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21 October 2015

Shammi Kapoor - In Perpetual Motion

The late Shammi Kapoor loved to narrate an anecdote of how incensed he was with director Shakti Samanta because the latter had recorded Aasman se aaya farishta  from An Evening in Paris, in Shammi's absence. Shammi liked sitting in on the rehearsals and recordings of his songs, and had told Samanta to wait until he came back from one of his outdoor schedules. However, the recording theatre having already been booked, Samanta went ahead with the recording.

Faced with his angry hero, Samanta calmed him down by suggesting that Shammi hear the song before deciding whether to re-record the song or not. When he did, Shammi realised that there was not a single note that he would have wanted sung differently. When he asked Samanta how they managed it, the latter replied that before recording the song, Mohammed Rafi had enquired on whom it was to be picturised. When told it was on Shammi Kapoor, Rafisaab nodded quietly saying, 'Oh, Then, he will shake his head at this point; and move his hands and legs this way - that man doesn't know how to stand still! I'll have to sing it this way..." 

It is not just that Shammi Kapoor didn't know how to stand still; it is that he seemed to have an inordinate number of songs that were picturised in/on some mode of transport or the other. Last year, on this same date, I had done a post on Shammi Kapoor and various musical instruments. Now it is time to chronicle his trysts with travel, whether in vehicles or on animals. In any case, whether they moved or not, Shammi definitely did. 

So here, on what would have been his 84th birthday, are ten songs where Shammi Kapoor is in some vehicle or the other, but not sitting still, oh, no! Like Mohammed Rafi, I don't think the man knew how to sit still. To make things easy for me (hah!) I decided to stick to a couple of self-imposed rules: a) only one mode of transport per song. (Which meant Aasman se aaya farishta had to be reluctantly dropped. I didn't realise I had made things harder for myself. Ah, well.) b) He had to be in that vehicle, if not for the complete duration of the song, at least for 3/4 of it. 

1. Car / Convertible
Kisi na kisi se kabhi na kabhi 
Singer: Mohammed Rafi
Music: OP Nayyar
Lyrics: SH Bihari
This song comes first on my list for the simple reason that this was the song that I heard when I climbed into a taxi in India, and I was struck by the fact that I was listening to a car song while travelling in a car. Shammi Kapoor—who I think did at least one ‘mode of transport’ in each of his films—multitasks big time here. He sings, he plays the harmonica, he even ‘dances’ a bit in his seat. His Rajiv has just left home without a word to his domineering mother who is mapping out her only son's future to suit her ideas of what is proper for a scion of the family. Egged on by his friend Chander (Anoop Kumar) he is hoping to meet the girl of his dreams at his destination - only, he has no clue who she is. He drives, of course, through the very pretty landscape of Kashmir in the Spring.

2. Shikara
Kashmir ki Kali (1964)
Singer: Mohammed Rafi
Music: OP Nayyar
Lyrics: SH Bihari
A very young Sharmila, an exuberant Shammi Kapoor, Mohammed Rafi's sublime voice, and OP Nayyar's melodious score - combined with SH Bihari's lyrics and some complicated manoeuvring by the shikara boatsmen - make this song both an aural and visual delight. Champa (Sharmila Tagore) is both charmed and embarrassed by this very public declaration of this man's feelings. Even as she stands demurely on her flower-laden shikara, she is increasingly distressed as the song continues. That lasts only until Rajiv falls into the Dal Lake at the end of a particularly acrobatic piece of 'dancing' and then her distress gives way to giggles. The song turned out the way it did because Shammi prevailed upon Mohammed Rafi to repeat the last lines, much against OP Nayyar's wishes. Rafi persuaded OP Nayyar to agree, saying that if the latter didn't approve of how the song sounded, he would record it again.

3. Truck
Kashmir ki Kali (1964)
Singer: Mohammed Rafi
Music: OP Nayyar
Lyrics: SH Bihari
Shammi certainly seemed to spent most of Kashmir ki Kali travelling from one place to another in one vehicle or the other. This is the third song from this film that has him in a vehicle. (I could have added Deewana hua baadal too, but it is not completely on a boat.) Here, Rajiv is still wooing Champa, this time right under the nose of the man who believes he has first right to her hand. Pretending to be the very tall, very strapping, very pregnant wife of a Pathan, a burqa-clad Rajiv gets into the back of the truck with the girls whom Mohan (Pran) is transporting to the village fair, but he doesn't sit silently there - oh, no! He decides to entertain them with a song. And he doesn't shy away from playing with fire - when Mohan stops the truck to check on the girls, and the Pathan woman with the masculine voice, he is still singing, and recklessly lifting his hijab whilst turning away from Mohan.

4. Tonga
Tumsa Nahin Dekha  
Singer: Mohammed Rafi
Music: OP Nayyar
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi
OP Nayyar's signature tonga beats signal the coming of a tidal wave that would sweep all before its force. In a film that was originally made to launch the heroine, Ameeta, it was the hero, a man who had already tasted failure despite belonging to the first family of Hindi cinema, who would rise like a phoenix from the ashes. Here, having appropriated the only tonga to travel to his place of employment, he is busy teasing the heroine who needs this transport to take her back home. She is not very pleased with his attitude, but the driver of the horse cart (Sunder) seems to be deriving much enjoyment from his passenger's vocal skills. Being Shammi, of course, he manages to move around and bring a physicality to his performance even within the close confines of the horse cart.  

5. Scooter 
An Evening in Paris (1967)
Singer: Mohammed Rafi
Music: Shankar Jaikishen
Lyrics: Shailendra
If Kashmir ki Kali saw Shammi Kapoor switching easily from one vehicle to the other, then he seems to spend even more time in, and on, different modes of transport in An Evening in Paris. However, Hoga tumse kal bhi samna is the only song in the film that is sung solely on one vehicle. Shammi, disguised as an Arab sheikh (well, at least the head gear, if not the entire dishdasha), and Rajendranath as a Sardarji, zip crazily through the streets of Beirut (which stands in for Paris, or so Gaata Rahe Mera Dil assures me) on scooters, followed by several others (who join them from nowhere and disappear when the song is about to end). It appears that Shammi cannot sit still even when he's on a scooter. Sharmila doesn't look too happy either, perched as she is behind Rajendranath, who appears to be as twitchy as Shammi.

6. Train
China Town (1962)
Singer: Mohammed Rafi
Music: Ravi
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
I'm just beginning to realise that Shammi Kapoor not only travelled a lot in his films, but that he was in disguise quite often as well. (Hmm, an idea for 'Shammi in disguise' post?) Chased away by his girlfriend's father, Rai Bahadur Digamber Prasad Rai (SN Bannerji), who certainly doesn't consider him good husband material for his only daughter, Shammi's Shekhar has to to find inventive ways to meet her. She is being taken to Calcutta, there to be married off to a more 'appropriate' man; only, Shekhar has to go there himself, and so of course, he's on the same train. In the same compartment. In disguise as a religious mendicant. His prospective father-in-law enjoys his song while Shekhar's beloved is irritated by his constant nudging of her. However, she soon realises who he is, and by the end of the song, so does her father.

7. Jeep
Singer: Mohammed Rafi
Music: Usha Khanna
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
This is part of Shammi's stalk-until-she-relents wooing strategy. Having already run afoul of Nita (Asha Parekh) earlier, he finds himself attracted to her and will stop at nothing to achieve his goal. At this point in the film, he has come upon Nita with Kailash (Rajendranath), the man to whom she is supposed to be betrothed to; both of them are stranded as the car in which they were travelling has broken down. Kindly, Raja offers Nita a lift, and Kailash, a tow. Only, he's ensured that the rope that's towing Kailash's car is long enough to hang him, while he persuades Nita - musically - of his deep, abiding love for her. It is clear she is thawing, even if she is not quite ready to fall madly in love with him - yet.  

8. Horseback
Jaane mera dil kise doondh raha hai
Laat Saab
Singer: Mohammed Rafi
Music: Shankar-Jaikishen
Lyrics: Hasrat Jaipuri

While this is not one of Shammi's good films (it was quite a bore, if you ask me), and this song is not quite up there with his best, it is still a pleasant enough song and you get to see Shammi on a horse. Only, the problem with the picturisation is that when they don't show the horse, it is quite evident that he is not riding one. His movements are too smooth to be on horseback. Also, when they do show the horse, it is galloping but when they show Shammi, it appears that the horse is ambling along at a gentle trot. Quite a dissonance there, but anyway, they focus on Shammi most of the time, and not on the horse, so all is right with the world after all. Who cares if he is on a horse or a trolley?

Train
Vidhata (1982)
Singer: Anwar, Suresh Wadkar
Music: Kalyanji Anandji
Lyrics: Anand Bakshi
It's not that this is the best Shammi Kapoor song I could find, but this was the only other song I could find where he is on a train for the duration of the song. It also shows off the camaraderie between him and Dilip Kumar, so it made a nice addition to this representative list. Here, he plays Gurbaksh Singh, stoker to Shamsher Singh's (Dilip Kumar) engine driver. A train being a far easier vehicle to move about in (compared to cars and boats), Shammi, even at his advanced age, has a fine time arguing with his friend about the Fates being more powerful than man. 

10. Car / Convertible
China Town (1962) 
Singer: Mohammed Rafi
Music: Ravi
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
I began this list with one song in a convertible; I'm ending with another. I almost thought I could have made a list of ten songs with Shammi Kapoor in a car. Not just any car, but a convertible. This is the second  'car' song on this list, and I came across another four while I was researching this post. Ye rang na chhootega is a video lesson on how not to drive a car at night (or at any other time). Shammi certainly isn't paying any attention to the road, so I suppose it is rather fortunate that the drivers of other vehicles are a tad more conscious of the time, and where they are, than these two love birds. I certainly wouldn't recommend driving on what appears to be a main road with such a lack of attention to your surroundings! Ye rang na chhootega is a quietly romantic song, however, full of the promises of true love and fidelity. Unlike Shammi's usually-impetuous wooing methods, this one has him unable to take his eyes away from his companion. One look at the very, very, pretty Shakila, and it is easy to understand why the man is besotted. (Perhaps that is also why he's managed to sit rather still behind the wheel for the entire duration of the song?)

What songs would you add to this list?

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