The Kapoor Family Site by Shammi Kapoor

SHAMMI KAPOOR

Shammi Kapoor

This is my pet name. My full name is Shamsherraj Kapoor. I am the second son of Prithviraj Kapoor. He died on the 29th of May '72 and my mother Rama (Chaiji) followed him 16 days later. She expired on 14-6-'72. We were three brothers and a sister. Rajji, my elder brother who died in Delhi on the 2nd June '88, was seven years older than me. My sister, Umi, is two years younger and stays in Nagpur. My brother Shashi is seven years younger and his wife Jennifer died on the 7th Sept. '84.

I was born in Bombay on 21-10- '31 at 21:30 hours, but spent my childhood in Calcutta. I did my Montessori and Kindergarten there. In 1939 we shifted to Bombay. We stayed in a big flat at College road, Matunga. I studied in a coeducational school, St. Joseph's Convent, at Wadala. Father Fernandes used to come home twice a week to teach my mother anything remotely related to the English language. This definitely helped.

Though I once did get the caning of my life from Father because on our way back home from school in front of other students, classmates, girlfriends and cousins who stayed at the Custom Quarters I boasted that the old fart was having an affair with one of the teachers. This I knew for fact because whenever I was getting tuition from her after school hours, he used to land up in that class and politely order me to go to the Wadala station and buy two packets of, I still remember, "Passing Show" cigarettes. Of course with the cat away they played. This I knew. What I did not know was that I was overheard. On the roadside, on his way back from school, this young brag was overheard by none other than the current who was soon to become the non current. Father Fernandes, God bless his soul, whipped my ass; threatened to have me thrown out of the school. But of course good sense prevailed. My family contribution in the way of school fees was enormous to allow any amorous moralising.

I grew up in an atmosphere of political upheaval. India was in the throes of unchaining itself from the shackles of British Sovereignty. But we, the young-sters, had freedom. We lived in surroundings t h a t were conducive to an active,
sporting life. Two playgrounds, one of Khalsa College and the other attached to the V.J.T.I. The famous Five Gardens behind the Custom's Quarters and the Don Bosco all a stone's throw from College Back Road, better known
as Hollywood Lane because it housed a good number of film personalities.
When we newly arrived here from


Calcutta there were only a handful of Gujaratis and Parsis, Sikhs and Anglo-Indians from the Customs quarters and some South Indians in the back lane. Yes, there were no Punjabis and definitely no film folks. And then the Heavens opened up and the Kapoors landed. With them came the Saigals' (K.L. and Mahender), the Sethis' (Jagdish and Sudershan), the Puris' (Chaman and Madan), the Nandas' (J.K.), the Biswases' (Anil and Ashalata), the Singhs' (K.N.), the
Zakarias' (Jayant), the Jairajs' (P.), the Mazumdars' (Phani), the Peshawaris' (Bismil), the Aroras' (P.N.), the Devis' (Sitara) and God knows how many were in the process of stepping on the threshold of this slippery surface of celluloid,
only He knew.

How could any mortal fathom the resources of the Almighty. Who could foretell that from the terrains of College Back Road will emerge one day Dinosaurs that will take some time becoming extinct. Mr. Raj Kapoor. Mr. Shammi Kapoor, Mr. Shashi Kapoor, Mr. Subiraj, Mr. Imtiaz and Mr. Amjad Khan, Mr. Amrish Puri------to name the few that come to mind easily. There definitely must be a longer list because I remember the number of people who migrated to the Kapoor house after partition and who joined my fathers's Prithvi Theatres.

Yes it does awaken thoughtful appraisal of what was happening to who, how, where, when, and why ? A suburb of Bombay called Matunga housed those pages which would bedeck the golden annals of the Indian Motion Pictures and one day rightfully step into the archives of International Cinema

THE JOURNEY

The train has been plodding through the night. At the end of the long line of wagons are three third class compartments which carry the members of the Prithvi Theatres. Some are fast asleep; some are holed up in a corner playing cards; some are huddled together whispering into one another's ears, and some are holding hands and looking forward to another new city where they will perform in Papaji's plays, Shakuntala, Deewar, Pathan, Aahooti, Ghaddar and Kalakar.
The journey is long or short according


to the destination but it is never tiresome or weary or dull. There are always different groups of friends and as soon as the trip starts, plans are laid out. The fact that you are travelling third class is not only not uncomfortable but also the least bit disturbing due to the togetherness. We are some 80 members, one big family, very clannish. We are performers. Artists. Actors and Actresses. That's how we feel as the train took off from Bombay and that is how we are going to be for the
rest of the tour. Collars up. Flying high.

But this cold morning at the Jaipur railway platform, these heroes and heroines are not flying, on the contrary they are very much on the ground, hauling luggage and looking after unloading of scene and settings from the break wagons in which they were loaded. This is a ritual. Whenever you reach a new place you first locate and find out from our Prithvi Theatre managers, whichever one of them is in the advance party, all the details about the city, the hall where we shall be performing, the advance booking, our accommodations et al. It is imperative that we know where we are staying, in what room and with who, because we all had our own groups and for all purposes lived in and out of each other's pocket.

Tonight as the curtain goes up we shall resume performing, on stage and off too. Such is our life. We may look like coolies in the morning but at night, we are the stars. After the show is over we go back to wherever we are staying and after a quick shower are all set for the night. Some have perhaps been invited out to dinner by their fans, some will most probably hit the nearest bar and some may take to the terrace, loaded with a record player, some records, a bottle and a girlfriend. Such is the rationale of show time people!

When I first performed with Prithvi Theatres, it was in 1945 in the play"Shakuntala" as Bharat.

I was 13 years old, in St. Don Bosco School, hadn't sprouted any moustaches, and was blissfully unaware of theatre jitters and glitters. However I was not unaware of the advantages of being the Boss's son and all the perks that one enjoyed especially in the Food and Beverages department. Besides travelling in an uncrowded compartment reserved for family, there were special privileges when you are travelling with your mother. I toured with the Theatre to Jodhpur, Udaipur, and Ahmedabad.

Shammi Kapoor and Neila Kapoor MarriageThe Jodhpur tour played a very special role in influencing my life. It was during a performance of "Deewar" at the Stadium theatre that I witnessed a scene I have not been able to thrash from memory. During the interval after the first act my father was asked to come out to the foyer to meet HH The Maharaja of Jodhpur. I watched from behind the window curtains my father in his costume and make-up come out and do namaskar. His Highness who was surrounded by his ADCs' and some army personnel asked my father how he drank his scotch, with water or soda. My father politely answered that he did not indulge and that there were only a few minutes before the second act started and if they wanted to see the
show they better get back to their seats.It took a lot of nerve behaving like this with royalty, but, and this I vividly remember, royalty rose to the occasion. He said, quote "Of course Mr. Prithviraj, we are here to see you , come gentleman., let us to our seats" unquote.


The Royal road to hunting I discovered in the Jodhpur jungles. I was instructed in shikar by Col. Mohan Sinhji and his nephews, Capt. Kishen Sinhji and Capt. Devi Sinhji, two very famous polo players of that time. On one of many shoots with them I bagged my first partridge. I was so thrilled that I threw the double barrel gun I shot the bird with and ran to pick it up. When I returned with the dead partridge I got the firing of my life from them. The principal law of the jungle. The Gun
takes top billing.

I met the whole family because they used to often come to the theatre. I was introduced to Robin, the youngest in the royal family, by his mother, Her Highness. He was my age, maybe younger but atrociously arrogant. I went out to many a dry lunch shoot with him. This was the real Royal stuff. Going after black buck on a specially designed for shikar, Rolls Royce. Assorted cold cuts varying from duck turkey and pheasant to dear and wild boar meat. Blue Riband Murree Beer. This was dangerous exposure for me. I was getting used to this luxurious environment, something quite alien to that at 512 A, College Road, Matunga, Bombay.

This was also a very poignant moment for male awareness of female. Real female. Not first or second cousins or country cousins or classmate's kid sister. No Sir.

Never in my 14 years of search for the ultimate has my semi youthful arena been flooded with such beautiful girls. Real, pretty, classy, school kids on vacation. The Maharaja's brother, Prince Ajit Sinhji's daughters; Col. Mohan Sinhji's daughters. Wow. Blue blood stock. It was amazing the way they fell in love with me. All, seven or eight of them. I promised marriage to all of them one time or another. But love them I did not. I was smitten (I think that is the right word) by the most beautiful woman I ever saw. The lady in question, Her Royal Highness, The Maharani of Jodhpur.

I well remember that on our depar-ture, she specially asked for me to be sent to the Umaid Palace to lunch with her and Robin in the Zenana (women) quarter of the palace. I have yet to see and feel the ecstasy of a lady so refined, so poised and definite in what she wanted to convey. After the delicious Rajasthani thali of lunch that Robin and I shared she presented me with a Gurkha Khukri and a BSA air-gun as a going away memento. For them it was a mere ritual but for me it was a moment most cherished.

I have, and very genuinely at that,for quite some time now, been trying to locate where the Khukri or the air-gun are but, alas, after all these, as m a n y as 49 years, there is no trace of the evidence.