Shammi Kapoor: His life, his times
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 were never to 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.
My Top 10 Shammi Kapoor-songs
Choosing just ten songs from the multitude of Shammi’s popular songs is a foolhardy experiment but a delightful challenge as well. So let’s first set the criteria right. First let’s only select the Rafi-songs and forget about the notable exceptions coming from other singers such as Manna Dey, Mukesh, Hemant Kumar and Kishore Kumar. There is simply no comparison when it comes to the equation shared by Rafi and Shammi Kapoor! Next, let’s select songs which present the complete spectrum of Shammi Kapoor, the star. Naturally this eliminates the scope to select songs from his later character artiste- years.
So here we go on this Top-10 trip.
The horse-cart drive in Yun to humne laakh haseen dekhe hain; the snow-slide in Chaahe koi mujhe junglee kahe, the helicopter-glide in Aasman se aaya farishta; the boat-ride in Yeh chaand sa roshan chehra and the club-dances in Dil deke dekho, Baar baar dekho and Aaja aaja main hoon pyaar tera are the very moments that have immortalized on screen Shammi’s electric energy and effusive romance. So their selection is quite a no-brainer.
To show that there was much more to his acting repertoire than just fun and frolic, here are ‘Aawaz deke hamein tum bulaao and Dil ke jharokhe mein tujhko bithakar, two emotion-charged songs tugging at heart-strings.
The final song gets selected for its place as a game-changer. When Shammi sang the cute kid-song ‘Re Mama Re Mama Re’ in Andaz (1970), he was nearing 40, turning increasingly rotund, playing the role of a widowed father and his days of romancing the newest heroines in town were coming to an end.
So starting from Yun to humne and ending on Re Mama Re Mama, is like a time-travel back into Shammi Kapoor’s iconic era. Come on, give it a try and make your own Top 10 lists of this great legend’s songs. One thing I can guarantee, there won’t be any dearth of memorable songs to choose from!