The life and times of the Yahoo manFeatured

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WHEN, AS A cub Bollywood journalist, I first met Shammi Kapoor a decade ago, I was speechless. If there was one person I had the most enduring teenage crush on, it was this man. He probably sensed my discomfort and gave me a bear hug and patted my head. It was a truly electrifying moment for me and the fluttering butterflies in my heart turned to flying elephants. It was exactly the same feeling as I tore open the cover of this new book in my hand. It didn’t help much to see those unusually coloured eyes (they are a seductive mix of blue-green and brown) staring away on the cover. My mom would tell me how Shammi's rosy-white complexion and that wild charm would send women aflutter when she was in school and college. Sigh! It hadn’t changed even decades later.

In that sense, Shammi Kapoor – The Game Changer is perfect — an ardent fan of Shammi Kapoor; you get to know a lot about the man behind the actor who, in his quest for a fresh image for himself, carved a niche in Bollywood as the “rebel star”. It is intriguing to learn about his desperation to succeed in filmdom, however accidental and chequered his first steps into films may have been. His days of uncertainty while growing up, more than a dozen flops that he gave in a row right at the beginning, the doubts that had started creeping up within him and those around him, the comparison with elder brother Raj Kapoor, the book has it all.

Writer Rauf Ahmed desists from alluding only to Kapoor’s “comfort zone” in the industry. He, when needed, approaches the subject with an outsider’s view thereby lending the storytelling 360-degree credibility.

Once away from the screen, Kapoor retained his charm by choosing to age gracefully post his marriage with Neila Devi, and, in the last lap of his life, how he also proved to be a game changer in the technological milieu by embracing the internet. Rauf Ahmed also delves a bit into the spiritual journey of Shammi Kapoor with his second wife and his guru.

Since the subject of the book is no longer alive, Ahmed works with the limitations of binging facts, figures and observations basis his earlier conversations with Kapoor and the information that he gathers from friends and family members. Considering the fact that Kapoors are the First Family of Bollywood, one would have expected to hear a lot more about how Shammi interacted with dad Prithviraj Kapoor and his brothers. However, except for a cursory mention or two, this is conspicuous by its absence. The biggest gaping hole is, perhaps, the absence of any information on the kind of relationship that Shammi shared with his brothers Raj and Shashi.

Shammi Kapoor’s story is as much a story of Geeta Bali. Their love story is amazing — how he chased her and one fine day she tells him, “If you want to marry me, do it today,” and they were married in next few hours. The book also reveals that the Junglee star was smitten with socialite Bina Ramani and actress Mumtaz, and almost married them.

What is disappointing to a journalist’s eye is the half-hearted job the editors have done in letting the glaring errors stay. There are a lot of factual and grammatical errors, and this is really jarring.

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