Mumbai, Oct 21 (IANS) During 1950s and 1960s, when the inimitable Bollywood trinity of Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand was ruling the roost on the Hindi screen - each in his own different way, Shammi Kapoor blazoned across it like a rebel, doing the unconventional with élan and aplomb.
The Hindi screen discovered its first bindaas star in Shammi Kapoor, who blazed a new trail, breathing in a whiff of fresh air for the generation born immediately after India became independent.
Acting per se might not have been his great attribute, but if a star is a person who immediately hypnotises the beholder, in that sense, Shammi Kapoor was the first rightful owner of that epithet.
It is said of his father, Prithviraj Kapoor, that he gave emperor Akbar and Alexender the Great the physical stature they never had in real life by playing them both as he did in "Mughal-E-Azam" and "Sikander".
Similarly, for the first time, Shammi Kapoor epitomised the aura a star is supposed to have.
Today as he celebrates his 77th birthday, he may be a far cry from the rebellious self he projected on screen, when he could make the girls swoon over him for his stunningly handsome looks in films like "Bluffmaster", "Jaanwar", "Teesri Manzil" and "Rajkumar", but he has kept the spirit of that bygone era still intact in him.
Only a few months ago, when his good friend, director Lekh Tandon, had started a new TV serial, Shammi Kapoor, in spite of being down with fever, drove all the way from his home at Malabar Hill in south Mumbai to Chandivli Studios in north east end of the city, some 35 km away, braving the peak hour traffic.
Even in his heydays, the actor never had liveried chauffeur on his payroll. Mostly, he drove his favourite silver-coloured Mercedes himself. But most of his past colleagues say that he lived like a prince after he entered the film industry in 1952.
After a line up of nondescript movies when success, at last, came in 1957 with "Tumsa Nahin Dekha," produced by Filmistan and directed by Nasir Hussain, he had such a spell among the producers that he could make them eat out of his hand. And he literally did.
He made Subodh Mukerjee shoot "Junglee" (Saira Banu's debut movie) in Kashmir and picturise its popular number "Chhahe koi mujhe junglee kahe" on a snowy mountain in Gulmarg, a trend many producers followed later.
Producer-director Shakti Samanta, it is said, felt inclined to shoot his Shakti Films' major venture "An Evening in Paris" on actual locations in Paris and captured the breathtaking view of Niagara Falls in a song from the movie at the instance of Shammi Kapoor, his friend.
Like all the famous Kapoors of Bollywood, one thing Shammi Kapoor loved the most (though not any more) was to eat to his heart's content and never feel shy about it.
During the shooting of Ketan Desai's (the late Manmohan Desai's son and later Shammi Kapoor's son-in-law) "Allarakha" in R.K. Studios in Chembur south-east Mumbai, some journalists were invited on the sets and later asked to join the community lunch of the unit.
The food was gourmet's fare, but three of the journalists declined to have the chicken served to them. Shammi Kapoor, who was feasting on the meat two tables away, called over the man who was serving food and asked him to keep the three bowls of chicken on his table and later he clean-swept them in no time!
Today, Shah Rukh Khan has received a lot of flak for being an inveterate smoker. Shammi Kapoor was no less even until a few years ago.
But he did not require a zealot health minister like Anbumani Ramadoss to bombard him to kick the habit. He found out a novel way to do so. He took to net surfing and got addicted to it.
Before long, he became one of the foremost Internet users in India and later became the founder and chairman of the Internet Users Community of India (IUCI) and since then has become the spearhead for setting up the Ethical Hackers' Association (EHA).
A fan had one asked him how he should lead his life and Shammi Kapoor replied quoting James A. Michener: "The permanent temptation of life is to confuse dreams with reality, but the permanent defeat of life comes when one gives up dreams for reality."
The actor, who always took away the girls his senior colleague, Pran, loved in movies they were featured together in, had also courted, according to his own admission, "the most beautiful women in the country," but remained devoted to his wife Neela Devi, the princess of Bhavnagar, whom he married after his first wife, actress Geeta Bali, passed away in 1965.
The actor, who could do weird jig and somersault in the movies, today finds it a drag to walk "as my legs have stopped being my friends." But the zest for life has remained undiminished.