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“I Admired His Childlike Charm”

Subhash Ghai on Shammi Kapoor

I met Shammiji for the first time at his home in Napean Sea Road. I had gone to meet him for my film,Vidhaata. The film also starred Dilip Kumar and this was the first time Shammi Kapoor was working with him. He was behaving like a newcomer on the sets, and he would ask me after every shot,“Was I okay?” I kept saying, “Shammiji, you are a legendary star and you don’t have to worry about anything.” I distinctly remember our ten-day Agra schedule. I shot with Shammiji for four days and the rest of the time with Dilip Kumar and Sanjay Dutt. Shammiji was so insecure as he felt I had chopped his role or altered the script. “I hope you haven’t changed the script,” he asked. I laughed, and Neelaji (his wife), who was also there, signaled meto keep quiet. Imagine his surprise when he bagged the Best Supporting Actor Award for Vidhaata. He hugged me and said, “Subhash, you were so right. I could not help it. I was so insecure.” I later roped him in for Hero.

It was while making both these films that I got to know Shammiji as a person. We used to chat for hours on the film industry but we also talked about other things. He was very fond of me and he was as dear to me as Dilip Kumar. We also had our own secret ‘language’. I would ask him, “When are you coming for the toll tax?” It was our codeword for a drink! Shammi Kapoor was a very passionate person. Though he was ill, his zest for life was ever lasting. Whether it was about acting, music, films or the Internet,he talked nineteen to the dozen.It was Shammiji who introduced me to the Internet in 1993. I was making Trimurti and he told me, “Subhash, you should advertise and market your films through the net.” I had no idea what the Internet was all about then. With a mischievous smile, he said, “See, I know more than you at this age!” I heeded Shammiji’s adviceand promoted Trimurti on the net. I told Mukul Anand about it and he fell for the idea as he was very tech-savvy. When I met Shammiji at his home last year, he had just returned after doing a cameo in Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar.

“Subhash, I am so happy, you know why? I can act, ya! Mujh ko laga main bhool gaya hoon! I did a shot and it felt really nice.” He was speaking like a debutant actor talking about his first film. I couldnot help but admire the child in him. I also witnessed a phase when hetook to spiritualism and I saw him grow spiritually. It was difficult to believe andI had to ask myself, “Is this the man who was a big star throwing ostentatious parties?” Yes, Shammiji accepted every phase of his life with utmost grace.

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