Ten of my favourite Shammi Kapoor roles

It seems a bit of a paradox that Tumsa Nahin Dekha was both good and bad for Shammi Kapoor. Good, because it turned him from a wannabe to a big star. Bad, because it created a certain persona – the fun-loving, completely madcap yet good at heart rebel.
Bad? Was that ‘bad’?

I think so. In film after film, Shammi Kapoor ended up doing pretty similar roles. (Even the films had similar names: Junglee, Jaanwar, Budtameez, Bluffmaster…). You wouldn’t expect a Raj Kapoor, a Dilip Kumar or a Rajendra Kumar to debase themselves by making faces and leaping about like Shammi Kapoor was willing – even eager – to do. The result? Shammi Kapoor got typecast. ‘India’s Elvis Presley’, ‘the rebellious star’, the man who could dance and sing and do comic scenes and romances. But if emotion was needed, directors turned to other stars.

So, when I decided I wanted to do a list of my ten favourite Shammi roles, I began to pick out films in which one can see glimpses of what a fine actor this man actually was. Roles that allowed Shammi Kapoor, even if he was prancing about and singing in places, to show off his skill as a thespian.

Here goes, with my favourites bunched at the top, but otherwise not in any particular order:

1. Pritam/Professor Khanna (Professor, 1962): Although I said this list was in no order, if I had to name my favourite Shammi Kapoor role, it would be this one. In Professor, he plays a young man forced by poverty, unemployment, and his mother’s illness, to pretend to be an old man. There’s romance, comedy and melodrama, but what makes this a far better film than the many others in which Shammiji dons disguises (even if for only brief periods) is that here his young and handsome avatar actually doesn’t merely wear a beard, wig, glasses and shapeless coat, but becomes the wiser, more mature person he’s pretending to be.


As Professor Khanna, he’s understanding, astute, experienced. As Pritam, the young man he actually is, he’s cheerful, flirtatious – yet with a core of integrity. Superb characterisation, yes; but, more than that, excellent acting. And that doesn’t just include the harrumphing and the slightly wonky walk, but the expressions: the sympathy for a frustrated old maid, the embarrassment at being faced with a strange – and possibly unclothed – woman; the anger at a man who’s jilted a pregnant lover…
The role got Shammi Kapoor a Filmfare Award nomination for Best Actor.

2. Brahmachari (Brahmachari, 1968): This is the role that did win Shammi Kapoor a Filmfare Best Actor Award (he beat – quite a feat, this – the stalwart Dilip Kumar’s performances in Aadmi and Sangharsh). In Brahmachari, Shammi Kapoor acts in the title role as a man who, having experienced firsthand what it means to be an orphan, turns his own house into a loving home for unwanted, homeless and orphaned children. In the process, he comes to the brink of bankruptcy – and ends up having to choose between romantic love and his love for the children he now loves so deeply.

If you’ve only ever seen Shammi Kapoor in a ‘Yahoo!’ role, you have to watch this film to see him really act. You can see his affection for the children (and it’s not just the syrupy sweetness of most films; he’s also a disciplinarian and a pal to the kids). You can sense his pain and anger at his own helplessness and poverty. You can spot the moment when he begins falling in love with the girl he’s unwittingly rescued from committing suicide. And you know that this is a man who’s seen a lot of suffering in his life – enough to make him a champion of those who are unloved and unwanted. Fantastic acting.


3. Shekhar (Junglee, 1961): Some of Shammi Kapoor’s best roles seem to be the ones where he acts in two contrasting styles. Here, he’s a gruff, surly young man who’s been brought up to believe that love, joy and other ‘childish’ emotions are not worthy of a family as distinguished as his. Shekhar, however, is changed – almost overnight – by the love of a girl, and ends up the exact opposite of what he started off. The contrast in characters is well enacted; but what really endears Shammi Kapoor to me in Junglee is his portrayal of a man in love. His expressions – those eyes filled with tenderness, that face brimming with love – never fail to make me go all weak-kneed.


4. Mike/Shekhar (China Town, 1962): Like Professor or Junglee, this was a film that required Shammi Kapoor to act in two very different styles. But this, unlike Professor or Junglee, was not about a man who changes, but about two men – one of the few double roles Shammi Kapoor took on (Mujrim was another, but the second role in that lasts just a few minutes). And, oh. How good Shammi Kapoor is in China Town. On the one hand, he’s the suave, ruthless and unscrupulous Mike, the boss of China Town’s seedy underworld – an opium addict, violent, and suspicious. On the other hand, Shammi Kapoor is also Mike’s identical twin Shekhar, brought up by a loving mother. A clownish young man, a die-hard romantic, yet brave and resourceful when it’s needed. While Shekhar is the more usual Shammi Kapoor hero one sees in his films, Mike is the more interesting – and a fine example of Shammiji’s ability to act.


5. Anil/Rocky (Teesri Manzil, 1966): Yes, the leaping about and the romancing of an unwilling heroine are there, but there’s also a fantastic suspense drama in which our hero, Rocky aka Anil, finds himself caught. A supposed suicide re-emerges as murder; a dancer dies in Rocky’s arms, killed by a bullet meant for him… and another woman tries to send Rocky to a sure death in a car with faulty brakes. Who is the culprit? And why? Teesri Manzil is a gripping thriller, and gives Shammi Kapoor the chance to show off some good acting: a man, initially merely puzzled, then perplexed, finally hunted down outright and unsure whom to trust. And, finally, that moment when he realises the truth.
Dev Anand was initially to have played Rocky. I personally cannot imagine anybody playing the role with more élan than Shammi Kapoor did. He’s perfect.


6. Ravi (Andaaz, 1971): This film is one of Shammi Kapoor’s last as a leading man – and what a good role he had. Here, a middle-aged Shammi Kapoor gets to play a man his age: as the widowed father of a small girl. Ravi finds hope and love again in the shape of a widow (played by Hema Malini), who is the mother of a small boy. This is a love story that’s beautifully played out: none of that crazy leaping about, none of that relentless pursuit that marked much of Shammi’s career as a hero. Here, he’s a sensitive, mature man who is all warmth for his daughter; who understands the painful memories that haunt his beloved; and who has the patience – and the willpower – to finally take what life brings him: another chance at love. A great role, and superbly played.

7. Shankar (Tumsa Nahin Dekha, 1957): An important role, not because I think it’s a meaty one, but because it marked a watershed in Shammi Kapoor’s career. If you’ve seen Shammi Kapoor in earlier films like Shama Parwana or Rail ka Dibba, you’ll know what I mean: sensitive, run-of-the-mill hero, pretty much cast in the same sort of mould as elder brother Raj Kapoor. Tumsa Nahin Dekha showed the world that a Shammi Kapoor who’d broken out of that mould was unbeatable. He was hilarious, romantic, heroic, a prankster, a dab hand at dancing or singing or fighting, yet noble and good always – he was Shammi.

8. Raja/Roop (Dil Deke Dekho, 1959): Similar in style to Tumsa Nahin Dekha, but with an even more irresistible Shammi Kapoor. This is one of those typical ‘Shammi Kapoor roles’: the kind of role that wannabes like Joy Mukherjee, Biswajit and Feroz Khan tried to play in so many films, but managed with only limited success most of the time. But Shammi Kapoor, as the long-lost son who falls in love with the foster daughter of his long-lost parent, fits the role to a T. He’s urbane, charming, and completely inimitable. Another film I’ve seen repeatedly, just for Shammi Kapoor, who dominates the screen.

9. Prince Bhanu Pratap Singh/Bhagatram (Rajkumar, 1964): My main complaint about this film is with the gaudiness and general ghastliness of the costumes and set design. But Shammi Kapoor redeems it, in somewhat Scarlet Pimpernel style. On the one hand, he’s the foppish, Westernised Prince Bhanu Pratap Singh, who seems to have no regard for tradition, no respect for his elders, and little to do except preen himself. In reality, though, he’s the smart, brave and highly principled Bhanu, who doesn’t just foil the evil plans of the enemy, but also manages to win the heart of an inimical princess. Shammi at his swashbuckling – and meltingly handsome – best.

10. Shankar/Anand (Mujrim, 1958): Although Mujrim ends with an over the top melodramatic speech by Shammi Kapoor, the film offers him the opportunity to do a somewhat anti-hero role (à la Dev Anand in Jaal, Pocketmaar, Kaala Bazaar, Guide, etc). Not totally Dev Anand style, of course, since the whole point of having Shammi Kapoor as a hero is to allow lots of songs, romance, and some comedy. But yes, there are definitely darker shades in his character here as an orphan brought up by a thief, to live his life forever as a thief. Shammi Kapoor also has a very brief (but significant) cameo as a dying playwright, Anand, but it’s as the bitter and tormented criminal Shankar that he excels.

What are your favourite Shammi Kapoor roles?

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51 thoughts on “Ten of my favourite Shammi Kapoor roles

  1. Good list, Madhu.

    I’d like to nominate Pagla Kahin Ka too for this list.

    In fact I liked him – and the movie – SO much, that I’d put it right up there with Brahmachari and Professor (two movies in which I thought Shammi’s acting stood out).

    As you know, the movie did not do well at the box-office. Asha Parekh, in an interview, said that it was probably because the Indian public found it difficult to accept Shammi Kapoor in a mental institution. For them, Shammi was this handsome, dancing hero, wooing the heroince in exotic locales,

    I thought that was pretty sad. And more a reflection of the public’s set mindset than a reflection on the movie.

    Asha also said that Shammi worked really hard on the movie. And it shows. He is very restrained (by his standards), except when he has to put on an act to come across as mad.

    All in all, a role that deserves to be talked about much more than it has been, IMO.

    • Pagla Kahin Ka had been on my shortlist too, but then it came to a toss-up between that film and Mujrim – and I rewatched parts of Mujrim just the other day when I was taking screenshots, and was very impressed again with his acting in some parts of that film, especially in some of the scenes towards the beginning. And considering Mujrim was one of his earlier films, I think he did a very good job there.

      But I have to agree, Pagla Kahin Ka had some superb acting by Shammi Kapoor. Especially in that second half, when his character actually does become mentally unstable. He’s so good in that.

      The main problem seems to be what I began this post with – Shammi Kapoor got saddled with his handsome dancing-romancing-clownish hero image, and people couldn’t accept him doing anything different. Considering he could act very well too, that’s such a pity.

  2. I haven’t seen Mujrim and China Town but all the rest are favourites. My favourite Shammi Kapoor role has to be Junglee. The *way* he shouts out Yahoo is inimitable. He may have been typecast but what a type. :D No one else could have done it with such less inhibition. When we visited Kashmir in 1985 (I think) I wanted to shout out Yahoo too when we went to Gulmarg!

    • I must admit, I’m not as fond of Mujrim as I am of China Town (Ragini’s accent in Mujrim really irritated me!) China Town is one of my favourite Shammi Kapoor B/W films, though – he looks fabulous, it’s a straightforward ‘gangster-romance-separated identical twins’ film, with great songs (including the famous Baar-baar dekho hazaar baar dekho), a lovely Shakila, and an interesting locale. Helen, too. :-)

  3. I can’t add anything to the list! The films where I really liked his acting were Andaz, Professor and Brahmachari and all the three are on your list.

    But reading the lsit has given me the itch to watch all of these films, particularly Mujrim, which I have not seen at all. And I would love to see Professor and Tessri Manzil again.

    BTW how about Dil Tera Deewana? I saw it way back in the 80s and can’t remember much of it.

    “You wouldn’t expect a Raj Kapoor, a Dilip Kumar or a Rajendra Kumar to debase themselves by making faces”

    Raj Kapoor not making faces? How I wished that he would stop making faces! ;-)

  4. Madhu, your list is perfect, but I would probably have put Jaanwar in place of Rajkumar. Only because, I thought the role had much more depth – especially in the latter half. Only a small quibble, though. :) I disliked Rajkumar precisely for the reasons you listed. Though the songs were to die for, and Sadhana was so beautiful. Shammi, well, he was Shammi. :))

    And of all the films on the list, I liked Junglee the most – simply because here was a character whose trust in his beloved is so deep that he refuses to believe anything against her – even if she admits to it (under duress, of course). And Saira’s Raj was also an unusual heroine for those days – independent, not given to simpering, willing to give the hero a dose of his own medicine (and not in the ‘feminist’ style that was so popular), self-respecting…

    Andaz, Brahmchari, China Town… I need me some Shammi movies. Now!

    • Yes, Saira Banu’s heroine in Junglee was such a refreshing change from the usual Hindi film heroine. I really liked the fact that she was sweet and feminine and loving and all, but not a wet blanket waiting for the world to walk over her.

      I’ve been wishing for so long that someone somewhere would invent a software that would allow one to plug in all the films where one wanted one’s own choice of actors/actresses, and press a button – and voila! – done. I’d put Shammi Kapoor into a lot of films that should’ve starred him and not some other Shammi wannabe.

  5. Other notable song; His zealous peformance using Lezim (LeZeem) music score.
    How can you forget Govida ala re…? from Bluff Master, (1963).
    Oh, some where in 1962, i was eight grade student and was enrolled in Lezim, after school.
    So….I used to love the music of this song.

    One more song, .we used to sing when we had house guests that stay too long and just don’t want to leave..:)
    Savere Wali Gaadi Se Chale Jaayenge. Laat Saheb (1967) .

    • Err… this post is about Shammi’s best roles, not Shammi’s best songs. That will come later.

      Personally, I don’t think his roles in either Bluffmaster or Latt Sahib were anything to write home about. Not terrible, but not great either.

  6. Wow great list, i can simply feel your love for the man through the way you write about him. I’d pick Teesri Manzil’s Anil/Rocky as one of my favourite Shammi roles as it was the first time I saw him at his prime, he had me at the aaja aaja number and i instantly knew he’d become a favourite of mine.Until then i had no idea of his style and acting as i only knew him for a long time as the father/congenial uncle type roles he played in the 80’s

    • I’ve seen very few of Shammi’s later films (the only one I can remember offhand in which he played a father-figure is Yeh Vaada Raha). So for me, Shammi was from the beginning the ‘hero’. :-)

      Teesri Manzil is a great film to remember Shammi Kapoor by – he was so effervescent in songs like Aaja aaja or O haseena zulfonwaali, yet did so well in the suspense sequences too.

  7. A thoroughly researched work DO leaving nothing more to add.
    Except perhaps a mention could be made of his role in memsaab where he plays the negative character. A manipulative one pretending to be good.
    I for one do think he was a good actor,…….. and fun in songs which coud be slotted separately.

    • I think one could probably do an entire post on Shammi Kapoor’s best ‘fun songs’! He was in a class apart when it came to that. :-)

      I remember reading the review of Memsaab that Greta had posted on her blog a couple of years back. I had been hoping to get hold of it and watch it before I wrote up this post, because I recalled hearing that his ‘villainous’ performance in it was very good – but I’ve not been able to get the film yet. Will do, will do!

      Another Shammi film I’m curious to see is Shaheed Bhagat Singh. I’m not keen on seeing a Shammi character die (but okay, I lived through Shama Parwana too!)… still.

  8. Great list of great Shammi films here! My own personal favorites are Andaaz, Brahmachari, Professor, Junglee and Tumsa Nahin Dekha – the first two for his subdued acting, and the remaining three for the sheer joy in them, and Kashmir ki Kali in a separate class of its own, for the songs, the beauty of Kashmir, and the Sharmila – Shammi pair!

  9. I think my personal favourites are ‘Andaz’ and ‘Brahmachari’ because those were the first films I saw as a child. I had no problems with a middle-aged Shammi Kapoor, I just loved him, and finding a younger, more handsome, and crazier Shammi in later years was a bonus!

    • I can’t recall the first Shammi Kapoor film I ever saw, but I do know that it must have been something from the early 60s, because my earliest recollections of him are as a young and handsome man. But, though he may have put on weight and lost those lissome good looks, his acting did mature (I’m guessing some more daring directors and producers were also able to look past his looks and see his talent), so I’ve no complaints.

  10. pacifist, raja, anu, harvey: So does that mean ab tumhaare havaale yeh blog saathiyon? Or will you be kind and regretful and say Hum chhod chale is blog ko, yaad aaye kabhi toh mat rona?

    Honestly, the way we’ve been mangling stuff here and over at harvey’s Jaanewaala phal post, a lot of poor lyricists must be revolving in their graves!!

    • That too on Sahir Ludhianvi’s death anniversary!

      Btw, I’d not read that piece on Harvey’s blog till you mentioned it here. I’ve now gone there and added my two cents (or should that be “amrood ke chhilke”?) to it. :-)

    • Tere blog mein na rakhenge kadam aaj ke baad.

      Madhu, your response to that *should* have been Oh jaanewale ho sake to laut ke aana or O jaanewale mudke zara dekhke jaana LOL.

      Or even aji roothkar ab kahan jaayiyega, jahan jaayiyega, humein paaiyega

      I loved the thread; Thanks guys. :)

  11. “That too on Sahir Ludhianvi’s death anniversary!”

    Oh, lord. I hadn’t realised. I hope we aren’t getting cursed (in very poetic language, though) from beyond the grave. ;-)

  12. Great list! Couldn’t add anything. All great performances by Shammi and some of them very different and quite nuanced too. I saw Junglee again after a long time about a year ago and was bowled over by Shammi’s acting. He was playing the character rather than acting as ‘The Shammi Kapoor’ at that stage. Same in Professor.
    Curiously, that was my first glimpse of Shammi. I must have been about 5 living in the UK, couldn’t understand any Hindi. My parents bought a cassette of Professor, Asli Naqli and Tumsa nahin dekha and on the lid was Shammi in stills from Aye Gulbadan and tumsa nahin dekha. The latter had him biting his finger. Couldn’t have had a better introduction to Shammi and his music than that. I spent years thinking Shammi was singing about ‘paalak’ in ‘Khuli palak mein jhoota gussa’:)

    • Wow, you actually got to see Professor when you were 5! (And yes, when you’re that young, you can certainly be forgiven for mistaking palak for paalak). That’s such a cute anecdote – and it convinces me that my sister and I were not the only children so devoted to food that we automatically assigned the names of our favourite foods to words we didn’t understand in songs! :-)

  13. I have not seen some of the films mentioned here (Junglee, Mujrim, Dil Deke Dekho, ChinaTown), but certainly agree with Teesri Manzil, Professor, Brahmachari, & Andaaz.
    Needless to say, Shammi has to be one of my favorite song stars after Dev Anand; and I always saw his movies for their songs. For my part, I would say that he & Sharmila have to be the best looking Bollywood pair filmed outside India.
    (http://oenophile-samir.blogspot.com/2009/11/top-10-foreign-locale-bollywood-songs.html).
    I think you mentioned somewhere that Shammi did not have as many good directors & good scripts as say Dilip Kumar or Dev Anand, and that is a perceptive comment. Most of the time, I do not remember much of story of his films (except Teesri Manzil of course); but I always remember the songs.

    • I don’t exactly think Shammi got bad scripts in general, but my impression is that he got slotted in a particular role – so, whether he played a conman in Bluffmaster or a millionaire who becomes a taxi driver in Dil Tera Deewaana, the character itself didn’t change much. Perhaps directors realised that he had become an icon to the extent that people watched his films not to watch a character, but to watch the actor – so film-makers stopped trying to experiment, and concentrated only on ensuring that there was:

      (a) comedy
      (b) romance
      (c) lots of great songs

      But, scriptwise, I’d probably rate Teesri Manzil, Professor, Junglee, Brahmachari, Andaaz and China Town as among his best films. Tumsa Nahin Dekha and Dil Deke Dekho are very similar to each other, though the latter gets too complicated after a while.

      P.S. Have just had a look at your post – delightful! I’d been meaning to do a similar post sometime, but will put that on the back burner for now. :-)

      • Please do that post, I would love to see your list. As I said in my comment, several songs were selected merely to satisfy an arbitrary constraint.
        Junglee & China Town are now on my must-see list.

        • Okay, Samir – maybe I will do that post sometime! There will, of course, be some overlaps with your post (because, as I mentioned, you listed some of my favourite ‘phoren’ songs too), but I had a few others in mind as well.

          Do tell me what you think of Junglee and China Town whenever you’ve seen them.

  14. Was a great list. I would have found some space for Pagla Kahin Ka. Was as complex a role as there can be, and how well Shammi acted in it. Brilliant :)

  15. I REALLY shouldn’t have read this post! Coming here after having added Junglee to my list of Shammi films I like , now I have several others I must find, in addition to Tumsa Nahin Dekha. Thanks to you, I now have to find Professor, Andaaz and Dil Deke Dekho. Although I don’t think anything will ever dislodge Brahmachari from its place as my favourite Shammi film, and Shammi in drag guarantees thatBluff Master is right up there. I doubt that I will ever warm to Teesri Manzil, it remains a just OK film for me, unlike the others of his I’ve seen and look forward to seeing again.

    • If you like the idea of Shammi in drag (I don’t – he looks awful!), you might want to see Bluffmaster – but don’t hold out much hope for it. I liked the way the film was progressing, but then somewhere along the way it suddenly went off the rails and the script went pretty haywire. Not one of my favourite Shammi films, despite the fairly good score (and Govinda aala re is superb!), and, of course, Shammi.

      The Professor, Dil Deke Dekho and Tumsa Nahin Dekha prints available are good, but I’m not sure about Andaaz. I’d rented the DVD, and while the print was fine, a large section of it, which explained the Shammi Kapoor character’s past, was missing. I did know it, fortunately, because I’d watched the complete version on TV years ago. But, just to warn you…

  16. I have watched half of BluffMaster, and thought he was hilarious in drag, precisely because he looked awful! Of course, it was a qawwali, so I’m biased, but now I need to finish it so see the derailment you mention. What a pity!

    • See it and let me know what you think! Unfortunately, some of the Shammi Kapoor films that I’ve spent a lot of effort searching out – like Boyfriend – have turned out to be really pretty meh. Bluffmaster isn’t in that category, but it’s a comedown from Junglee, at any rate.

  17. I read this post again today! Such a brilliant and comprehensive one. I’ve actually realised that you’ve done 100 percent justice to the man we love so much. Teesri Manzil is my favourite (because as I was telling my husband the other day, Shammi Kapoor doesnt’t look a bit like he was undergoing a ghastly personal tragedy when he was doing this film). It also showcases his panache in the most magnificent way.
    But Professor, Dil Dekhe Dekho and all the others you’ve mentioned are so so so good too. Waiting to get my hands on my personal DVD of JUnglee. Will treasure it surely. And yes, have to watch MUjrim soon!! Thank you so much again Madhu :)

  18. shammi kapoor has given excellent perfomances, in his unique and typical style of an imposing and handsome youngman full of the zest of life and romance. Films like Tumsa Nahin Dekha, Dil Deke Dekho,China Town, Junglee, Professor, Rajkumar, Prince, Brahmachari, Janwar Teesri manzil.

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