There was Raj Kapoor, with the gentle smile and the jee at the end of each line, the right hand pointed to the heavens, the Charlie-Chaplin gait. There was Dilip Kumar, tragically intense. There was the suave Dev Anand, with the head cocked to the side, the fluttering eye-lids and the machine-gun dialog delivery. Together they defined the space of the Hindi film hero—-decent, clean-cut and more than a bit stiff-necked.
And then he came, like an avalanche, rolling down the slopes. Stretching his hands out, throwing his head back, rolling his eyes, mimicking the haughty heroine as she walks by ignoring his advances, stumbling forward, hip-shaking, stumbling, shaking and pouting. This was acting as had been never seen before—- physical, raw and very very in-your-face.
Shamsher Raj “Shammi” Kapoor.
Shammi Kapoor revolutionized the concept of the Bollywood hero. Like Elvis whose hyper-sexual pelvic thrusts shocked and aroused a generation of Americans, Shammi brought a sensuality to his roles, a palpable carnality that was beyond anything that conservative Hindi audiences had been used to. He was sexy, he was funny, he was a rockstar and he didn’t like to take no for an answer.
If given a “I couldn’t care less for you” haughty head-shake from the object of his affections, not for him to sink away into the shadows singing a sad song. He would jump right into her path, push his face close, make unabashed eye-contact and then start woo-ing with her with a Mohammed Rafi song on lips. And which woman, with half a heart, could ever resist that?
He was Junglee. He was a Janwaar. He was a Battameez. And he never apologized for it.
When he sat amidst multi-colored phones in “Tumse Accha Kaun Hai” and crooned Kissssss……….Kisssss…….Kiss Ko Pyar Karoon? Kaise Pyar Karoon? Yeh bhi hai, woh bhi hai…hai hai….the audience was scandalized. They went weak in the knees. They went red in the cheeks. How can anyone be so…oooh….wanton? But they still went to see his movies. Again and again.
Other stars might have had a more cerebral effect but no one hit the audience as close to the heart as Shammi-ji did.
A legend on screen, and a down-to-earth, funny, dignified, tech-savvy man off it, the man was truly a star. A star in the old-school way, the type that did not need PR-stunts, media manipulation and talk-show appearances to create their aura. Their work spoke for them and they spoke loud, loud enough to transcend generations.
The greatest thing about being an artist, and a superstar artist at that, is you never truly die. You live on through your creations. Even more importantly, you live on through your influences. See a Govinda facial contortion and you will see Shammi Kapoor there. Watch Shahrukh Khan cartwheeling across in Deewana and you will find him there again. Watch Aamir Khan singing “Khambe Jaisi Khadi Hai” and well…there he is once again.
Shamsher Raj “Shammi” Kapoor.
You will never be missed sir. Because you have not left.