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Pagla Kahin Ka

By Deepak Kriplani

Rafi Sahab with Shankar and Shammi Kapoor

Rafi Sahab with Shankar and Shammi Kapoor

I was renewing a fixed deposit at the bank when the Message Alert sounded on the cell. Do you know Shammi Kapoor died this morning? There goes my chance to meet him, I rued. It had been two years and more since my friend Girish and I had first talked about going over to meet him. Girish had gotten as far as speaking to him on the phone. We had discussed it again, as recently as a few days ago.

Strangely, Shammi Kapoor had cast his spell on me not through his performances, but through his music. I wanted to ask him how he worked with his (and mine too) favourite music team to create those memorable numbers. Over time, though, I realised that his unique screen persona added another dimension to the music that came to be identified with him.

The 1950s and 1960s was the golden age of Hindi film music. While the music of the 50s carried a certain purity and innocence, the next decade witnessed the immortals at the peak of their creative genius. None epitomized the 60s better than Shammi Kapoor lip-synching a Rafi rendition of the music of the Shailendra-Hasrat Jaipuri-Shankar-Jaikishan quartet. From Yahoo to Suku suku, Laal chhadi maidan khadi, Tumse accha kaun hai, Aasmaan se aaya farista, An evening in Paris, Diwane ka naam to puchcho, Chakke mein chakka, Badan pe sitare lapete hue, Dekho tumse achcha kaun hai and Log kahen mujhe pagla kahin ka, it was mayhem all the way. There was no method to the madness; the madness was the method.

As the day progressed, news channels ran special reports on the actor. A scroll that caught my attention, offered a ray of hope. The funeral was scheduled for 11 am the following day. It set my mind racing. This was the last chance to see him! I called Girish. He was on his way to a screening of (the irony of it all) Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and would decide after the show ended around 6 pm. Perhaps, we could go the next morning. The next call was to Binu, founder of the Rafi Foundation and possibly the most devoted Rafi fan ever. He was going later in the day.

Rafi Sahab with Shankar and Shammi Kapoor

Rafi Sahab with Shankar and Shammi Kapoor

A few more calls and it was decided that the three of us would meet outside Mahim station at 6.45 pm. It was 7.30 by the time we set off. With half of Bombay vacationing on the long weekend, we sailed through to Napean Sea Road. Two enquiries later, we were walking up the slope that led to his apartment building. In hindsight, we were glad we didn’t wait until the morning and run the risk of encountering traffic, star gazers, media contingents and the like. But for a TV van, some cops and a few neighbours, there was nobody around.

With the funeral several hours away, the rebel star rested in a refrigerated unit elegantly decorated with flowers, his face showing through a glass panel. His son approached us with a gentle smile, palms joined in a namaste. He graciously told us to be seated when we introduced ourselves. There were about 20 family members, film folk and others; we perhaps were the only outsiders there. Binu chatted with some members of the family, telling them that both, the actor and the singer who was his screen voice had passed away in the holy month of Ramzan.

We came away with a feeling of closure. Both Binu and Girish had conversed with him on the phone but none of us had ever met him. We now had, in a sense. While walking down a market street on the way back, I caught a snatch of the Shammi Kapoor number Badan pe sitare lapete hue on the radio. There are days when impulse works and coincidences that would considered as stretching creative licence in fiction writing, play out in real life. The line playing as we passed by was: Hamein jab na honge to ai dilruba, kise dekhkar haye sharmaogi.

Mr Junglee needn’t worry. His charm will endure.

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12 Blog Comments to “Pagla Kahin Ka”

  1. Deepak Kirpalani says:

    Yasmin, any good music store in Bombay will have DVDs of Shammi Kapoor’s films.

  2. Yasmin Banu says:

    Deepak Kriplani Ji,
    Thank you very much for paying the last respects to Shammi Ji, Since 14th August, I am going through this mental turmoil of losing Shammi Ji. I know he was in dialysis and going through inordinate amount of pain. The body needed the rest and he got the rest. Somewhere to the millions of his fans, we lost his voice 31 years before in Ramadan and finally the body always took abode during Ramadan. I am just seeing various interviews of Shammi ji and it seemed he was mentally prepared. What a personality? Very few people like him grace our planet like this and losing them is our eternal lose.

    It is gratifying that you did not lose this final opportunity, you really took the initiative and this experience your shared helped me in greater extent. God bless you. I just want to know where in Bombay is the appropriate place to get Shammi Ji films DVDs my friend is presently in Mumbai I want to send her to get his films. All my previous VHS are in my home town in India (don’t know what state they are. Now one has uploaded in Torrents his other films. I have “junglee, Kashmir ki Kali, Bhramachari, An evening in paris and Andaz’ as torrent.

    Anticipating your kind reply

    Thank you – Yasmin Banu

  3. Mehboob Alam says:

    i am fond of Rafi Sahib The Legend Singher of Indo-Pak
    the golden voice of Rafi Sahib facinated me ever. but tha dilimma is that golden collection was not availabel in pakistan.May Allah bless with him countless shower.
    With best wishes,
    Mehboob Alam

  4. Binu Nair says:

    Post 6 : Hans:I have liked Shammis acting in “bluff master” and as collegians we used to see it every year at New era talkies, next to ex Bombay talkies opp where beautiful madhubala used to stay and discovered.

    this is in malad.

    there is no song to beat Govinda ala re ala……on any Gokul Ashtami day.

    but, to climb up human pyramids to break the dahi handi is palpable and leaves a bad taste. since, no god has told us to break our skulls, bones and limbs when singing paens to the god’s.


  5. Binu Nair says:

    Good Morning Rafi Sahib Lovers…

    Just to point out that True Voice article has got maximum comments . its over 3000 and marching ahead.

    i am now wondering how these salans and the shor fans get in to this old article . ( i mean find the article ) from the stacks of articles published every week.

    it has beeen very difficult for many of us to get there.

    “chalti gaadi me chad jaana – unka aadat sa ho gaya hai. aur jalna bhi”. i only hope they do not ‘fade’ away due to Jealousy since ..
    they owe a responsibility to their masters…..on their vacant sites.

  6. Hans says:

    kindly read ‘scene’ for ‘seen’ in the third line from last.

  7. Hans says:


    as rafi’s songs start a visual – in the mind’s eye – of the scene in the film, your description of your visit to pay respects to our beloved shammiji made me feel as if i was myself visiting that place and having the last darshan of shammiji.

    those who give credit to shammi only for his antics bordering on madness, should see his other side also. he knew acting after all. in junglee he acts perfectly the two contrasting roles. there is a scene in ‘prince’ where in the initial part of the film he beats up a sanyasi and when he does not yield, he falls on his knees and requests the sanyasi to obey him. that seen is the triumph of his acting skills. he was an entertaining actor, with a heavy topping of rafi’s gems.

  8. Ali says:

    We lost shammi ji twice first his voice in 1980 and in 2011 him,the pair of mohd rafi and shammi they back together again after long 31 years,

  9. akshay bisht says:

    dear friends
    Aap log yahan jo bhi arguments karte hai.kishore da ke fan to kuch likhne ki permission hai nahi toh ish argument ka kya fayda

  10. Binu Nair says:

    Rafi Saheb Fans….

    Yes. between threee of us we placed 21 white roses at the feet of Yahoooo Shammi ji.

    this was for the sake of Innumerable music lovers – who would not have made it to mumbai from outstations. in fact, the idea of the white roses was given by a music fan from farway fiji islands. she is a great mohd rafi/shammi and golden era songs – fan.

    today, another great mohd rafi fan passed away. mr shandar amrohi son of kamal amrohi was buried next to his dad and meena kumari at 4 pm. Shaandar used to always tell us anecdotes about mohd rafi.

    after the recording of : ” kahi ek masum najuk si ladki” shaandar complimented the tansen rafi saheb who just looked up and complimented the neeli chatri waaale.

    this song was sung by a very popular singer from south india but cancelled by kamal amrohi the – perfectionist to the core and recorded in the voice of mohd rafi. mr shandar had mentioned this to me.

    may his soul rest in peace.

  11. P. Haldar says:

    Deepak ji,

    I thank you, Binu ji and Girish ji for paying the last respects to Shammi ji on behalf of Rafi fans.

    P. Haldar

  12. vinod mehru says:

    dear deepak ji,
    aab to radio/tv/aur dvd mein hi hum unhe dekh aur sun sakte hai

    bahut hi naseeb wale ho, jo aap ko shammi ji ka aakhiri darshan karne ko mila, do aatmaye aapas mein mil hi gayi naa.

    binu nair saheb ko request kiya hai ki ek show kare 21st oct, 2011 ko, dekhe kya hota hai.
    with regards
    vinod mehru

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