Aug 14, 2011 (Calcutta Tube / IBNS): True to the ‘T’, Bollywood actor Shammi Kapoor used to describe himself as Renaissance man, retired actor and computer buff on Twitter. TWF-IBNS correspondent Sreya Basu was in conversation with India’s king of feel-good movies of the 1960s in recent times. Excerpts from that interview
What’s the best thing of being in the Indian film industry for over five decades?
The most wonderful thing about the films of my times was the innocence. Those were happy movies…hero meets heroine, chases her, used to sing 7-8 songs for fasao-ing (impressing) her, then last mein Pranji ki tarah ek villain bhi aa jayenge. The hero has a climax fight with Pran to save the heroine. And at the end, the lovers are united. I belong to the era when films were simple, they didn’t tax your brains; At least, my films were not thought-provoking, they were hardcore entertainers.
Most of your musical hits were playbacked by Mohammad Rafi…
Rafisaab was my voice…after his death, I lost my voice…I cried like hell. He had a great sense of humour. Generally, I used to be present at the recordings of all my songs. I always requested him to sing the songs with the nuances that I will portray on the screen. He used to happily oblige. And after the recording, when I listened to the songs, I wondered how could he sing exactly the way I wished him to!
You never asked him (Rafi) how could he feel your pulse?
Yes. I did. Remember the song Aasman se aaya farista from Kashmir Ki Kali? I was not present at the recording of that song. After listening to the song, I asked him ‘Main toh wahan tha nehin, so how could you get the exact nuances that I planned to perform on screen?’ He said: ‘I just fantasized how Shammi Kapoor will sing and perform this song. If he is Shammi Kapoor, then at one moment he will jump from here and then take a dive from there.’
You had your unique style of dancing…
I never learnt how to dance; never had a dance master. When I was 18-19 years old, I joined a dancing school in Dadar to learn Tango. They used to charge Rs 20 for an hour. After spending Rs 100, I realized that I hadn’t learnt anything. But I always gave expressions as required to my songs.
You once said you used to forget your dialogues seeing Madhubala. True?
Absolutely true. There was this film-Rail Ka Dibba (1953)…Madhubala was my heroine. She was so beautiful and me a new hero, hardly 20-year-old. I used to forget my dialogues seeing her and she used to help me out.
Can you pick one film that will remain unforgettable for you?
I will never forget Teesri Manzil…it was during the shooting of the film, I suffered the saddest moment of my life…I lost my wife (Geeta Bali) in 1965. I was shattered, but had to continue shooting. She was there before Teesri Manzil’s shooting started…she was very happy that I was offered the film. She said she wants to see my contribution in the film. I could not digest that fact that she was no longer there.
What made the eternal lover boy of Indian cinema so computer savvy even before the Internet wave hit India?
I discovered Internet before you got Internet in India. You got in 1995…VSNL. I took it up as a hobby. I am on Apple and they gave us a website called eWorld. The British telecom gave us a line through VSNL, even though VSNL was not available at that time (1994). That was an eye-opener…something completely new. And by the time Internet came to India, we were already first-marchers…already sab kuch dekh liya tha.
You have all the latest gadgets (including IPad). You are on Facebook, Twitter, maintain your own website…
I go to the hospital thrice a week for dialysis for the last seven years. There are millions of well-wishers who pray for me, bless me so that I remain healthy and return home safe. Believe me, Internet is the best medium to connect with lost friends. I had a very dear friend Afzal in Pakistan. It shocked me completely when I received his email one day after 50 years! The machine (computer) did another good to me….
The moment the mouse came in my hand, the cigarette flew away…permanently.