Shammi Kapoor’s 80th birthday: A tribute to the ‘Yahoo’ star

Shammi Kapoor, who passed away two months ago, would have been 80 on October 21

The hills are still alive with the sounds of his music, the ebullient ‘Yahoo’ resonates through the decades and the intense gaze has not dulled even through the sepia-tinted prism of time. Shammi Kapoor, who passed away two months ago, would have been 80 Friday and the epitaphs are still being written. From fans to family, everybody remembers Bollywood’s eternal romantic, whose cinema ushered in the era of sheer joie de vivre and still brings a smile to the face. And, nowhere perhaps does he live on as he does in Kashmir, with films such as Kashmir Ki KaliJunglee and Andaz shot in the green hills and rolling meadows of the valley.

The decades have passed but the memories are still sharp, for the Kashmiri and the visitor. Nephew Rishi Kapoor, who recently visited Kashmir, said every part of Srinagar, the summer capital, reminded him of the beloved Shammiji. “Recently I visited Kashmir and honestly I am not saying this because Shammiji was my uncle, but every street, every corner of the valley was shouting out loud and recalling his presence,” he said at an event in Mumbai recently. “The locals of the valley remember him so much that they came and told me, ‘Here Shammi Kapoor had shot songs’, ‘here he had romanced with his actresses’. No doubt, he was the original lover boy of the valley,” he added. After all, can anyone forget Taareef karoon kya uski with Shammi swinging and swaying on a shikara, or the war cry ‘Yahoo’ as he slid down snowy slopes, or the rather middle-aged star romancing the doe-eyed Hema Malini in Andaz.

The charismatic actor was born October 21, 1931, in Mumbai – the second of three sons born to the legendary Prithviraj Kapoor. The family was high profile, the beginnings of his career small time. As expected, he joined the cinema world in 1948 as a junior artist for Rs 150 a month. He made his Bollywood debut in 1953 with Jeevan Jyoti. He broke the mould with Tunmsa Nahin Dekha (1957) and Dil Deke Dekho (1959), shaving off his moustache to become the debonair green eyed romantic who danced like a dream, teaching us how to twist and shout, and rock and roll. Not just India’s Elvis but our very own, inimitable and unique Shammi Kapoor.

In a career that spanned more than three decades, he rolled out one hit after another – Professor, An Evening in Paris, Teesri Manzil, Brahmachari and Rajkumar being only some of them. But behind the success was hard work and a solid set of values. “His elder brother Raj Kapoor was a big star and people used to think that Shammi Kapoor used to copy him. But no, he had made his own image, he had made his own identity and a mark with his unique style,” Rishi said. “We all have our own identity, we are all individuals, we don’t actually copy each other. The very fact remains that he was my uncle and he was an institution in himself. People have learnt so much from him, he was a fine actor, a fine human being – we would also want to imbibe his qualities and learn from what he’s given to the film world,” he added.

Battling prolonged illness, the flamboyant actor passed away August 14. “I remember he lived the last days of his life king size. We have grown up listening to his songs and stories and they are here to stay. Not only my son, Ranbir, but his kids will also be hooked to them,” said Rishi. Yes, the magic lives on.


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