Geeta took out a lipstick from her purse and asked me to apply it on her maang like sindoor to proclaim our marital status. Geeta and I were married at last-Shammi Kapoor

“I can’t point to the exact moment when I fell in love with Geeta. I guess it was a small incident involving a tiger that did it. I had been pining away for a tiger that had given me the slip. Geeta kept patting my knee and saying, ‘Don’t worry Shammi, you’ll find him.’ One night, we were returning to our hotel after dinner. Geeta was in a jeep ahead. As I turned the corner, I saw her jeep parked midway on a bridge and she was on the bonnet doing a strange sort of jig. I ran to her in panic. ‘It’s that tiger, Shammi, your tiger. It just went this way. Get your gun,’ she was yelling out. I was speechless. There was a wild tiger on the prowl in the vicinity and this woman was doing a jig on the bonnet of her jeep in celebration. She just wasn’t scared. So how could I help it? I fell in love with her. Madly. I still remember the day. It was April 2, 1955.

“It was destined,” Shammi had reflected. “Or else, why did Geeta force herself into Rangeen Raaten when there was no suitable role for her in the original script of the film?”…

Shammi and Geeta had fallen madly in love with each other… “There were a few question marks, though,” Shammi had reflected. “Geeta was a year older to me. She had co-starred with my father Prithviraj Kapoor in a film called Anand Math (1952). She had also worked opposite my brother Raj Kapoor in Kidar Sharma’s film Bawre Nain (1950). I was not sure how my family would react to it. But the apprehensions were momentary. I was adamant within myself that it had to be Geeta. She was the woman I was going to spend the rest of my life with. But, ironically, the hurdle was Geeta herself. A pragmatic, down-to-earth woman, she kept cautioning me, ‘Shammi, I love you. I can’t think of living without you, but I just can’t marry you. I can’t let my family down. They depend on me. They have nowhere else to go to.’

“…Thankfully, that didn’t separate us… My passion had grown to a point of insanity. In spite of her resistance, I kept proposing to her once every few hours like a smitten teenager. And she kept turning me down with her lovely smile.

“Four months of agony, tears, cajoling, pleading, separation and desperation followed. Then one day, the inevitable happened, just out of the blue. On August 23, 1955, we were at Juhu Hotel, Bombay… I had been staying there as there was no one at home. My parents were out in Bhopal with the Prithvi Theatres troupe. I proposed to Geeta again, knowing she’d shake her head once more and smile. But she didn’t. Instead, she knocked me out of my wits. She said, “OK Shammi, let’s get married. But it’s got to be now…”

“You mean right now? This moment?” I asked her in disbelief.

“Yes, just now… or it may never happen.” she said in a no-nonsense tone.

“I jumped up and said, ‘OK, just now… done.’”

“We drove straight to our common friend, Johnny Walker (the late comedian) for guidance. He had eloped with his girlfriend (actress Noor) and got married barely a week earlier… ‘We are Muslims,’ he said. ‘We just had to find a Kazi. You are Hindus, you may have to go to a temple and get married.’ That made sense. We drove to Bandra to my friend, Hari Valia, producer of Coffee House in which Geeta and I were working at that point.

“Hari had had a similar experience. He took us to the famous Banganga Temples off Napean Sea Road, in South Bombay… When we reached the temple at the crack of dawn, Geeta in her by-now crumpled salwar-kameez and I in my kurta-pajama, it was pouring cats and dogs. With Hari Valia as the sole witness, the pujari (priest) performed the ceremonial rites and we took seven pheras (rounds) of the holy fire and were declared husband and wife. Geeta took out a lipstick from her purse and asked me to apply it on her maang (parting of the hair) like sindoor (vermilion) to proclaim our marital status.

“Geeta and I were married at last.”

An extract from Rauf Ahmed’s book “Shammi Kapoor: The Game Changer”

In this photo, Shammi Kapoor and Geeta Bali with their kids.

Celebrating Cinema

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