Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Its always that dreaded moment in the early hours or deep in the night when that phone call comes

Jalsa , Mumbai      Aug 14 , 2011        Sun  10 : 39 PM
Its always that dreaded moment in the early hours or deep in the night when that phone call comes and bears the news of a crisis. Shweta, over for a couple of days, walked into my room gingerly and in the dark spoke up softly - ‘Papa ! Shammi Uncle passed away just now !’
I sat up. The first words that come to your mouth are .. Oh! God! .. and then everything else takes over.
Shammi Kapoor, that rebel star, tall blue eyed handsome beyond greek god good looks, flamboyant, the life and energy and joie de vivre of the Indian Film Industry, that caring lovable elder, now a relative, gone … silent forever !
And a million memories hurry past as you drive down to his ‘Blue Haven’ residence. A cozy warm and welcoming apartment, where we had spent many wonderful evenings and nights with him and his effervescence. And there as I walk past his still pale figure embalmed and kept in a freeze container, you almost feel as though he would spring out of it and with his feisty elan invite you over to dine with him.
I think I first saw him acting in a play with his Father, the great PrithviRaj Kapoor as he enacted a scene for Prithvi Theaters at a hall in Allahabad. He had slid down an entire staircase on set, sitting on a ‘thali’. There was a carefree ambience about him, enveloping everyone around. He worked with Prithvi Theaters in those early years, and after the night show was over would be asked by PrithviRaj ji to join him and other cast members to listen to my Father’s recitation till late in the night.
When I came to Mumbai to join films he soon ‘noticed’ me at some of the social events that I had the pleasure to visit and when I did ‘Anand’ and after, he became a constant for us. Neela ji his second wife after the sudden death of his first, the wondrous Geeta Bali, became extremely fond of Jaya and I as did Shammi ji and from then on there started a constant family like relationship. Little did I ever realize that one day it actually would fructify into a family relationship. Shweta married Niky, Raj Kapoor ji’s daughter Ritu’s son and we had become official relatives.
Shammi ji and I worked together in a few films and it was moments that can never be forgotten. His verve for life, its excitement, its energy was infectious. He would enter a room and suddenly everything would electrify. You were happy in his company and his optimism. Spending a few moments with him could pump up the adrenalin to its maximum degree.
In College when we first saw his film ‘Dil Deke Dekho’, we were mesmerized by the sheer power of his presence. His style his dance his clothes, his puffed hair style that lazily yet provocatively would often fall on his forehead, all became images that every young around the country wanted to emulate. I loved a jacket that he wore in ‘Junglee’, but never ever in a position to buy one like that, had asked my Mother to tailor something similar by cutting up a discarded blanket of mine, which looked like a really bad copy. When we met friends and spent time with them, we would fling our hair and body in the way he did in all his pictures. Somewhere, everyone of us thought we were Shammi Kapoors in the making, if not already.
He would affectionately call me ‘Babua’ and every time he saw me excel in something his was the first call. He just loved life and all that it threw to him. He never gave in. Strong and full of happy will, even as he struggled in his later years, he would never give the impression how gravely ill he was. He would laugh and joke on his numerous visits to the hospital for his dialysis, joke with the staff in the hospital, pull their leg. He would almost make you feel that he was visiting you in hospital, rather than the other way round.
In hospital during one of my visits I told him of my recording of the ‘Hanuman Chalisa’, a rendering he had been most fond of and revered. When I sent my CD to him he would ask to listen to it everyday. Loved cars and driving them. He may have had problems walking during his last moments, but it never deterred him from getting behind the wheel.
‘I want to ride a Rolls Royce’ , he would often say. And when I offered to send him mine to keep and drive at will, he would resist it. ‘Let me come out of the hospital then we shall both go for a drive in it’ he had excitedly told me.
We never could get that ride together.
He had got tired during the last 2 days. Never one to give up, he spoke for the first time in a tone that conveyed that he had had enough, to Jaya a few days ago. ‘I am tired, I can’t take it anymore’ he lamented, with choked emotion. This morning at 5:15 he gave himself up to the heavens !
Tomorrow morning he shall be cremated at Ban Ganga a religious spot on Malabar Hill, where his first wife was cremated. He had wanted that …
Amitabh Bachchan

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