Book Review: The Legends Of Indian Cinema - Shammi Kapoor


By Joginder Tuteja, Bollywood Hungama News Network

In last six months, quite a few books have been written on legends like Gulzar, Rajinikanth, Chetan Anand, Dev Anand and Hema Malini. While Shah Rukh Khan too continues to be written about every six months, a writer went on an overdrive and even attempted to make a legend out of Shilpa Shetty a few months back.

However, it was about time that someone thought about exploring Shammi Kapoor's life too, that resulted in a book series called 'The Legends Of Indian Cinema'. Six titles arrive here on film personalities that include Sohrab Modi, Sivaji Ganesan, Guru Dutt, Mehboob Khan and P.C. Barua with Shammi Kapoor being one of them. Written by Deepa Gahlot with Aruna Vasudev being the Series Editor, 'Shammi Kapoor' is the first to be picked as he continues to live in the memories of one and all even till date.

The write-ups are to the point and still explore Shammi Kapoor's journey from being a young man who had given more than a couple of dozens of flops in a row at the beginning of his career to a man who became a rebel star and never looked back after giving innumerous romantic breezy entertainers in a row.

There is another important facet of his personality that hasn't been known to many people both inside and outside the industry, especially amongst the current generation. Believe it or not but 50 years before the concept of celebrity blogs was to become a phenomenon, Shammi Kapoor was a regular on that, though in the print media.

Even way back in the 50s, he was an avid writer and shared his innermost thoughts with the readers of magazines like Filmfare. One look at his writing and you know that he is indeed one of the best read men that one may have come across in the industry. Read on:

'I am crazy and mixed up. I feel the urge for destruction exhaust me and drain out some of the bottled-up conflicts that tear me. The urge for self destruction is perhaps a manifestation of the urge for self-destruction.'

'Mine is a one man rebellion, trying to break the old and make the new. A rebel who wanted to find himself, his real self; not a reflection of the personalities of other people.'

'I have outgrown the legend which I helped create and do not wish to perpetuate it. Trying to climb the peak, I had to use a certain kind of strategy, but now, jumping from one peak to another, I have to adopt different tactics.'

He also had women reserving some of the best compliments for him. One of them went to the extent of saying - 'I hate you, but you have two powerful appeals for women. To some you are an irresistible wolf, to others you are a stallion they would love to tame.'

Deepa Gahlot also does well in providing insights about the personal aspect of Shammi Kapoor's life and details about his whirlwind romance with Geeta Bali, their deep love for each other and later Shammi getting shattered after Bali's untimely death. She talks about how Kapoor hit the bottle and indulged himself big time into womanizing before Neela Devi (not from the industry) came into his life and helped him stabilise after marrying him. There are also quite a few mentions about Shammi's love for women ever since his childhood and how he had demanded Nargis for a kiss!

Rise and fall of Shammi Kapoor also makes for an interesting read because just like 99% of celebrities belonging to the film world, Shammi Kapoor too went through the grind before bagging his career-defining film Tumsa Nahin Dekha which was rejected by the likes of Dev Anand and Sunil Dutt. However, after quitting as a leading man while on the top (his Andaaz was one of his last films and a success), his career as a director was short-lived and quite disappointing. In fact, he minces no words on the mere mention of Rajesh Khanna with whom he self admittedly had a torrid time filming Bundalbaaz - a disaster!

One factor that impresses most about the book 'Shammi Kapoor' is that it doesn't try to project him as a 'Mr. White'. Majority of books fall under this trap when they try exploring the life of a celebrity who has won hearts all over but this one treads a different path.

It shows Shammi Kapoor's wild side, his insecurities, his womanizing virtues, his ambition to reach the top, his failure as a director - and all of this when the man is very much alive and kicking. Even better is to see the man himself contributing to quite a lot that is written in this book; something which makes it a far better effort than some of the desktop books that one continues to see in the name of biographies!

So what is it that makes 'Shammi Kapoor' an interesting read for the audience? It's crisp chapters and avoidance from getting into unnecessary details which otherwise become boring after a point. The book lasts only around 100 pages and within that limited space, it tells its readers quite a lot about the legend who was one of the forerunners when it came to unabashed entertainment in the 60s.