Old memories: Yesterday's bubbly, agile hero shooting for the film 'Ajooba', in which he plays the role of Jaberjung Sultan. When the guests come to the studio and find a huge body sitting in front of a big table, they suddenly have to dive into a sea of surprises. It is difficult to believe that time can change a hero so much physically and mentally. During the days of his youth, the hero who lived a superstar life had the speed of an ant and the condition of a sage wearing all kinds of garlands around his neck. Seizing the opportunity, we offered him a few conversations and his younger brother Shashi Kapoor sat near him, teasing him by calling him 'old lion'. Sitting between these two heavy-bodied men, we felt trapped between two old lions during the conversation. There was a time when every youth in this country liked to call himself Shammi Kapoor. Those were your top days, but like today's heroes maintain their bodies with great effort and remain in the same position for years even after their fellow heroines are out. Like Dharmendra and Jitendra, your days of ‘yaa…hoon’ ended very quickly. I think your shop was closed sometime in 1970-71. What was the reason for that?
My style in films at that time was different from everyone else. There was a lot of physical effort in those swings. The way I was breaking my legs by jumping and doing stunts, I couldn't do it for long. Even then I stretched my days as many days as possible. I closed my shop the moment I realized that this work was no longer my cup of tea.
Shammi ji, everyone in your family, from Raj Kapoor to Shashi Kapoor, and Randhir Kapoor, have become producer directors. Don't you have any such intention? We wanted to know.
'No. I have done everything I wanted in life. Never has any of my work been stuck due to lack of breaks, lack of resources, or financial difficulties. There is no space left vacant in my life. I have been in this film industry for a long time and I have seen everything.
By the way, I have made a film on 'Iramsala Deuce' with Zeenat Aman. The ‘entertainment’ which could not work probably had too much ‘sophistication’. I did my job right in the making of this film and also enjoyed it. I also made a film for children named ‘Bandalbaaz’.
Which films are you currently working on?
‘These days I am not taking much workload on myself. The work on the film ‘Tu Hi Meri Zindagi’ will start in late October or early November. The shooting of the films 'Humshakal' and 'Namak' has been completed. I do a few films to keep myself busy with work. By applying color to my face, I feel like a part of the industry - after returning home tired in the evening, I get the satisfaction that today I have earned my 'drink' money. I am not only losing but also gaining TV at 9 pm.
But how did you agree to do the upcoming serial 'Gul Gulshan Gulfam' which is based on the background of Kashmir because we do not see any special role of yours in it?
'I was satisfied after reading the script of this serial, hence I agreed to do this role. When Prem Kishan came to ask me about this role, instead of 'yes' or 'no', I told him that only if I get to do two or four scenes in it as per my expectation, then I can think about it. '
Shammi ji, you used to work in this industry as a hero years ago and even today you are working in the same industry as a character artist. Apart from this, what is the difference between its past and present condition?
'The style of working is different. We have never worked in more than one shift and these people forget to count their shifts. I don't know whether he can do justice to any of his films or not, nor was it a cat-and-mouse race in our times. Neither was anyone number one nor was anyone at number two. Everyone had their own place and status. Dev Anand had his own style. Raj Kapoor had his own romantic image. There were no other Devdas like Dilip Kumar and only Shammi Kapoor could do 'Yaa...Hoon'. We all got our share of success and we all had good relations. I was happy with my fate.
You must have been getting a lot of fan mail at that time. Can you tell from whose and what type of letters they mostly contain?
Let's laugh out loud...
'What is there to hide in this? Obviously, fan mail used to be mostly from girls or women. Who used to be attracted to the jerks of that thin Shammi Kapoor? Not on me. Saying this and laughing - (pointing towards his obesity with his hands)
How much satisfaction did you get when you were at your best?
'Very! Both because of our job and because of our popularity. I have lived every moment of my life. That too as per my choice.
Are you satisfied with the kind of roles you are playing today?
‘First of all, the number of films I am doing is very low. Now, not all of those roles can satisfy me as well as the audience, yet the audience will like my roles in 'Premrog', 'Hukumat', and 'Humshakal' also.
Shammi ji, all the heroines swear to retire from films after marriage, even those who have given a golden period to their career and after some time return to films after becoming a mother. What is the magnetic force that draws them back to this profession?
‘This is a crazy business. Apart from this, there is not only money in it, there is also a sense of achievement, and it’s glamour. It's like drug addiction!