Friday, October 20, 2017

Happy Birthday Shammi Saab

Tumsaa Nahi Dekha

India Infoline News Service | Mumbai |

All his life, he defied age and ailment with the same rebellious spirit that shaped his melodic frolics on the silver screen. Today, he is no more but the legend called Shammi Kapoor lives on. Sudhir Raikar recalls one hallowed evening of sparkling interaction with the eternal style icon.

It was a seemingly desolate evening of June 2007. The downpour was steady if not savage. I reached his apartment in Mumbai’s plush Malabar Hill, a stone’s throw from the CM’s bungalow ‘Varsha’.The security at the entrance was astonishingly helpful, not the usual tight-lipped folks who terrorise you with their barrage of questions. I was quickly escorted to the modest living room which I presumed would stage a long wait before the man appeared.

No way, he was before me within minutes. Wheel chaired and weary from the thrice a week dialysis regime post his renal failure, his eyes still spared a twinkle or two for the non-entity guest representing a Mumbai tabloid. He took me to the adjacent room which he fondly called his ‘den’. In the two and a half hours that followed, he recalled his strife and success, grief and gratification of his life and times with remarkably detached introspection -...whether the formative lessons in theatre and classical music or the early rejection and dejection playing second fiddle to Bharat Bhushan and Pradeep Kumar, the turning point in the form of ‘Tumsa Nahi Dekha’ or the ensuing golden period of name and fame, the tryst with personal tragedy or the gradual fade out of the popular image... The only instance where the emotions flowed unchecked was when he spoke of his celestial chemistry with singer Mohammed Rafi. “Rafi was my soul” he exclaimed with moist eyes.

The eternal style icon relished talking about his past but refused to cling to it - precisely why he insisted that I used his present-day snap for the story, not the usual photographs from his yesteryear hits.

“Duniya ko pataa to chale mein aaj kaisa dikhtaa hun” (Let the world know how I look like today)

Shammi Kapoor won worldwide attention as a maverick star but the fact remains that he was also an actor par excellence - an aspect that was rarely acknowledged by filmmakers and audiences alike. Precisely why acting legend Naseeruddin Shah considers him as one of the most underestimated actors of Hindi cinema. But Shammi Kapoor shrugged off the accolades with characteristic humility.

“Bhai Mere, Acting is the forte of doyens like Dilip Kumar and Balraj Sahni. If I should get credit of any sort, it’s only as an inventive expressionist of music” he pointed out with child-like fervour.

A compulsive ‘Apple’ user for years, his obsession with the internet and the ‘Safari browser’ is well known. But even his ailment could not keep him inactive. During the later years, he took it upon himself to spread awareness on kidney ailments at forums organized by nephrologists and kidney foundations. And once in a while, he got rid of the wheelchair to speed his Merc to Lonavala for a rejuvenating drive. “I’ll do everything what’s possible in the given constraints” he said of his passion for driving.

After the interview, he generously kept in touch through occasional phone calls, sporadic emails and twitter PMs but lately, even the public posts were missing. He did mention the desire to pen his autobiography for which we were to meet at leisure some day. But destiny had other plans.

How I wish someone like Ranbir Kapoor - his grand nephew - digs the memoirs out of his den and publishes them as they are. Given the prolific speaker that he was, his written expression would surely be worthy of print and more important, of universal significance.

Every time I think of that wonderful evening, I remember the fag-end chat on his illness. When I mentioned about Pranayam’s healing powers as a possible antidote - Kapaal Bhaati and Anulom Violm in particular - he did a little boogie woogie in his wheelchair, mocking the breathing exercises with a smile.

“Sab kar ke dekh liya yaar, Koi farak naahi padtaa” (I have tried everything but to no avail).

That little dance act epitomises the indefatigable spirit of Shamsher Raj Kapoor - the musical non-conformist of timeless charisma. May his soul rest in peace!