How Tumsa Nahin Dekha shot Shammi Kapoor to fame and changed Bollywood
[Book extract] The film also redefined the concept of a 'musical romance' in Hindi cinema.
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Tumsa Nahi Dekha did more than just give Shammi Kapoor the first taste of big-time stardom and revitalise his career. It broke the mould of the Hindi film hero and changed his image beyond recognition. It also redefined the concept of a "musical romance" in Hindi cinema.
As Nasir Husain had put it, "My film took romance beyond blushing coyly and running around trees, and turned the hero into a real man, a he-man." Playing himself was no big deal for Shammi, but the challenge was to make the "rebellious" persona acceptable to an audience that had rejected him 18 times out of 19 (one early film, Thokar, had commanded reasonable acceptance).
"I had to begin with a complete image makeover," Shammi had explained. "I shaved off my moustache and created a new wardrobe for myself, wore my own clothes in my films. I picked up trendy shirts, tees, jeans, jackets and scarves - I had picked up some of them from abroad - and hopped into a jeep and accelerated my search for a brand new identity. Geeta (my wife) helped me in my makeover. We meticulously worked on it."
Shammi changed his hairstyle, resorting to the puff and the ducktail. As he told Madhu Jain (author of the fascinating book, The Kapoors), he had watched the Bandra Christians and copied the way they did their hair. He would oil it, curl it, puff it and just push it up. "My so-called new style seemed to appeal to the youth. I think I also made them aware of the fashion trends… The Beatles were in by then. Rock music was coming in… We had our own OP Nayyar with his beats."
Those days, as Shammi had recalled, there were no specialist choreographers for heroes as they seldom danced in the real sense. The directors oversaw song picturisation. ("Flinging arms while running around trees didn't need choreography in any case.") Shammi Kapoor was the odd one out. He was different. He had a great sense of music and dance, could improvise his body movements imaginatively. It proved to be his greatest asset.
Once on the block, Shammi was on to his carefully thought-out agenda. His first move was to take home a recording of the title song, "Yoon Toh Humne Lakh Haseen Dekhe Hain, Tumsa Nahin Dekha…" which Sahir Ludhianvi had penned before following Dev Anand out of the film. OP Nayyar had already composed the tune and recorded it.Shammi Kapoor: The Game Changer; Rs 595; Om Books International.
"I went up to the terrace of my house in Chembur with the recording and danced to the song's rhythm through the night, till the wee hours, until every line, every nuance and every beat had seeped deep into my being. It came out naturally when I hit the floor and the music started playing… and the cameras rolled."
Shammi's inspired presentation of OP Nayyar's brilliant composition encouraged Nasir Husain to give him a greater say in the filming of the songs. "We didn't have specialised choreographers those days to handle song picturisation," said Nasir. "I was very impressed by the manner in which Shammi had handled the title song. So I let him get more involved in the filming of the other songs as well." Shammi's sense of music and flair for innovation did give the songs of Tumsa Nahin Dekha a new dimension.
Shammi did not sign a single new film for more than six months after Tumsa Nahin Dekha. There was no dearth of offers. "But I didn't want to grab every film that came my way," Shammi had explained. "I wanted to be absolutely sure of the path I should take and the kind of films I should do. For the first time, I felt I could be a chooser. I wanted to look for scripts that would bring out the best in me as a performer. I wanted my kind of themes and my kind of music. I was conscious not to get stuck with too many me-too roles and films."
He had resolved to break the barriers separating the reigning Trinity (Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand) from the second-rung stars. "Most of the scripts that came to me had been put together in a hurry to cash in on the euphoria generated by the success of Tumsa Nahin Dekha. But I didn't want to fall into the trap of repeating myself. I said a firm "no" to such projects. My resolve did intrigue many in the industry. They thought I had gone off my rockers. Strangely, nobody thought that I was risking my career by letting go of films from big banners."
"Geeta kept telling me to stay grounded. 'Go by your instincts. Don't be afraid of saying no if a yes doesn't come from within.' I did. She was cool about my decisions, never felt insecure. Her confidence and nonchalance snuffed out my insecurity."