Shammi Kapoor – The Game Changer by Rauf Ahmed is the biography of one of the most charismatic stars of Indian Cinema. I remember watching his films on television while growing up. And always liked him over most of his contemporaries who were too dull and boring in his comparison. He belonged to my parents’ generation. But his songs are the ones we love to play while driving or whenever the mood needs an upward push, even today. When I heard about his biography, I realized that I hardly know anything about his life beyond his effervescent song and dance sequences. In fact, I have watched very few of his films. So, it was time to read this Game Changer star’s story.
The story of Shammi Kapoor was eye-opening. I never knew that his first 18 films had failed badly before he decided to re-invent himself. It took him so many films and so many years to give us the romantic image that lives in our minds. I would have never thought that we worked on his songs along with his director, lyricist, and music director. In fact, if he liked the song made by a music director, he would buy and keep it with him to use in one of his upcoming films.
Shammi Kapoor’s story is as much as a story of Geeta Bali. Their love story is amazing. How he chased her and one fine day she tells him – if you want to marry me, do it today. And they were married in next few hours. Even his second marriage was as impulsive, he gave Neila Devi hardly any time to prepare for a wedding. Tells a lot about his impulsive nature. His relationship with both the women he married is endearing. His shattered life after Geeta Bali passed away makes you cry. He scattered lifestyle after her death makes you want to hold his hand and take care of him. I assume many women around him felt the same and tried to be a part of his life. I never knew that he almost married socialite Bina Ramani and actress Mumtaz.
We know he comes from the family of Prithvi Raj Kapoor. But what you figure out in Shammi Kapoor’s biography is that almost everyone in the film industry is related to them in some way or the other. It almost makes you feel like one big family. and I suddenly realized what a big barrier it is for the outsiders to cross to be a part of film industry. The story talks a lot about the whims and fancies of film stars, the weight they carried and the relationships they shared with the rest of the team. It seems most teams came together because of the relationships they shared with each other rather than any other factor. Geeta Bali’s journey to stardom gives an insight into how the outsiders made way into the industry. And how a lot of girls came to the industry to earn for their families.
Some of them fell in love with their work and then honed their craft to make it big in films. It is a window into the working of the industry as much as into the life of Shammi Kapoor.
There is a lot of trivia that you gather about the work of Shammi Kapoor. Like the famous Yahoo song of his from the film Junglee was shot in Kufri and not Kashmir as everyone believes. There are many of his famous songs that were not written for his films but he created a situation to fit that song and they went on to become history. Shammi Kapoor ended up doing a lot of films that were rejected by Dev Anand. I wonder how those energetic numbers would have looked on a gentler Dev Anand.
Author Rauf Ahmed also delves a bit into the spiritual journey of Shammi Kapoor with his second wife and his guru. I wish he had delved a bit more into this phase of his life. Though I understand these are very personal matters and very difficult for an outsider to grasp, especially after the protagonist has passed away. It must have been an incredible journey inwards – after spending time in arc lights and the best of glamor India had to offer. Similarly, I wanted more on his foray into Internet and Computers. I checked his website after reading the book. And found it very dated – and tells me that he was not active in his last few years. I also wanted more details of his exploration and promotion of the Internet in India. Again I believe the information available may be limited.
I wish editors had done a better Job – Almora is not in Himachal, his daughter was not 33 when Geeta Bali died and at a lot of places the maths just does not work out. An actress struggles for years before her first hit but she is always 22-23 years of age. There are a lot of editing errors – spelling mistakes, grammatical errors. Where are all the good editors of the world?
The narrative is interesting. It goes back and forth with author’s narration, interspersed with the words of Shammi Kapoor and others. You get a first person feel as well a research-based authoritative feel as well. It also maintains a pace so you do not get bored, though some repetitions could have been avoided.
Overall, a very balanced portrayal of Shammi Kapoor.