Tribute

All these years later, nobody exudes flamboyance like Shammi Kapoor

On the Hindi film star’s death anniversary, a reminder of his irresistible exuberance.

In his book on dancing star and rebel hero, Shammi Kapoor: The Game Changer, journalist and film critic Rauf Ahmed gives readers a view of Kapoor’s ascent into stardom. He has Kapoor detail the secrets of his incredible dancing ability, with Kapoor being quoted as saying, “The sound of any music evoked in me a strong urge to dance. The rhythm didn’t take time to seep into me and seek expression in dance. I always envisioned dance as a visual expression of music. The urge to dance was dormant in me for long.”

Shammi Kapoor, who would have turned 86 later this year had it not been for his demise on August 14, 2011, went on to carve his own niche, distinct from the on-screen personas enjoyed by Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand and Raj Kapoor. Kumar was the tragic lover, the tortured soul, the male Meena Kumari before Meena Kumari came along. Dev Anand was rakish, confident, the ultimate city slicker and it was that persona that set him apart from his peers. Raj Kapoor, the eldest of Prithviraj Kapoor’s children, went on to be defined by his roles in films like Awaara, Shree 420, Jagte Raho and Anari.

Shammi Kapoor didn’t set the Hindi film industry ablaze with his sense of style and dancing rhythm from the very beginning. He had about 18 failures against his illustrious surname before writer-director Nasir Husain’s Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957) catapulted him into fame and stardom. With Husain casting Shammi Kapoor as a flamboyant, debonair, Western-styled character in that film and then in Dil Deke Dekho thereafter, Kapoor went on to become the rage of the 1960s, starring in several hit films like Junglee, Professor, Kashmir Ki Kali, Teesri Manzil and An Evening In Paris.

Kapoor was irresistible in these roles. His theatrics were unique. He was a bon vivant, the very antithesis to Dilip Kumar’s tragic persona. Nasreen Munni Kabir summarised his appeal best in Bollywood’s Top 20 Superstars of Indian Cinema: “Most importantly, he exuded an unabashed and irresistible sexuality that was far from the heroes of the time, who projected romanticism but rarely sexuality. With his dreamy eyes, soft voice, charming dialogue delivery and arresting personality, Shammi Kapoor radiated the raw appeal of an Elvis Presley – especially evident when performing songs.”

Play
Baar Baar Dekho, China Town (1962).

Many have suggested that Shammi Kapoor was an extension of the Dev Anand character. Both men essentially played urban characters and exuded a certain comfort with Western modernity. There are also a handful of roles initially scripted for Anand and eventually performed by Kapoor. Nasir Husain’s directorial debut Tumsa Nahin Dekha was written keeping Anand in mind, but with the actor turning the film down, it was Kapoor who benefitted by playing the lead protagonist.

Kapoor also replaced Dev Anand in Subodh Mukerji’s tentatively titled film Mr Hitler, which was eventually released as Junglee (1961). He then walked into Teesri Manzil (1966) after Anand and Husain had a fallout.

This is not the best way to understand the Shammi Kapoor phenomenon. For one, he portrayed a certain manic energy, an aggressive physicality in his acting and dancing routines that Anand never had. This physicality signified what Kaushik Bhaumik, associate professor, School of Arts and Aesthetics at JNU in Delhi, called élan vital, the term coined by French philosopher Henri Bergson to explain the vital force or impulse of life.

When Kapoor danced, he danced in the true sense of the word. While there was no formal style that he adhered to, there was grace and rhythm in his movements and a distinct abandon that went beyond Dev Anand’s baltering movements or the rhythmic one-two, one-two choreographed routines used in song sequences in the name of dance.

Play
O Haseena, Teesri Manzil (1966).

But dancing is just one aspect of the Shammi Kapoor package. His flamboyance went well beyond city limits and played out in the countryside and hill stations. In many of his films, Kapoor wooed local women, be it Junglee, Rajkumar or Kashmir Ki Kali. While the open landscape in these films suited his overpowering physicality, Kapoor didn’t need a character makeover to establish the distinction between urban Indian and its mofussil centres. His urbanity was all encompassing.

Play
Yeh Chand Sa Roshan Chehra, Kashmir Ki Kali (1964).

The other interesting difference between Dev Anand and Shammi Kapoor is that the former’s films always emphasised his profession, which gave his characters a fair degree of seriousness. Films like CID, Kaala Bazaar, Taxi Driver, Jewel Thief and Guide integrated the trade of Anand’s characters into the storyline. Even in a frothy entertainer like Paying Guest, Anand’s struggling advocate ultimately displays ingenuity in the courtroom at the climax to save his lover from the gallows.

Shammi Kapoor was quite the opposite. In most of his films, his occupational pursuits were frivolous or on the margins of what was deemed respectable at the time. Even his characters in Junglee and Kashmir Ki Kali are misleading. In Junglee , he breaks out of his dictatorial, authoritarian style halfway through the film to turn into a wild, spirited young man. In Kashmir Ki Kali (1964), he realises halfway through that he is not the heir apparent to a mill owner’s fortune. His lack of a serious profession allows him to function in an unbridled way, without the “Log kya kahenge” baggage that handicapped the on-screen personas of other mainstream heroes.

Play
Aasman Se Aaya Farishta, An Evening in Paris (1967).

To enhance the comic element, Kapoor often resorted to disguise. In many of his films, there are extended sequences where he resorts to masquerading an Arab sheikh, a qawwal, or a woman. In Professor (1962), Kapoor plays an aging educationist.

In an industry that puts a premium on young heroes, Kapoor changed shape and form all too willingly. These masquerading characters allowed for comic release through situational comedy, but it also highlighted his dexterity. He could be anything to anyone and in doing so he was perhaps the most cosmopolitan of Hindi film heroes. He could court the beautiful young women of Paris in style even while pulling off a high-energy bhangra song with gusto.

Through his breezy and carefree roles, in which he indulged in all kinds of burlesque antics, Shammi Kapoor participated in the party song (the male item number, if you will) more than any other mainstream hero before or during his time. Some of his most memorable numbers, such as the Dil Deke Dekho title track, Baar Baar Dekho from China Town, Dekho Ab Toh from Janwar, the two Teesri Manzil club songs (O Haseena Zulfonwaali and Aaja Aaja) and Aaj kal Tere Mere take place in the club or hotel space or on the occasion of a celebration.

You would expect the hero in such circumstances to raise a glass to enhance the revelry of the gathering. Not Shammi Kapoor. As opposed to today’s heroes or heroines, who celebrate liquor or its consumption as a way of rejoicing, Kapoor rarely sings after consuming alcohol. This adhered to the rule back then that alcohol signalled moral decline for the Hindi film hero, and that he drank only when he was spurned in love or could not cope with existential dilemmas.

Shammi Kapoor didn’t need anything to further give him an adrenaline rush. He was already high on life as he himself sang in Suku Suku (Junglee).

“Meri aankhon mein nasha,
Meri baaton mein nasha
Meri saanson mein nasha
Behka main bin peeye.”

Akshay Manwani is the author of Sahir Ludhianvi: The People’s Poet and Music, Masti, Modernity: The Cinema of Nasir Husain. He tweets at @AkshayManwani.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Not just for experts: How videography is poised for a disruption

Digital solutions are making sure it’s easier than ever to express your creativity in moving images.

Where was the last time you saw art? Chances are on a screen, either on your phone or your computer. Stunning photography and intricate doodles are a frequent occurrence in the social feeds of many. That’s the defining feature of art in the 21st century - it fits in your pocket, pretty much everyone’s pocket. It is no more dictated by just a few elite players - renowned artists, museum curators, art critics, art fair promoters and powerful gallery owners. The digital age is spawning creators who choose to be defined by their creativity more than their skills. The negligible incubation time of digital art has enabled experimentation at staggering levels. Just a few minutes of browsing on the online art community, DeviantArt, is enough to gauge the scope of what digital art can achieve.

Sure enough, in the 21st century, entire creative industries are getting democratised like never before. Take photography, for example. Digital photography enabled everyone to capture a memory, and then convert it into personalised artwork with a plethora of editing options. Apps like Instagram reduced the learning curve even further with its set of filters that could lend character to even unremarkable snaps. Prisma further helped to make photos look like paintings, shaving off several more steps in the editing process. Now, yet another industry is showing similar signs of disruption – videography.

Once burdened by unreliable film, bulky cameras and prohibitive production costs, videography is now accessible to anyone with a smartphone and a decent Internet bandwidth. A lay person casually using social media today has so many video types and platforms to choose from - looping Vine videos, staccato Musical.lys, GIFs, Instagram stories, YouTube channels and many more. Videos are indeed fast emerging as the next front of expression online, and so are the digital solutions to support video creation.

One such example is Vizmato, an app which enables anyone with a smartphone to create professional-looking videos minus the learning curve required to master heavy, desktop software. It makes it easy to shoot 720p or 1080p HD videos with a choice of more than 40 visual effects. This fuss- free app is essentially like three apps built into one - a camcorder with live effects, a feature-rich video editor and a video sharing platform.

With Vizmato, the creative process starts at the shooting stage itself as it enables live application of themes and effects. Choose from hip hop, noir, haunted, vintage and many more.

The variety of filters available on Vizmato
The variety of filters available on Vizmato

Or you can simply choose to unleash your creativity at the editing stage; the possibilities are endless. Vizmato simplifies the core editing process by making it easier to apply cuts and join and reverse clips so your video can flow exactly the way you envisioned. Once the video is edited, you can use a variety of interesting effects to give your video that extra edge.

The RGB split, Inset and Fluidic effects.
The RGB split, Inset and Fluidic effects.

You can even choose music and sound effects to go with your clip; there’s nothing like applause at the right moment, or a laugh track at the crack of the worst joke.

Or just annotated GIFs customised for each moment.

Vizmato is the latest offering from Global Delight, which builds cross-platform audio, video and photography applications. It is the Indian developer that created award-winning iPhone apps such as Camera Plus, Camera Plus Pro and the Boom series. Vizmato is an upgrade of its hugely popular app Game Your Video, one of the winners of the Macworld Best of Show 2012. The overhauled Vizmato, in essence, brings the Instagram functionality to videos. With instant themes, filters and effects at your disposal, you can feel like the director of a sci-fi film, horror movie or a romance drama, all within a single video clip. It even provides an in-built video-sharing platform, Popular, to which you can upload your creations and gain visibility and feedback.

Play

So, whether you’re into making the most interesting Vines or shooting your take on Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’, experience for yourself how Vizmato has made video creation addictively simple. Android users can download the app here and iOS users will have their version in January.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Vizmato and not by the Scroll editorial team.