Remembering legendary actor Shammi Kapoor on his 87th birthday today.

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Actor Shammi Kapoor (1931–2011) remains unparalleled for his exuberance and style.

Shammi Kapoor epitomised what every teenager today would like to be. Such was his onscreen and off-screen appeal that he easily became the romantic icon.

A look at Shammi’s career graph will make one wonder as to how he was able to achieve this larger-than-life stature, for he had more than a dozen flop films in the early phase of his career. The films he acted in between 1953 and 1957, such as Jeevan Jyoti, Rail Ka Dibba, Laila Majnu, Thokar and Ladki, did not provide any impetus to his career. Though most of these films had good stories and good actors, their screenplays were shoddy.

But Shammi knew how to struggle and survive. Despite flops, he kept on doing one or the other thing; for instance, he would work in theatre, go out for hunting, read and learn music.

It was Nasir Hussain’s Tumsa Nahi Dekha with O.P. Nayyar’s music that made Shammi a star overnight. Just before the film was released Shammi had bought a second-hand car and celebrated the film’s success by driving his friends around in it. The following year, Nasir Hussain cast Shammi in Dil Deke Dekho opposite debutante Aasha Parekh. The film gave Shammi an identity of his own. Until 1969, Shammi was associated with one hit film or the other. Junglee with Saira Bano, Jaanwar with Rajshree, Shakti Samanta’s Kashmir ki Kali and Evening in Paris with Sharmila Tagore, films that were made in exotic locations and had hugely popular songs, made the audience forget the several mediocre films he did between these hits. He went on to set a standard in Hindi films that has remained unparalleled for its exuberance, energy and style.

His last film as hero was Andaaz (1971) opposite Hema Malini. Eleven years later, by now looking older and having gained a lot of weight, Shammi again made news with Subhash Ghai’s Vidhaata in which he shared frame with stalwarts such as Dilip Kumar, Raajkumar and Sanjeev Kumar and yet managed to win the Filmfare award for the best supporting actor.

In an industry known for cut-throat competition, Shammi did not have any enemies. The thick attendance at his funeral shows how amazingly popular he was in the film industry.

He lived like a prince and went like a king.

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