As Prithviraj Kapoor's son and Raj Kapoor's brother, it was considered merely a matter of time before Shamsher Raj aka Shammi Kapoor entered Hindi films. He dutifully fulfilled those expectations by debuting in Jeevan Jyoti (1953). But he soon found out that making his own niche as a hero was not at all easy. As one after another, his early films bit the dust at the box-office, Shammi was left soul-searching to find his true métier as an actor. And when he found that in Nassir Hussain-film Tumsa Nahi Dekha (1957), there was no stopping him. A rebel star was born and the ‘60s would never be the same again!
For long Shammi had tried unsuccessfully to fit into the conventions set by the reigning troika of Dilip Kumar (the eternal tragedy-king), Raj Kapoor (the Chaplin-esque vagabond) and Dev Anand (the perpetual chocolate hero). Now he would set his own rules and make his own norms. So out went the old Shammi, the soft, sophisticated, sentimental lover sporting longish hair and in came the new Shammi, the raw, robust romantic aggressor, showing off a duck-tailed hairstyle a la Elvis Presley and James Dean. He became a hero who fully embodied the wacky Junglee-Jaanwar-Badatmeez-Pagla Kahin Ka spirit.
This new Shammi did what no other hero had done earlier. He swayed, sashayed and sizzled while singing songs on screen. He became the first dancing star of Bollywood. And yes, he also made ‘Yahoo…’ a war-cry for macho lovers! The way he smiled, the way he pouted and the way he looked into heroine’s eyes, everything was infectious; simply because it was fresh, fun and flamboyant. Even his famed dances were never choreographed; on the dance-floor, he just needed a catchy melody and a zingy beat and then he rock ’n’ rolled his way into countless hearts.
In the realms of classic Bollywood music, Shammi Kapoor-songs have become a genre by itself. Racy, robust, rhythmic and romantic numbers composed by the master composers like O.P. Nayyar, Shankar- Jaikishan, Ravi, Usha Khanna and R.D. Burman added their own magic to this rebel star’s screen persona.
And how could I forget Mohammed Rafi, the most important cog in the wheel? Even though other singers like Talat Mahmood (Aasmanwale teri duniya se jee ghabaraa gayaa), Manna Dey (Chham chham baaje re paayaliya), Mukesh (Socha thaa pyar hum naa karenge), Hemant Kumar (Aye dil ab kahin le jaa) and Kishore Kumar (Saaat saheliyan khadi khadi) occasionally playbacked for Shammi; it was Rafi’s voice which really gave soul and spirit to the star’s on-screen image through many unforgettable songs. Without the flight and fervor of Rafi-songs such as Ayyaya karoon main kya Suku Suku, Aye gulbadan, Badan pe sitaare lapete huye and O haseena zulfonwali jaanejahan, can anyone ever think of Shammi Kapoor?
Shammi Kapoor, Mohd. Rafi and their songs have become inseparable, from each other and from the swinging 60s that they represented.