October 21, 1931
Born In: Mumbai, India
Died On: August 14, 2011
Shammi Kapoor, hailed to be the ‘Elvis Presley of India’, was one of the finest actors that Bollywood had ever produced. He was the leading star of Bollywood during the late 1950s as well as the 1960s. One of the successful sons of film and theatre actor Prithviraj Kapoor, Shammi was extremely versatile as an actor. He debuted in Bollywood in 1953, with the film ‘Jeevan Jyoti’ and went on to deliver hits like ‘Tumsa Nahin Dekha’, ‘Dil Deke Dekho’, ‘Junglee’, ‘China Town’, ‘Professor’, ‘Rajkumar’, ‘Teesri Manzil’, ‘An Evening In Paris’, ‘Bramhachari’, and ‘Andaaz’.
Shammi Kapoor was born as Shamsher Raj Kapoor in Mumbai, India. Popularly known by his pet name ‘Shammi’, Kapoor was the son of Prithviraj Kapoor, film and theatre actor, and his wife, Rama Kapoor. Though he was born in Mumbai, he spent a major portion of his childhood in Kolkata, where his father was involved with New Theatres Studios, acting in films. He completed his Monntessary and Kindergarten in Kolkata. After coming back to Mumbai, he went, first to, St. Joseph’s Convent (Wadala) and then, to Don Bosco School. He finished his schooling from New Era School, at Hughes Road.
Early Life and Entry in Films
Shammi Kapoor had a short stint at the Ruia College, after which he joined his father’s theatrical company “Prithvi Theatres”. He entered the world of cinema in 1948, as a junior artiste, at a salary of Rs. 50 per month. Kapoor stayed with Prithvi Theatres for the next four years and collected his last paycheck, being Rs. 300, in the year 1952. He made his debut in Bollywood in the year 1953, with the release of the film ‘Jeevan Jyoti’ opposite Chand Usmani, directed by Mahesh Kaul.
Shammi Kapoor was known as the ‘Elvis Presley of India’, for his amusing and energetic roles as well as his amazing dance sequences. Though he started out with serious films, comedy films gradually became his forte. Movies like ‘Tumsa Nahin Dekha’ (his first big hit) and ‘Dil Deke Dekho’ established him in the roles of a light hearted playboy. Eventually, he starred in ‘Junglee’ (1961) and his new image got consolidated. Majority of his successful films belonged to the same genre. Mohammed Rafi, one of Kapoor’s friends, was his most preferred choice as his playback voice.
In his initial years in Bollywood, Kapoor appeared with established heroines like Madhubala, playing second fiddle to them. With time, he started being paired more often with new heroines. Out of them, Asha Parekh, Saira Banu, and Sharmila Tagore turned popular stars in the coming times. In the first half of the 1960s, Kapoor was seen in successful films like ‘Professor’, ‘China Town’, ‘Char Dil Char Rahen’, ‘Raat ke Raahi’, ‘Dil Tera Diwana’, ‘Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya’, ‘China Town’, ‘Kashmir Ki Kali’, ‘Bluff Master’, ‘Janwar’, and ‘Rajkumar’. In 1968, he received the first Filmfare Award of his career, for ‘Best Actor’ (Brahmachari).
In the 1970s, Kapoor’s weight problem proved an obstacle in his path of success and ended his career as a romantic hero. One of his last hits, in which he played the lead role, was ‘Andaz’ (1971). With time, he moved to career roles and acted in films like ‘Zameer’, ‘Hero’, and ‘Vidhaata’. In 1974, he donned the hat of a director and made ‘Manoranjan’, a film based on Irma La Douce. Two years later, he made ‘Bandalbaaz’ (1976). However, both the films failed to create magic at the box office. His last appearance, as a character actor, was in the delayed 2006 film, ‘Sandwich’.
Life after Movies
Shammi Kapoor was one of the leading internet users in India. He was the founder and chairman of Internet Users Community of India (IUCI). Apart from that, he also played a major role in setting up internet organizations like the Ethical Hackers Association. Kapoor also maintained a website dedicated to the ‘Kapoor family’. In 2006, he told interviewers that he went for dialysis three times a week. Even that failed to depress him. Rather, he was thankful to God for giving him so much. Even after his death, the legend continues to rule the hearts of his fans even today.
Shammi Kapoor met Geeta Bali in the year 1955, during the shooting of the film ‘Rangeen Raaten’, wherein he played the main lead and she had a cameo. They fell in love, but since she was a year older to him and had acted with his elder brother and father, the family was skeptical. Four months after they first met, they decided to get married. Shammi and Geeta went to Banganga Temples, near Napean Sea Road of Mumbai, and got married, with Hari Walia as the sole witness. It was only after the marriage that they informed their parents.
The couple lived a life of bliss in the coming years and had a son the following year. Aditya Raj Kapoor was born on July 1, 1956, at Shirodkar’s Hospital, Mumbai. Five years later in 1961, the couple had a daughter, Kanchan. During the filming of Teesri Manzil (1966), tragedy struck the Kapoor family and Geeta died of small pox. Shammi had a failed romance with Mumtaz in 1968 and in 1969; he got married to Neela Devi Gohil of Bhavnagar. The couple continues to enjoy marital bliss till date.
Shammi Kapoor was undergoing treatment for chest infection at Mumbai’s Breach Candy Hospital. He breathed his last on August 14, 2011 after suffering a chronic renal failure. He was 79. The legendary Bollywood heartthrob was cremated at Ban Ganga cremation ground in Malabar Hill, Mumbai on August 15, 2011. The last rites were performed by his son, Aditya Raj Kapoor, in the presence of family, friends, and stars of Indian cinema.
Awards and Recognition
1968 - Filmfare Best Actor Award, for Brahmachari
1982 - Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award, for Vidhata
1995 - Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award
1998 - Kalakar Award-Special Award for "Contribution in Indian Cinema"
1999 - Zee Cine Award for Lifetime Achievement
2001 - Star Screen Lifetime Achievement Award
2002 - Invaluable Contribution to Indian Cinema at the IIFA
2005 - Lifetime Achievement Award at the Bollywood Movie Awards
2008 - Lifetime Achievement Award for his ‘Contribution to Indian cinema’, at Pune International Film Festival (PIFF).
Living Legend Award by the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI)
1953 - Jeevan Jyoti, Rail Ka Dibba, Thokar, Laila Majnu, Ladki, Gul Sanobar
1954 - Shama Parwana, Mehbooba, Ehsan, Chor Bazar
1955 - Tangewali, Naqab, Miss Coca Cola, Daku
1956 - Sipahsalar, Rangeen Raatein, Memsahib, Hum Sab Chor Hain
1957 - Tumsa Nahin Dekha
1958 - Mujrim, Dil Deke Dekho
1959 - Ujala
1960 - Basant, College Girl, Singapore
1961 - Boyfriend, Junglee (first film in color)
1962 - Dil Tera Diwana, Professor, China Town
1963 - Bluff Master
1964 - Rajkumar, Kashmir Ki Kali
1965 - Janwar
1966 - Teesri Manzil, Budtameez
1967 - An Evening in Paris
1968 - Brahmachari
1969 - Prince
1971 - Andaz
1974 - Manoranjan, Chhote Sarkar
1981 - Rocky, Naseeb
1982 - Prem Rog, Vidhaata, Desh Premee
1983 - Hero, Betaab
1984 - Sohni Mahiwal
1988 - Ijaazat
1991 - Ajooba
1992 - Chamatkar
1996 - Aur Pyar Ho Gaya
1998 - Kareeb
1999 - Jaanam Samjha Karo
1999 - East Is East, Yeh Hay Jalwa
2002 - Waah! Tera Kya Kehna
2005 - Bhola in Bollywood
2006 - Sandwich