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Book Review – Shammi Kapoor: The Game Changer

Book cover - Shammi KapoorDid you know that Shammi Kapoor had a string of 19 flops before his first hit? Did you know he nearly married Mumtaz? Or that he was really smitten by socialite Bina Ramani?

‘Shammi Kapoor: The Game Changer’, a biography of the dashing actor by Rauf Ahmed is full of such nuggets. It does an excellent job of helping the reader discover the human behind the persona that was Shammi Kapoor. And the delving deep into the personal and professional life of Shammi Kapoor is rather engaging. In fact, Ahmed does quite well in letting the reader know what Shammi Kapoor was as a person. His days of uncertainty while growing up, his love story and marriage with Geeta Bali, his intermittent liaisons (with Mumtaz and Bina Ramani) and then over four decades of bliss with his second wife Neila Devi (after the death of Geeta Bali) – are all explained in great detail.

Writing a book on a personality like Shammi Kapoor could have been a challenging task, but I suppose if the emphasis is on discovering his career graph as an actor and discovering the story of his life, the author has succeeded. Shammi Kapoor’s love for music – though not a revelation completely – is well established by narrating Shammi’s fondness for working on his songs along with his director, lyricist and music director. In fact, if he liked a song composed by a music director, he would buy it off with the intention of using it in one of his upcoming films. Many of his famous songs were not written for his films but he created a situation to fit that song, and they went on to become history.

Through amusing anecdotes and interviews with friends and family, Rauf Ahmed paints a vivid picture of Shammi Kapoor’s zeniths and nadirs. His shattered life after Geeta Bali passed away is one of the most poignant portions of the book.

Considering the fact that Kapoors are the First Family of Bollywood, one would have expected to hear a lot more about how Shammi Kapoor interacted with the other actor member of his family – his father Prithviraj, his ‘quasi-father’ Raj, and younger brother Shashi, for whom Shammi had the love a father has for his son. The other part of Shammi Kapoor’s life that this die-hard fan missed in the book was his directorial turn – in Manoranjan and Bundal Baaz. Then, Shammi’s successful stint as a character actor has also not been delved into.

Another aspect that does stand out like glaring abnormalities are the grammatical (or even factual errors) – for instance, Shammi Kapoor’s daughter Kanchan was 3, and not 33, as reported by the book, when Geeta Bali passed away. It is kind of baffling to note why it escaped the proofreaders’ eyes that Almora has been mentioned to exist in Himachal Pradesh!

But despite its flaws, the book echoes what used to be the caller tune of its subject – ‘Tum mujhe yun bhula na paoge..’ – it is a book that stays with you.

Author: Rauf Ahmed
Genre: Bollywood Biography
Publisher: Om Books International
Price: INR 595
ISBN: 978-93-85-609626


Text by Aarti Kapur Singh

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