Remembering Shammi Kapoor on his 92nd birth anniversary: The ultimate showman of Hindi cinema

Shammi Kapoor's iconic status in Hindi cinema owed much to Mohammed Rafi's voice and Shankar Jaikishan composition in legendary songs

Today marks the 92nd Birth Anniversary of India’s Elvis Presley (photo: National Herald archives)
Today marks the 92nd Birth Anniversary of India’s Elvis Presley (photo: National Herald archives)

Subhash K Jha

What would Shammi Kapoor's legendary status be without the voice of Mohammed Rafi and  the compositions of Shankar Jaikishan? Selecting the five most iconic Shammi Kapoor songs wasn’t easy. It can’t be, when the man breathed  the rhythm of the songs and  exhaled  the zest of life.

1.    Yeh duniya usiki zamana usika mohabbat mein jo ho gaya ho kissika(Kashmir Ki Kali):  The  film that  introduced Sharmila Tagore to Hindi cinema had  Shammi  Kapoor serenading his  gorgeous co-star with many  O P Nayyar songs, the zaniest being Taarif karoon kya uski.  But the  best song of  the  film  found Shammi alone and  pensive in a bar, brooding about  his  bleeding  heart to the bartender. Baar baar dekho ….Don’t miss  the  stunning saxophone passage in this  imperishable  song about  a broken heart that  doesn’t mind the grief as long as it has  experienced the  exhilaration and  annihilation of love all in one breath.

2.    Dil ke jharoke mein tujko bithakar(Brahmachari): What was it about Shammi Kapoor and Mohd Rafi that tied them together like twin towers ready  to  explode? All of Shammi’s biggest hits  were sung  by the one and only Rafi Saab. Brahmachari is best known for Shammi’s zingy duet Aaj kal  tere mere pyar ke charche. But the show-stopper is the high pitched crescendo  of this  piano-pounding Rafi solo where we can actually hear the sound of the shattering heart. Monumental!

3.     Badan pe sitare lapete huye (Prince) : By the  time Shammi came to  this  film which paired him with Vyjayanthimala for the first time he was  over-the-hill. But the fire burnt every time the song  came on. There was  zero chemistry  with the heroine. But then Shammi could romance a lamp post.  His adaakari in this rousing Shankar-Jaikishan solo is so darned libidinous  , there was steam  coming out of the screen as  Shammi sizzled . Wow.

4.     Tumne mujhe dekha hokar meherban(Teesri Manzil):   This Nasir Hussain entertainer is known for  several  chartbuster by R  D Burman (whom Shammi didn’t want to do the music  to begin with, but that’s another story). While you may go by the ritzy Aaja aaja main hoon pyar tera  or the  ditzy O mere sona re, the real jaan of the score is this sombre Majrooh Sultanpuri lyric about  the ephemerality  of love. How apt that it was shot  immediately after Shammi lost his beloved wife Geeta Bali. Leading lady Asha Parekh  says everyone on the sets wept when Shammi emoted to this song. We  know the feeling.

5.     Yahoo, chahe koi mujhe junglee kahe (Junglee):  In a film that boasted of  one of Rafi-Shankar Jaikishan’s most majestic Ghazals (Ehsaan tera hoga mujhpar) it seems a shame to talk about this relatively  pedestrian song. But stop right here. This is the song that launched Shammi’s image  as  the rebellious loverboy,  the  wild untameable  Tarzan in constant pursuit of  his Jane. It could be, Saira  Banu, Sharmila Tagore, Asha Parekh, Kalpana  or Leena Chandavarkar. Just give the man his song, and he was on his way to the moon.

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