Wednesday, August 17, 2011

" Yahoo" of Indian Cinema - Shammi Kapoor

I saw the Hindi film " JUNGLEE" at a Saturday Night screening for the hostel inmates while studying at the Loyola College, Madras for my graduation in 1963. The screenings were held at the Bertram Hall and the films were pre-censored by the warden for objectionable content. It was love at first sight and I became a fan of the dashing, dancing and dynamic Shammi Kapoor. Though I have studied Hindi at high school level it was not compulsory to get pass marks in that subject and if you just write down the question paper that will earn you 15 marks! Even with such scarce understanding of Hindi we all enjoyed every moment of the film mainly due to Shammi's stylish and electrifying performance and the the fantastic music by Shankar - Jaikishan. Later on we were also treated to another film of Shammi, the hilarious "PROFESSOR" and he became one of my favourite actors.

I was lucky to have worked with him once for the Hindi Television Serial " Stories from the Bible" in 1991 Directed by Jijo Punnoose, produced by Navodaya. I was doing the Pilot episode of the serial which consisted of Noah's Ark and the Tower of Babel. Shammi was cast as Nimrod who built the mighty Tower of Babel. On his arrival he invited us, the crew to his room to get ourselves introduced to each other. There sitting on the bed was a massive man sporting a beard and wearing a necklaces of big polished stones, colorful beads and rudrakshas. He was entirely different from the image etched on my mind many years ago. He was very friendly and even offered us a drink which we politely declined. He asked the Director to give him the script of the next day's shooting so that he can come prepared for the work.

When the time came for his shot and he started the rehearsals, the assistant director began prompting the dialogues as it was the usual practice in the Malayalam film industry. He immediately asked the assistant to stop prompting. He had memorized all the dialogues perfectly and delivered them flawlessly. Such was his dedication to his work that amazed all of us. Even now most of the actors in Malayalam film industry never care to learn their dialogues and think it not at all a part of their acting. They just hear and parrot like mouth their lines. In spite of the hot and humid conditions of the remote location and the dusty atmosphere produced by hundreds of extras engaged in the building activities, he cheerfully endured the shooting.

At the end of the shoot we had this group photo taken and he called all the unit members to join him.

Crew of "Stories from the Bible"

Director Jijo, Shammi and me

Thanks for the short and sweet association we had with you which we will all remember for ever.

Adieu Shammiji!