The Life and Times of Shamsher Raj Kapoor (1931 - 2011)

Ranjit Rodricks , 14 Aug 2011
Actor Shammi Kapoor died early today in Mumbai
Actor Shammi Kapoor died early today in Mumbai

At 5:15am this morning, veteran actor Shammi Kapoor breathed his last in Mumbai’s Breach Candy Hospital, thus bringing to end another historic chapter from the historical pages of Bollywood.

Born in 1931 on the 21st of October to legendary actor Prithvi Raj Kapoor, Shamsher Raj Kapoor was the second of Prithvi Raj Kapoor’s sons – the first being Raj Kapoor and the third being Shashi Kapoor.

He spent most of his formative childhood years in Calcutta where his father was involved in acting in films for New Theatre Studios.

Even though he started acting off acting as a junior artist in 1948 (earning the princely sum of Rs.150/- per month) and dabbling in work at the Prithvi Theatre, it was only in the late 50’s and well into the 60’s that Shammi’s reputation as an actor rocketed to super-star proportions. So good was he as a dancer (and so handsome as well) that many considered him the Elvis Presley of India.

Shammi Kapoor in his heydays
Shammi Kapoor in his heydays
Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley

Shammi Kapoor made his debut in 1953 in the film Jeevan Jyoti. This led to some super hits like Dil Deke Dekho, Junglee, China Town, Kashmir Ki Kali Teesri Manzil and An Evening In Paris.  Fifteen years later, in 1968 Shammi recevied his first Filmfare Best Actor Award for his performance in Brahmachari. Then in 1982, he won the Filmfare Award for the Best Supporting Actor for Vidhaata.

However, due to having gained excessive weight in the 70’s Shammi Kapoor’s acting career came to a standstill. So he tried his hand at directing – Manoranjan in 1974 (based on the Shirley McLaine starrer Irma La Douce) and Bandalbaaz in 1976. Both films tanked and failed to create any buzz.

More recently, he had plans to act with his grand-nephew Ranbeer Kapoor in a film, but nothing concrete came out of it.

Shammi Kapoor in a scene from one of his films
Shammi Kapoor in a scene from one of his films

On the personal front, he met and fell in love with actress Geeta Bali in 1955, while they were shooting for the film Rangeen Raaten. Unfortunately, Geeta Bali was a year older to him and hence his family were skeptical about their marriage. However, less than six months after they met, the two eloped and got married at the Banganga Temple in Mumbai, informing their parents only after the knot was firmly tied.

The couple went on to have two children – Aditya Raj Kapoor, who was born in 1956 and a daughter Kanchan, who was born in 1961. But barely a few years after their daughter’s birth, Geeta Bali died in 1965 after suffering from small pox. A few years later, he got into a relationship with his co-star Mumtaz, but it didn’t work out.

In 1969, Shammi Kapoor married his second wife, a princess from the Royal House of Bhavnagar, Neela Devi Gohil.

Shammi Kapoor with his second wife, Neela Devi of Bhavnagar
Shammi Kapoor with his second wife, Neela Devi of Bhavnagar

When the internet first came to India and people first heard about a website called  Yahoo!, everybody thought it was developed by him, especially since that was one word that was associated so strongly with him (from the movie Junglee). But though he was actively involved in the internet community (he was the founder and chairman of Internet Users Community of India), Kapoor had nothing to do with Yahoo! In fact, it he played a major role in setting up the Ethical Hackers Association.

His death due to renal failure (he was on dialysis three times a week for the past few years) has come as a shock to the Bollywood community and his fans at large.

MissMalini and her Team wish the Kapoor family our deepest condolences.

Actor Aamir Khan with Shammi Kapoor
Actor Aamir Khan with Shammi Kapoor

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