No, this song list isn’t the result of a dear relative landing up in jail or anything of the sort. It just popped into my head one day when I was looking up a song on Youtube and saw Lapak-jhapak in the side panel. It occurred to me: Hindi cinema has its fair share of people who are in prison, at times in really dire straits (not the case with Lapak-jhapak, where David’s character is really quite comfortable), but still being able to summon up the energy to sing. As a character writes in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, Why do tired people sing?… Too tired to do anything else. Maybe that’s the case with film characters in prison: lots of time on their hands and too depressed to do anything else.
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.
Over a year ago, my husband remarked, “You’ve done special weeks on Robert Mitchum and Tyrone Power. You’re also going to be doing one on Johnny Walker. But what about your favourite actor? Don’t you think you should be doing a Shammi Kapoor Week sometime?”
Of course, I said. I just wanted to time it well – in time for Shammiji’s 80th birthday, which would be on October 21st, 2011. That would be quite an occasion, and the right time for me to spend an entire week gushing about my favourite film star.
Right now, I’m on a five-day visit to my parents. They’re not Beiges, but I’d probably label them Greys—the salt far surpasses the pepper in their hair. We’ve been spending quality time together, eating the best chhola bhaturas in town, catching up on the latest gossip, and watching films. We started with Living it Up and Bells are Ringing, and then my father (who generally prefers Bollywood to Hollywood, unless it’s the Marx Brothers-Laurel and Hardy-Chaplin brands of comedy) put his foot down. Let’s see something Hindi, he said. So we settled on this one, because my father likes its music a lot, and Mummy and I like Shammi Kapoor a lot.
When I first began blogging about old cinema, my husband asked me, “So will you do a list of Johnny Walker’s songs sometime?” I thought about it (not long; I didn’t need to) and decided yes. Badruddin Jamaluddin Qazi, aka Johnny Walker, definitely deserves a ‘top ten’ list all his own. This, therefore, on what would have been his 83rd birthday, is a list of songs through which he frolics and flirts, teeters and tumbles—just, generally, keeps me glued to the screen. These are all from films of the 50’s and 60’s that I’ve seen, in no particular order.