In the almost 10 months I have been writing this blog, the most often read (and commented upon) post—by a huge margin—is the one about my love for Shammi Kapoor. It is also—again by a large margin—the top search that directs traffic here.
There’s a lot of love for this man out there! And that’s as it should be.
Quite a few people have asked lately for more Shammi movies to be posted here. So here’s another!
Kashmir Ki Kali is the first Shammi film I ever saw. Although I thought he was very handsome, I wasn’t sure about the funny faces and the weird hats. But I loved the songs and his way of singing and dancing through them. Then I watched Teesri Manzil, and realized: yes, he IS beautiful, and I love his funny faces and weird hats!
Rajiv Lal (Shammi Kapoor) has just taken over his late father’s mill on its twenty-fifth anniversary. His inaugural speech horrifies his mother and the mill manager, Shyamlal (Mohan Puri): he addresses the workers as his brothers and sisters, and promises them 5 lakh rupees as a bonus for all their hard work over the years. Back at home, his old nanny tells them that when he gets married he’ll settle down, and they shouldn’t worry about a few drops out of the buckets of money they have. His mother organizes a “bevy of girls” (as he puts it later) to parade in front of him. He thwarts her by pretending to be:
Also deaf, and a bit of an idiot! His mother is furious and tells him that he will marry the woman she chooses. His friend Chandra (Anoop Kumar) suggests that he get away from her for a bit.
Off he goes in his yellow convertible, singing as he steers along erratically. The music by OP Nayyar is absolutely sublime, by the way, every song is a gem. This one is “Kisi Na Kisi Se” and it’s wonderfully picturized with the mountains of Kashmir as a backdrop. Before he reaches Srinagar, he is forced to stop for the night because a bridge has washed out. Staying at the same guest house is a truck driver named Mohan (Pran) and his truck-load of pretty girls, including Champa (Sharmila Tagore). They are flower sellers traveling to a fair. Rajeev and Champa have a little altercation when she pours water on his head by accident; feeling bad later, she sneaks down to take him a blanket and he is charmed.
Back on the road the next morning, he hears singing and follows the voice. It’s Champa and her friends, of course!
He flirts with her and she says that judging from his hat (it is spectacular) he must be a rich man (clearly not a good thing in her book). He says that he’s a driver for a rich man who gave him the hat, and his clothes too! Mohan comes along and warns Rajiv not to mess with the “simple” local girls.
When Rajiv arrives at his house, he discovers that his servant Bholaram (Dhumal) has turned the house into the Hotel Lake View and rented it to a group of girls (named Maya, Chhaya and Rekha) led by their guardian Rama Devi (Tun Tun). Rajiv agrees to let the girls stay if Bholaram will keep his presence there a secret from his mother. They seem to share my view of his headgear:
Although maybe they just mean “madcap” which Shammi certainly is. Bholaram has told them that Rajiv is not really the owner but a crazy man who thinks he’s the owner so that they don’t let slip his presence to his mother either.
We’re not quite done with hats yet:
Okay, now we’re done.
The next day Rajiv embarks on his romantic quest. He buys all of Champa’s flowers for four times her asking price and makes her promise to come to the house again the next day. Champa lives with her blind father Dinu (Nazir Hussain), and bounces home to tell him of her windfall. He tells her to return the extra money and not to return to that house again; that money ruins people and she should only take what is fair.
Meanwhile, Rajiv invites his friend Chandra to come to Srinagar and tells Bholaram to tell everyone that Chandra is Rajiv Lal. The impending arrival of the “real” boss sets hearts in the fake hotel aflutter. Bholaram tells Rajiv on his return from the station that the flower girl returned 15 rupees to him and left. Rajiv sets off to find her and we are treated to another lovely song “Taarif Karoon Kya Uski” as Shammi flings himself about on a boat.
Between Rajiv romancing Champa and Chandra now juggling the three girls, they are pretty busy.
One of the most romantic songs in all of Hindi movie history is “Isharon Isharon”…sigh!
But naturally a spanner in the works is looming on the horizon. Mohan—who is very jealous by now—knows a secret that Champa’s father doesn’t want her to know. And he threatens to tell her if Dinu doesn’t rein her in.
So Dinu tells her not to see Rajiv again. He doesn’t understand how persistant Shammi…er…Rajiv can be. On the day of the fair, Mohan—driving Champa and her friends—is pulled over by Chandra posing as a Muslim with a very tall, pregnant, veiled wife. They get a ride, and we get a great song: “Subhan Allah” with Shammi in his burkha. Mohan enjoys his passenger’s “throaty” voice too.
At the fair, Rajiv dons yet another disguise and we get yet another great song, “Meri Jaan Balle Balle.”
Mohan is furious that Champa has eluded him, and goes to Dinu, threatening to abduct her if she doesn’t marry him. Dinu, frightened, goes to a friend who also knows that he is not Champa’s real father; not knowing that Mohan is eavesdropping, he tells him that if something happens to him Champa should know that she is the daughter of a rich man in Delhi, for whom his sister works. This is enough of a clue for Mohan to track down Dinu’s sister Karuna (Mridula Rani) at the house of Champa’s real parents: it’s Rajiv’s house, and Karuna is Rajiv’s childhood nanny! Dinu had kidnapped the girl as an infant and run off.
Meanwhile, Rajiv tells Champa that he wants to meet her father and get his permission to marry. When she gets home, though Dinu tells her that he wants her to marry Mohan. Champa says she’ll commit suicide first, and tells him about Rajiv. Her father caves and asks to meet Rajiv the next day. She runs to tell him the good news.
The three hotel guests arrive and Champa hides. They create a misunderstanding, and she thinks Rajiv is planning to marry one of them (Chandra has told them the truth about Rajiv’s identity). He finally gets rid of them, but she’s gone. As he starts off to look for her, Bholaram calls him to the phone. It’s his mother: his old nanny Karuna is dying.
On her deathbed Karuna tells Rajiv that he is not his mother’s real son (thank goodness—he isn’t Champa’s brother!). He is the son of her brother Dinu, who was a vagabond and an alcoholic, and abused him.
She tells how she rescued him from Dinu and brought her to live at the home of her employers since they had no children. Dinu would show up occasionally for money; then one day when he arrived Karuna told him that he could take Rajiv but he wouldn’t get any more money from them. Rajiv’s “mother” had just given birth to a girl. Dinu in a drunken rage kidnapped this girl so that she wouldn’t take Rajiv’s inheritance from him. When she’s finished telling him everything, Karuna dies.
Rajiv is understandably upset. He still has no idea that his father Dinu is Champa’s “father” and Champa the girl to whom all the property and wealth truly belongs. But he does know that because of his father, the woman he considers his mother lost her daughter, and that the family wealth doesn’t really belong to him.
What will he do? Has Champa settled for Mohan? Will the truth come out?
If you have never seen this film, you really must.