Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tumse achchha kaun hai?

Pinaki Prasad Mitra was one of my favourite teachers in school. He was your mathematics teachers right out of the textbook: an uncanny resemblance with Professor Shonku; an obsession with mathematics; a remarkable absent-mindedness; a certain dislike for little children (for the simple reason that they did not know calculus); one of those people who, despite being a remarkably brilliant scholar, chose to teach in a school that was not reputed for paying a high salary; and someone who, when robbed of his limited savings by a deceiving promoter, paid regular visits to the crook in prison with a lunch: আহা রে, জেলের খাবার খেয়ে থাকবে কীভাবে? (how can one survive on prison food?).

He was also one for anecdotes. One of them went like this:
I was in college when I first watched Brahmachari. I was sitting open-mouthed in the theatre through the entire movie; and in the climax, when Shammi Kapoor drove his motorcycle UP the stairways, I asked myself, "what am I doing, wasting my time studying differential equations?" I went on to watch Brahmachari many more times.
This was no mean statement, coming from a person who gave had given his life to the rather high-profile realm of calculus.

***

If I needed to look for an antithesis of my professor, I did not need to look a lot beyond my family: my father was as non-academic as you can get (mind you, he had managed to become a Mechanical Engineer from Jadavpur University), and simply breathed Bollywood. He never gets tired speaking of how Rajkumar and Sangam had released on the same date at Priya and Menoka (I keep on forgetting which one had released in which); and how he had tried Rajkumar first, and when the tickets were all sold out, he went for Sangam. Mind you, this meant standing in two queues, waiting for the counter to open, on the same day.

The interesting bit is that whenever he narrates the story to me, he doesn't mention what Sangam was like (other than the fact that it was so long that there were two intervals); he doesn't mention the boredom of standing in long queues; what he does emphasise on are - (i) he had preferred Rajkumar over the much-hyped Sangam; (ii) it was Rajkumar that was sold out, and (iii) he had watched Rajkumar soon after.

Mind you, he had watched Junglee seven times. And all Shammi Kapoor movies that had ever existed. Most of them, if you take the music away, were pretty boring: Shammi Kapoor was inevitably the heir of a rich family that owned the famous double-staircase haveli; he almost always found a not-so-rich woman, mostly in the mountains. And they got married. Of course, there were a few with different plots (An Evening in Paris and Teesri Manzil immediately come to mind); but they were generally similar.

And yet, people loved him. Despite all those commonplace movies, there emerged a star. He wasn't a Dilip Kumar; he never had a classic like a Pyaasa or an Awara or a Gunga Jumna or a Guide. Okayish movies with awesome music was his forte. He would probably had had an average career, but for Mohammad Rafi and Shankar Jaikishan.

But then, he had something that no one else had: charisma. His mannerisms, his style, his body language, his flair, his vitality, his incredible energy had carried him through the fierce competition in the 1960s. There were better actors. But there was no better hero in the decade. The magic he had created was deep enough to outlast Dilip, Raj and Dev in the test of time: just look at the Youtube videos posted on Facebook today, and you'd know.

And today, like everyone else, I feel that a slice of my adolescence has been taken away as well. And yet, I refuse to be sad, since being sad is simply being non-Shammi. Live. Shout. Dance. Make merry. But don't sulk. At least not today.

***

Of course, like everyone, I have my favourite Shammi song as well: not the MOST popular, but you cannot help imitating the zaraa paas aao bit; especially if you're a teenager, watching Rangoli on a Sunday morning and trying his best at some uncharacteristic dance and echoing the song in the most non-melodious of voices:
I'd have loved to say RIP Shammi Kapoor. But Shammi Kapoor can never rest in peace. For that matter, Shammi Kapoor can never rest. Had he rested, he'd not have been Shammi Kapoor.

7 comments:

  1. It was kind of eerie, last evening a few friends gathered to celebrate rakhi, (I know it sounds weird, the simultaneous occurrence of friends and rakhi in the same sentence, but let's assume that the celebration was highly logical) and after a long evening we were playing cards and I suggested to play a few old Bollywood songs in the background. After a few Hemant da classics, it was ishaaron ishaaron mein dil lene waale...and even though I was highly engrossed in the game of judgement, I took my eyes off and paid a brief tribute silently to my all time favourite star, shammi kapoor, and I thought to myself, how much I admire this star ot his inimitable style, the moment was very persoal and hence I kept it to myself only. The time was 1:30- 2:00 (GMT- Amsterdam) in the morning and it was Sunday 14 th of August......today I switched on my iPad and one terrible news caught my attention, shammi is no more, passed away on around 5 o'clock sunday morning, India time!

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  2. Mind you! I love you!

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  3. Your father and my father seem to be clones! My dad lived and breathed Bollywood until the 1980s when the industry entered the doldrums. And in this religion, Shammi was a God. My fav song is 'ehsaan Tera hoga'. Excellent obituary.

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  4. Tareef karoon kya uski...

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  5. Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
    And then is heard no more. It is a tale
    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
    Signifying nothing.

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  6. Lately I came to know that he composed a song with Amitabh Bachchan for Silsila. Is'nt that amazing?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_7mh3pASdA

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  7. Nah! Not much to say after this.

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