Shammi Kapoor is hailed as one of the most entertaining lead actors that Hindi cinema has ever produced. He was one of the leading stars of Hindi cinema during the late 1950s, the 1960s and early 1970s. He made his Hindi Film debut in 1953 with the film Jeevan Jyoti, and went on to deliver hits like Tumsa Nahin Dekha, Dil Deke Dekho, Singapore, Junglee, College Girl, Professor, China Town, Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya, Kashmir Ki Kali, Janwar, Teesri Manzil, An Evening in Paris, Bramhachari, Andaz and Sachaai.
He was given the name Shamsher Raj Kapoor at his birth in Bombay (now Mumbai) to film and theatre actor Prithviraj Kapoor and Ramsharni Kapoor (née Mehra). Shammi was the second of the three sons born to Prithviraj (the other two being Raj Kapoor and Shashi Kapoor, both successful Hindi Film actors). He was the first cousin of singer, Juggal Kishore Mehra, whose daughter, actress-singer (Salma Agha, her first debut was in Hindi Movie Nikaah a film by B R Chopra) is his niece.
Though born in Mumbai, he spent a major portion of his childhood in Peshawar in the Kapoor Haveli and in Calcutta (now Kolkata), where his father was involved with New Theatres Studios, acting in films. It was in Kolkata that he did his Montessori education and Kindergarten. After coming back to Bombay, he first went to St. Joseph's Convent (Wadala) and then, to Don Bosco School. He finished his matric schooling from New Era School at Hughes Road.
Kapoor had a short stint at Ramnarain Ruia College after which he joined his father’s theatrical company Prithvi Theatres. He entered the cinema world in 1948, as a junior artiste, at a salary of Rs. 50 per month, stayed with Prithvi Theatres for the next four years and collected his last pay check of Rs. 300, in 1952. He made his debut in Hindi Films in the year 1953, when the film Jeevan Jyoti was released. It was directed by Mahesh Kaul and Chand Usmani was Kapoor’s first heroine. He was in a relationship with Nadia Gamal, a belly dancer from Cairo and Egyptian actress, from 1953-55 after they met in Sri Lanka on an occasion while he was on a holiday trip, but their relationship ended when she moved back to Cairo.
Kapoor started out with serious roles but with Filmistan's Nasir Hussain directed Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957) opposite Ameeta and Dil Deke Dekho (1959) with Asha Parekh, he attained the image of a light-hearted, and stylish playboy.
With Junglee (1961) his new image was cemented and his subsequent films were all in this genre viz. Romcoms.Mohammed Rafi was frequently chosen as his playback voice in the movies that he did. In his early career in the 1950s, he acted with established actresses playing second fiddle in woman-oriented movies: with Madhubala in films such as Rail Ka Dibba (1953) and Naqab, with Nutan in Laila Majnu, with Shyama in Thokar and with Nalini Jaywant in Hum Sab Chor Hain. From 1953 to 1957, none of his films made him popular, until Tumsa Nahin Dekha in 1957.In the 1960s he was often paired with new actresses such as Asha Parekh, Saira Banu, and Sharmila Tagore, all of whom went on to have very successful careers. Of all his heroines, he said that Sharmila Tagore, Rajshree, and Asha Parekh were easy to work with.
Sharmila Tagore and Saira Banu made their Hindi film debuts with Shammi Kapoor in Kashmir Ki Kali and Junglee respectively He and Asha Parekh were paired in four films, of which the murder mystery Teesri Manzil (1966) and Dil Deke Dekho were successful.
In the early 1950s Kapoor accepted serious roles in films such as Shama Parwana (1954) with Suraiya, comedy flick Mem Sahib (1956) with Meena Kumari, and thrillers like Chor Bazar (1954), as well as in the tragic love story Mirza Sahiban (1957) opposite Shyama. He gained more widespread popularity with the successful films Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957), Ujala and Dil Dil Deke Deko (both 1959). In the first half of the 1960s, Kapoor was seen in successful films like College Girl, Basant, Singapore, Boy Friend, Professor, Dil Tera Diwana, Vallah Kya Baat Hai, Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya, China Town, Kashmir Ki Kali, Bluff Master, Janwar and Rajkumar.
In 1968, he received the first Filmfare Best Actor Award of his career for Bramhachari. He made a unique place for himself in the industry as he was the only dancing hero in Hindi films from the late 1950s till the early 1970s. He used to compose dancing steps in the songs starring him and reportedly never needed a choreographer. This earned him the name of Elvis Presley of India.
His pairing opposite Southern heroines tended to be commercially successful. He played opposite B. Saroja Devi in Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya and Preet Na Jane Reet, with Padmini in Singapore, and opposite Vyjayanthimala in College Girl and Prince. In the late 1960s, his successful films included Budtameez and Sachaai with Sadhana, Latt Saheb with Nutan and Tumse Achha Kaun Hai with Babita.
In the 1970s, Kapoor’s weight problem proved an obstacle when playing the romantic hero, and the last such film he played in was Andaz (1971). He would move to character roles and acted in films like Zameer, Hero, Vidhaata, Hukumat, Batwara, Tahalka, Chamatkar, Namak and Prem Granth. In 1974, he directed Manoranjan and in 1976 Bundal Baaz.
Shammi turned into a successful supporting actor in the 1970s, playing Saira Banu's father in Zameer (1974), when he had been her leading man a decade earlier in Junglee (1961) and Bluff Master (1964) and playing Amitabh Bachchan's foster father in Parvarish. He also directed Manoranjan (1974), a movie inspired from Irma La Douce and in which he played a supporting role and Bundal Baaz (1976) starring Rajesh Khanna. Neither were successful commercially though they got critical acclaim and were hailed as classics and ahead of their time. In the 1980s and 1990s, he continued to play many supporting roles and won a Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award for his performance in Vidhaata (1982) where big giants as Dilip Kumar and Sanjeev Kumar played major role in "Vidhaata". He got the opportunity to do some films in other languages such as Bengali and Tamil in the nineties.
He did a social melodrama serial called Chattan aired on Zee TV for more than a year in the 1990s. He eventually cut down on film appearances by the late 1990s and early 2000s with appearances in the 1999 Salman Khan and Urmila Matondkar starrer Jaanam Samjha Karo, 2002 release Waah! Tera Kya Kehna and the delayed 2006 release Sandwich (his last appearance as a character actor). He made his last appearance in Imtiaz Ali's directorial venture Rockstar co-starring his grand-nephew Ranbir Kapoor, the grandson of his brother Raj Kapoor.
Director Shakti Samanta directed Shammi Kapoor in six films — Singapore, China Town, Kashmir Ki Kali, An Evening In Paris, Pagla Kahin Ka and Jaane Anjane (the last two were unsuccessful) — and said in an interview “I found Shammi to be a thoroughly good man. Even in his heyday, he was humble."
Kapoor met Geeta Bali in 1955, during the shooting of the film Rangeen Raaten, where he was the leading actor and she played a cameo. Four months later, they married at Banganga Temples, near Napean Sea Road of Mumbai. They had a son, Aditya Raj Kapoor, on 1 July 1956, at Shirodkar's Hospital, Mumbai, a year after they were married. Five years later, in 1961, they had a daughter, Kanchan. Geeta Bali died from smallpox in 1965. Shammi Kapoor married Neila Devi, from the former royal family of Bhavnagar in Gujarat, on January 27, 1969.
In an interview in 2011, Mumtaz had stated that Shammi Kapoor had proposed marriage to her, as they had drawn close while shooting for Brahmachari. This was post the death of his first wife Geeta Bali. Mumtaz states that she had politely refused, as Shammi Kapoor wanted her to give up her career. Bina Ramani, an eminent socialite also claims to have had a tumultuous affair with Shammi Kapoor at around the same time as Mumtaz.
Shammi Kapoor was the founder and chairman of Internet Users Community of India (IUCI). He had also played a major role in setting up internet organizations like the Ethical Hackers Association. Kapoor also maintained a website dedicated to the Kapoor family.
Shammi Kapoor was a follower of Haidakhan Baba.
Kapoor was admitted to Breach Candy Hospital, Mumbai on 7 August 2011 suffering from chronic renal failure. His condition remained serious for next few days and he was kept on ventilator support. He died on 14 August 2011, 05:15 am IST, of chronic renal failure, aged 79. Funeral was held on Monday, 15 August at Banganga cremation ground, Malabar Hill, Mumbai. His son, Aditya, performed the last rites at the cremation. The entire Kapoor family were present to pay their last respects, including his younger brother Shashi Kapoor, sister-in-law Krishna Kapoor, grand nephew Ranbir Kapoor, nephews Rishi, Randhir and Rajiv, Randhir's wife Babita and grand nieces Karishma Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor. Bollywood personalities Vinod Khanna, Shatrughan Sinha, Subhash Ghai, Amitabh Bachchan, Ramesh Sippy, Danny Denzongpa, Prem Chopra, Anil Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan, Govinda, Aamir Khan, Rani Mukherjee, Shahrukh Khan, Kabir Bedi and Priyanka Chopra were among those who attended the funeral.
To honour Kapoor, a brass statue of his was unveiled at Walk of the Stars at Bandra Bandstand in Mumbai.Filmfare Awards1968 – Filmfare Best Actor Award, Brahmachari1982 – Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award, Vidhata1995 – Filmfare Lifetime Achievement AwardIIFA Awards2002 – Invaluable Contribution To Indian Cinema at the IIFA.Bollywood Movie Awards2005 – Lifetime Achievement AwardZee Cine Awards1999 – Zee Cine Award for Lifetime AchievementStar Screen Awards2001 – Star Screen Lifetime Achievement AwardOther Awards1998 – Kalakar Awards – Special Award for "contribution in Indian Cinema"2001 – Anandalok Awards Lifetime Achievement AwardLiving Legend Award by the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI)2008 – Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to Indian cinema at the Pune International Film Festival (PIFF).Rashtriya Gaurav Award
Shammi Kapoor starred in over 50 films as lead actor, and over 20 films in supporting roles. He has won the Filmfare Award for Best Actor once, for his performance in the film Brahmachari (1968).Shikast (Sony TV) (1996)Chattan (Zee TV) (1997)Main Anari Tu Anari (DD Metro) (1998)Hatim Tai