The first time I watched this film was on TV, back in the mid-80s. Luckily enough, our TV was hooked up to a VCR, and a blank tape was in the VCR – so we recorded Professor. I loved the film so much, I rewatched that tape again and again over the next 15 years. By that time, VCDs had come to India and I’d just gotten married. My husband and I bought a VCD player. And guess which was the first VCD I bought?
Now I have the DVD, and I have seen Professor so many times that I know each scene. I remember a lot of the dialogues, and I still love the film as much as I did way back then the first time, as a starry-eyed, Shammi Kapoor-loving 12 year old.
For a lot of people of my generation – or those younger than me, who have seen Shammi Kapoor in his earlier films, this is the film that is probably representative of Shammi Kapoor: the ‘Yahoo! Kapoor’ as a friend of mine says with a sneer. Junglee is one of the major successes of Shammi Kapoor’s heyday. It is also, with Shammi’s wild whooping and crazy antics in songs like Suku suku, an important reason for him getting saddled with that ‘Yahoo! Kapoor’ epithet.
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.
This particular Shammi Kapoor film has a very special place in my heart – because Yeh chaand sa roshan chehra was one of the first Hindi film songs I ever learnt to sing. I must’ve been about eight years old. I’d never seen the film; television was yet to make its way into our lives (it was just round the corner, though I didn’t get to see the song till much later). But I used to hear it now and then on radio, and sometimes on an LP my parents owned. I always did wonder who the heroine was, the woman who was praised for the fact that her ‘zulfon ka rang’ was sunehra, and who had jheel si neeli aankhein. Could she have been an Indian actress, I wondered? She sounded firang.
Dil Deke Dekho isn’t quite the perfect film I’d like to make it out to be.
(a) The story isn’t exactly original (Nasir Hussain had already used it in Tumsa Nahin Dekha. He also went on to use it in Jab Pyaar Kisi se Hota Hai and Phir Wohi Dil Laaya Hoon, but that can’t be laid at the doorstep of Dil Deke Dekho).
(b) The plot is too complicated, relies too heavily on convenient coincidences, and has some unbelievable – and often unclear – motives.
(c) The lead actress, Asha Parekh (just 16 years old), though pretty as a picture, isn’t a terribly good actress at this stage of her career.
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.