances in K A Abbas’ Char Dil Char Raahein (1959) and Kidar Sharma’s Rangeen Raatein (1956) were also noteworthy but remained underfeted. It was only after triple success of Tumsa Nahi Dekha (1957), Ujala and Dil Deke Deko (both 1959), that he became popular with the audience and became a star. In the first half of the 1960s, Kapoor was seen in successful films like College Girl, Basant, Singapore, Boy Friend, Professor, Dil Tera Diwana, Vallah Kya Baat Hai, 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. He made a unique place for himself in the industry as he was the only dancing hero in Hindi Films from the late fifties till early seventies. Saira Banu said in an interview “At the time when Dilip sahab, Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand ruled the industry, it was Shammi Kapoor who created a niche for himself with his unique dance moves. He used to say he didn’t know how to dance but he would just listen to the music and feel it. He was the only ‘dancing hero’ at that time.”


He used to compose dancing steps by himself in the songs picturised on him and never needed a choreographer. This earned him the name of Elvis Presley of India. Shammi turned into a successful supporting actor in the 70′s, playing Saira Bani’s father in Zameer (1974), when he had been her leading man a decade earlier in Junglee (1961) and Bluff Master (1964) and playing Amitabh Bachchan’s foster father in Parvarish. He also directed Manoranjan (1974), a movie inspired from Irma La Douce and in which he played a supporting role himself and Bundal Baaz (1976) starring Rajesh Khanna, but neither were successful commercially though got critical acclaims and were hailed as classics and to be ahead of its time. In the 1980s and 1990s, he continued to play supporting roles in many films.

Film director Shakti Samanta directed Shammi Kapoor in six hit films like Singapore, Pagla Kahin Ka, China Town, Kahmir Ki Kali, An Evening In Paris and Jaane Anjane. Shammi heralded the swinging 60’s and a large part of his appeal was primarily due to the immensely catchy and upbeat numbers like “Suku Suku, O Haseena Zulfo Wali, Aaj kal tere mere pyar ke charche, Aaja Aaja main hoon pyar ters, where he was at his boisterous best.

Andaz released in 1971 was his last movie as a leading man but his character roles in Vidhata, Hero, Prem Rog were well received. He made his last appearance in Imtiaz Ali’s directorial venture Rockstar co-starring his grand-nephew Ranbir Kapoor, the grandson of his brother Raj Kapoor.


Shammiji we will miss you… RIP…!!

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