Tribute Endearingly unconventional, Shammi Kapoor redefined the Hindi film hero. Deepak Mahaan
T read the whole world over but you'd never find another actor like Shammi Kapoor. From Hollywood to Bollywood and Austria to Australia, there hasn't been anyone as endearingly unconventional as Shammi Kapoor who promoted an acting style that is difficult to emulate yet hard to forget. Laurence Olivier, Richard Burton, Dilip Kumar or Amitabh Bachchan may have been the most versatile actors of our cinematic universe but none ever made the absurd look as convincingly appealing as the ‘rebel star' did in his uniquely flamboyant manner that is now revered as Shammi Kapoor style.
Ask any acting guru and he'll confess that serious drama of Naseeruddin Shah or Robert De Niro and action like Jackie Chan or Akshay Kumar can be performed with little effort by any diligent practitioner of show business but it is extremely difficult to make illogical seem plausible like Shammi did. Not only did Shammi do this with amazing ease, he also symbolised the irrepressible spirit of an entire generation of Indian youth trying to break free from old world shackles to enjoy life on their own terms.
In an era when Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand ruled the movie screens, he broke the mould of a conventional hero to build a charismatic persona that was a cross between a Robin Hood and a diehard romantic. In a carefully cultivated move, Shammi created a ‘rebel hero' who, unlike sulking heroes of the past, not only broke conservative social norms but also defiantly exulted “yahoo” to celebrate life. Those who slot Shammi as James Dean or Elvis Presley of India do him immense harm since Shammi's impact on world cinema is far more original and lasting than his western predecessors. Compared to their limited acting abilities, Shammi was not only a superb dancing star with distinctive gyrations of his own but also a fine actor who sparkled whenever the script demanded a high voltage performance. Films like “Professor”, “Brahmachari”, “Junglee”, “Teesri Manzil”, “Andaz” and “Prem Rog” proved Shammi could deliver power packed, sombre performances when needed.
Teasing, swaying, jumping, bouncing and cavorting, he gave romance a whole new dimension that was sensual, sublime, tender yet erotic at the same time and Rishi Kapoor put it succinctly that “none made the art of wooing a girl a more enjoyable and playful affair than Shammi Kapoor”.
However, it is because of his unusual song sequences that Shammi Kapoor will probably outlast his contemporaries in public memory. His exemplary partnership with Mohammed Rafi is unparalleled in the annals of world cinema and it seems almost like a fairy tale that is too good to be true. Complementing each others' genius to perfection, the two made-for-each-other stalwarts gave Indian cinema its most cherished and pleasing moments; scenes that are loved and viewed over and over again by audiences around the world because of their lilting songs and brilliant execution. Even the most hardened critics describe the magic of the Shammi-Rafi bond as an elixir of youth and a sure fire hit amongst all ages.
Another reason why Shammi will be fondly remembered is that his films give hope as well as happiness to everyone, always leaving you fresh and contented. Call it escapist cinema if you like but the average viewer finds Shammi Kapoor's films as a potent formula for recreating faith in the goodness of mankind. Take my word, death will only lead to greater recognition and celebration of Shammi's art and though the king of merriment is dead, he will stay alive in our hearts forever.
Teasing, swaying, jumping, bouncing and cavorting, he gave romance a whole new dimension that was sensual, sublime, tender yet erotic at the same time