Bollywood icon Shammi Kapoor passes away

Shammi Kapoor in a scene from The Golden PenThe crew of The Golden Pen offer their condolences to Shammi Kapoor’s wife Neela Devi, our gracious host when we filmed him; and to his children Aditya Raj and Kanchan Desai.


It is hard to believe that the most flamboyant star of Bollywood, an actor who lived life to the fullest, driving the fanciest cars and drinking the finest Scotch whiskies, has passed away, just nine months after being interviewed by me for The Golden Pen, a documentary on the life of my father, Aghajani Kashmeri, being produced in Canada with funding from OMNI-TV.

How can I or anyone else from my generation forget the most famous song, better known as the Yahoo song, in his best known hit, Junglee, written by my father. More on that later in this post. Watch just the song and you’ll understand why he was also called the Elvis Presley of India.

My father and Shammi were the best of friends. Somewhere in my files, I still have Shammi’s condolence letter written to me in 1998, when my father passed away in Toronto, Canada. The two shared the zest for life, for films and for everything beautiful and nice. Although we could not include the entire interview in the one-hour documentary, I am hoping to include it in the DVD that I produce next year of the documentary.

I still remember Shammi’s words on camera: I love life even though three of my toes have been amputated and a fourth one will go soon and I am on a wheelchair. I still get into my Mercedes Benz, drive to Lonavla (a hill station about one hour away from Mumbai), have a coffee, turn around and come back.

shammi kapoor and saira banu in Junglee

He backed my father in every which way, especially when Babba was publishing his autobiography in the 1960s, Sahar Hone Tak, and never stopped talking about the book. The two would often spend time together at Chowpatty Beach, as Shammi recounts in The Golden Pen, eating pani puree, drinking coconut water, chatting about everything from soccer and good looking actresses to philosophy and life and politics. “Not necessarily movies,” Shammi told us.

Aghajani Kashmeri and Shammi KapoorThe two also shared a zest for good food with their favourite Scotch whisky, Dimple. I did manage to find this old Black & White photograph of the two sitting before a veritable feast at Shammi’s home. He had an incredible chef. And as the picture bears witness, they are too busy eating to even talk to each other, when otherwise they couldn’t stop talking to each other.

I have such fond memories of your father, Shammi Kapoor told me, that you can’t even imagine. They were so close that he even knew the route that Babba took in his evening walks and would often drive by there deliberately to bump into him and pick him up for snacks and a hearty conversation by the Arabian Sea.

In another part of the interview, he recounted how he once flew my father down to Southern India where he was shooting a film. He was not happy with a scene and the writer of the film could not oblige. “I wanted Aghajani down to rewrite it for me,” he said. Babba went over, rewrote the scene and only then did he shoot it.

Babba also wrote his most famous movie, Junglee, the first movie of Saira Banu, freshly returned from a finishing school in England. Babba trained Saira Banu for her first role. Junglee, for those who have seen it, is still remembered for the famous Yahoo yell that Shammi Kapoor gives as he dives ont he snow in Kashmir and slides down to the bottom with Saira. It is know as the Yahoo song and when listening to it this morning, I could imagine Shammis soul streaking across the heavens singing Yahoo, Chahay koi mujhay Junglee kahay…

Wherever you are Shammiji, keep a shot of Dimple for me when I join you up there and of course one for your old friend Aghajani Kashmeri! I have no doubt that you will continue to liven up the ambience wherever you go.


I reproduce below news stories on his death published in The Times of India and The Indian Express:

Shammi Kapoor Passes Away

Courtesy: Times of India, August 14, 2011

MUMBAI: Veteran actor Shammi Kapoor, hailed as ‘Elvis Presley of India’ and whose famous yell ‘Yahoo’ signified the arrival of a rebel star against the reigning trio of his time Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand and Dilip Kumar, passed away here on Sunday morning due to chronic renal failure.

The 79-year-old legend, who was often compared to Elvis Presley due to his looks, was in the ICU of Breach Candy Hospital and breathed his last on Sunday morning, family sources said.

The funeral will take place on Monday morning, they informed.

Kapoor is survived by his wife Neeladevi, son Aditya Raj, daughter Kachan Desai.

For the last few years, he was undergoing dialysis for three days a week.

Born Shamsher Raj Kapoor on October 21, 1931, Kapoor was the middle son of veteran theatre and film actor Prithviraj Kapoor and younger brother of showman Raj Kapoor.

Despite his family background, Shammi’s entry into Bollywood was initially not successful even though he worked with major heroines like Madhubala in Rail ka dibba, Suraiya in Shama Parwana and Nalini Jaywant in Hum Sab Chor Hai.

His initial movies flopped at the box office. He reinvented himself with Tumsa Nahi Dekha cutting his hair in the famous duck-tail style of the 50s and never looked back since then.

With the success of Junglee in 1961, an entire decade reeled under its colourful impact.

Shammi heralded the swinging 60s and a large part of his appeal was primarily due to the immensely catchy and upbeat numbers like “Suku Suku”,”O Haseena Zulfo wali”, “Aaj kal tere mere pyar ke charche”, “Aaja Aaja Main hoon Pyar tera” where he was at his boisterous best.

Even though success came with light weight tales like Kashmir ki kali, Rajkumar, Jaanwar and An evening in Paris, his performances in flicks like Junglee, Badtameez, Bluff Master and Pagla Kahin Ka, Teesri Manzil, Brahmachari silenced his critics.

Andaz released in 1971 was his last movie as a leading man but his character roles in Vidhata, Hero, Prem Rog were well received.

Shammi was a computer aficionado and his last years were veered towards spiritualism.


Veteran Actor Shammi Kapoor passes away

Courtesy: India Express News Service Posted online: Sun Aug 14 2011, 09:50 hrs

Mumbai : Actor Shammi Kapoor, who ruled the film industry in 1950s and 1960s with his flamboyant, charismatic personality, is no more. He was 79.

A prominent member of the Kapoor clan and brother to Raj Kapoor and Shashi Kapoor, the actor died of kidney failure at the Breach Candy Hospital at 5.15 am today, his son Aditya Raj Kapoor said.

“He was a very happy and lively person. He was unwell for sometime. He was on dialysis. He died of kidney failure,” said Aditya.

His funeral will take place tomorrow in south Mumbai, after his grandson returns from the US.

“The funeral will take place tomorrow at around 9 am at the Ban Ganga funeral ground,” said Aditya.

Family members, friends, several Bollywood personalities including Amitabh Bachchan and industrialist Anil Ambani visited Kapoor’s residence Blue Heaven at Malabar Hill after learning of his demise.

His death was mourned by Rajinikanth, Amitabh Bachchan, Lata Mangeshkar, Yash Chopra, Anupam Kher, Mahesh Bhatt, Sharmila Tagore, Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra.

Shamsher Raj Kapoor was born on 21 October 1931 to Prithviraj Kapoor and Ramsarni Mehra. With the demise of Shammi, only Shashi is left of the famous brother trio.

Shammi is survived by his wife Neela Devi, son Aditya Raj and daughter Kanchan Desai. Shammi entered the film industry as a junior artiste in 1948 and debuted as an actor in 1953 with film ‘Jeevan Jyoti’.

He carved a niche for himself with his rock ‘n’ roll dancing style in films like Nasir Hussain’s ‘Tumsa Nahin Dekha’, ‘Dil Deke Dekho’. But it was 1961 film ‘Junglee’, directed by Subodh Mukherjee, which gave him the image of ‘The Yahoo Yuppie’.

The Nasir-Shammi combination struck gold at the box-office with murder mystery ‘Teesri Manzil’, one of the unforgettable films in the actor’s career.

Shammi never really bid adieu to the big screen, appearing in films time and again. He starred with Shah Rukh Khan in ‘Chamatkar’ (1992) and played Salman Khan’s grandfather in ‘Janam Samjha Karo’ (1999).