I first saw Shammi Kapoor in the mid Fifties — a tall, well-built, but shy, actor, making headway with films such as Rail ka Dibba, Jeevan Jyoti and Chor Bazar . There was a spark in his eyes; I knew he would make it big one day.
Tum Sa Nahin Dekha in1958 established Shammi as a star with a lot of potential. The Sixties was the decade when I faced true competition from Shammi. My Jab Pyar Kissi Se Hota Hai had a silver jubilee run, while his Junglee completed its golden jubilee. Similarly, my Hum Dono and his Professor ran to silver jubilees within a span of a few months. The releases of our films were eagerly awaited and seen many times by our fans throughout the nation.
Shammi combined emotion, rhythm and comedy effectively. I will never forget Shammi lip sync ‘Khuli Palak Pe' and ‘Dil ke Jharokon Se' — songs so diverse but effectively ‘sung' by him.
We shared a warm rapport, and I must confess he was the right choice for Teesri Manzil , far better than me. I was producer Nasir Hussain's initial choice as the hero.
My mind is flooded with memories of us sharing the same dais at Filmfare Awards in 1968 when I was president of Screen Actor's Guild and he won the award for his unbeaten performance in Brahmachari .
Both of us were to have starred in Shakti Samanta's One Night To Murder which never went on the floors. Shammi was kind enough to appear in a cameo as a judge in my Censor.
A gem of a person, the way he stood by his ailing wife Geeta Bali is a lesson to many. I remember hugging him on my birthday in 1995 when he came to greet me with a bottle of champagne. Shammi affectionately called me Dev and for a minute we were lost in memories of a golden era.
Adieu, my friend, my competitor, as I will never witness a second Shammi. His tragic demise has left a void in the world of Indian cinema, one that's difficult to fill.