My sister keeps a stack of CDs in her car. Often, when she gives me a lift, she puts a CD into the stereo and we listen as she drives along. The CDs are a mixed lot: Harry Belafonte, Simon and Garfunkel, 3 Idiots, Wake up, Sid!, The Best of S D Burman… and The Best of Shammi Kapoor. The others are in reasonably good condition; the Shammi Kapoor CD is battered and scratched and sadly in need of replacement.
I can understand why.
Shammi Kapoor is, for me (and I think I can speak for my sister too), one actor on whom some of the most fabulous songs in classic Hindi cinema were filmed. Funny songs, sad songs, romantic songs, madcap songs, rock-and-roll songs: he did them all, and memorably. And – somewhat unusually for an actor – he took a great interest in the music of his films. (There is an oft-repeated story of how Shammi Kapoor was so biased in favour of Shankar-Jaikishan’s music that he at first refused to let R D Burman compose the music for Teesri Manzil. But RDB, by insisting on playing a couple of the tunes he’d already composed, won Shammi over).
But, without further ado: my list of my ten favourite Shammi Kapoor songs. This was a terribly tough list to compile, because there are dozens of Shammi Kapoor songs that I simply adore. Eventually, though, it boiled down to this: songs that sound good and look good (after all, when one’s talking about an actor’s best songs, it should include songs that show off the actor to advantage). These are all from films that I’ve watched (nearly all of Shammi Kapoor’s films between 1957 and 1970). To make life a little easier for myself (and to prevent this list becoming a ‘top hundred favourites’!), I’ve restricted myself to only one song per film, and to songs that are Shammi solos.
In no particular order:
1. Hum aur tum aur yeh samaa (Dil Deke Dekho, 1959): A friend once told me that he didn’t like Shammi Kapoor because Shammi Kapoor acted like a “jack-in-the-box – all that jerking his head about and leaping around gets on my nerves!”
My pal probably hadn’t seen Shammi Kapoor in romantic mode. Put Shammi Kapoor against a misty pre-dawn, in a white polo neck sweater and trousers, softly serenading his ladylove… and which woman in her right mind wouldn’t gladly give her heart to him? This is one of my favourite romantic songs. My only complaint is that Hum aur tum aur yeh samaa is so short.
2. Ae gulbadan ae gulbadan (Professor, 1962): Much of the credit for the almost universal fabulousness of Shammi Kapoor’s songs must go to his ‘voice’ – the inimitable Mohammad Rafi, who could mould himself seamlessly to whatever Shammi Kapoor was portraying onscreen. Whether it was the wild Suku suku, the flirtatious Subhaan allah haseen chehra or the despairing Hai duniya usiki… or this dreamily romantic song. Ae gulbadan is Shammi Kapoor at his irresistible best (those melting eyes! That rakishly tilted cap! That jacket! That face… I could go on and on). And it is Mohammad Rafi at his best: a voice to turn any woman weak-kneed. What a team these two men were.
3. Is rang badalti duniya mein (Rajkumar, 1964): This is one of my favourite Shankar-Jaikishan compositions for Shammi Kapoor: soft and mellifluous, a song that allows Rafi (and, by extension, Shammi) to sing an absolutely irresistible ballad. Hasrat Jaipuri’s lyrics, too, are sensational: after entreating the lovely princess Sangeeta to not emerge all decked up because “Insaan ki neeyat theek nahin” (“The intentions of men are not honourable”), he goes on to extend that badge – of possessing a neeyat that isn’t theek – to just about everyone: God, honour itself, even his own heart.
What a thorough charmer.
4. Akele-akele kahaan jaa rahe ho (An Evening in Paris, 1967): Not one of my favourite Shammi Kapoor films, but it had a superb soundtrack, dominated by several Rafi solos (others include the title song, Deewaane ka naam toh poochho, and Aasmaan se aaya farishta – the last-named with Shammi Kapoor at his crazy best, dangling from a helicopter). This one, though, is my favourite of the solos from An Evening in Paris. The echoes of Rafi’s voice resounding across the Swiss Alps; Shammi and Sharmila (not to mention the chairs and the umbrellas on the terrace!), all beautifully colour-coordinated in deep red; the green and white of the landscape… lovely.
5. Ehsaan tera hoga mujhpar (Junglee, 1961): For me, this is the most meltingly perfect Shammi Kapoor song there is. It is a love song, but in a way very different from the boisterousness of Akele-akele kahaan jaa rahe ho or the dreamy-eyed serenading of Is rang badalti duniya mein. This one is a song of a more mature love than a sheer ‘love-at-first-sight’ (or ‘first-stalk’, as it all too often was in Shammi Kapoor’s films). Beautifully tender and poignant – so sincere in its love for the girl, that it makes Saira Banu’s character’s anger finally dissolve.
And Shammi Kapoor rarely looked more handsome. Or more heart-breakingly vulnerable.
6. Ae dil ab kahin le jaa (Bluffmaster, 1963): Now for a complete change of style, mood, pace – everything, even the playback singer. For those who equate Shammi Kapoor only with Mohammad Rafi, this song may come as a surprise: it’s been sung by Hemant. It’s a lament, a song of despair, deep loneliness and the shock of discovering that the world does not forgive those who repent. Quite the opposite.
The music is beautiful (I love the sax!), Hemant’s rendition is wonderful, and the picturisation offers a glimpse of the good actor Shammi Kapoor was: besides the sorrow, there’s a puzzled, and then cynical, look on his face as he struggles to come to terms with the changes in his life.
7. Tumne mujhe dekha (Teesri Manzil, 1966): With a fantastic score by the young R D Burman, Teesri Manzil had two very good Rafi solos (there was also Dekhiye sahibon woh koi aur thi, but it pales in comparison to the others). One was Deewaana mujhsa nahin, and the other was Tumne mujhe dekha.
This is one of the few Shammi Kapoor songs that can actually bring tears to my eyes. That’s mainly because this was the first song he filmed after the death of his wife, Geeta Bali – so there’s a grief in it. But, even without that sad background, this song has the ability to move me. The music; the power – brimming with tenderness and love – in Rafi’s voice; the scenario… all are superb. And Shammi Kapoor gives a virtuoso performance as a man deeply in love but unaware that someone out to destroy that love has already succeeded.
An awesome song. If I had to arrange this list in any order, Tumne mujhe dekha would probably be at #1 or 2.
P.S. Here is a wonderful video of Rafi singing this song live, interspersed with stills of him and of other personalities from the Hindi film industry of the 50s and 60s. Enjoy!
8. Hai duniya usi ki zamaana usi ka (Kashmir ki Kali, 1964): Shammi, intoxicated, melancholy. Yet tuneful (as any self-respecting hero in Hindi cinema should be). This is the usual tale of a man who has lost his love and is trying to drown his sorrows in drink.
It’s a straightforward, simple scene in an empty bar room with a minimum of characters: a bartender, a lone saxophonist, another drunk, and Shammi Kapoor. Soulful music; a faint slurring of Rafi’s voice; Shammi’s eyes, filled with pain under drooping eyelids; his stumbling walk around the restaurant – and what do we have? One of Hindi cinema’s best daaru songs. Hurt, miserable, but unable to give up on love.
9. Yoon toh humne laakh haseen dekhe hain (Tumsa Nahin Dekha, 1957): From the film that transformed Shammi Kapoor from a wimp to an attractive imp. With moustache shaved off, his hair flying in the wind, and oozing sex appeal from every pore, he romances a grumpy Ameeta here by praising her beauty – yet teasing her about her huffiness too. Loads of fun here, a delightful setting, great picturisation – and a youthful, handsome Shammi Kapoor at his hilarious best.
10. Dheere chal dheere chal ae bheegi hawa (Boyfriend, 1961): A sweetly romantic song which borrows heavily (as far as lyrics are concerned) from Dheere dheere aa re baadal aa re (Kismet, 1943). Not surprisingly, since Boyfriend was a remake of Kismet. Much as I like Ashok Kumar, and though I think Kismet was the better of the two films, one aspect in which Boyfriend wins hands down is in its eye candy. Shammi Kapoor. A smiling Madhubala, pretending to be asleep. A moonlit night. Flimsy curtains blowing in the wind. *swoon*.
Shankar-Jaikishan’s music gives the primarily romantic words of this song a groovy but not intrusive beat – and Shammi Kapoor’s gentle dancing fits the rhythm perfectly.
What are your favourite Shammi Kapoor songs?