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Aditya Raj Kapoor: My Father Shammi Kapoor!



Aditya Raj Kapoor with Shammi Kapoor
“Nothing can compare with my father. I once told my Dad I look, walk and talk like him. But for my acting I want to be compared to my mother(Geeta Bali). Now, I can only try to be a good human being. Besides that I want to build a memorial for my parents. My first mother grew up in penury and died before she could enjoy a good life. After my father’s death  my parents are united.
You’ve no idea what happened when we took my father’s body to the cremation ground. God bless the administration for a supreme bandobast in spite of it being 15th of August. I wanted my father to be cremated at Ban Ganga because my mother (Geeta Bali) was cremated there. The send-off was unbelievable. And the whole Kapoor clan coming together as one family…Who but Shammi Kapoor could’ve managed this feat!
There’s a black-and-white photograph we put up for the Chautha. It was the first picture of my dad, taken when we moved into the house where I now live. We moved in when I was 3-years-old after his first flush of success with the release of Tumsa Nahin Dekha. Looking at that photograph, I remembered how much fun I had going for the shoots with him. Even while I was away from home, people on the roads, wherever I was, would sing his songs for me. When I was driving down to the cremation ground with his body, people on the way had put his songs on loudspeakers. Chahe mujhe koi junglee kahe was being played for the final send-off.
The funeral process was going very slowly because of the number of people. People peeped into the ambulance, threw flowers inside and said ‘Yahoo’. I am a deeply spiritual man. I realised the power of mantra long ago. I realised that my father’s mantra was ‘Yahoo’. At that moment it dawned upon me…what being Shammi Kapoor’s son really meant….When I was six, my parents did the wisest thing. They got me admitted into a boarding school, Lawrence School in Sanawar.
Dad came every year for Founders Day. Pran Saab and Sunil Dutt Saab also came because their children were also there. Sanju (Sanjay Dutt) and Pran Saab’s daughter Pinky in fact came to meet me yesterday. Pinky was my local guardian-sister in Sanawar. When I wanted more money I had to take her permission. My mother Geeta Bali an almost-uneducated woman, came to see me at the boarding school more often than my father. My mother had given up her career and my father’s had just started. So she had more time to visit me. My mother was the original Sridevi. She passed away when I was nine. The whole boarding school wept with me. She used to mother all my friends. Those were not easy years for me. Mom was gone. Dad had become so successful he had no time for me. Superstars today have organised lives. In my father’s time fans had no access to him through Internet, television or magazines. They’d barge into our home at any time. I was left with no space that I could call my own with my father. It was my second mother Neela Devi who made that space for me in our home. She devoted her life to my father, decided not to have any kids of her own because my sister and me were already there. No Hindu woman would do this. From boarding school I used to write threatening letters to my father. I used to tell him that I’d run away from school. I told him he could marry any woman he wanted. But I had to have a mother. Neela Devi filled that gap. She turned me from a wounded anguished rebellious howling animal to a human being. Just goes to show, that a mother makes the family.
But I  never stopped missing my  mother Geeta Bali. My first and second mothers were different people. Do you know, my second mother was a fan of Shammi Kapoor and Geeta Bali. She once asked for an autograph and Geetaji wrote, ‘Remember M remember E, put them together and remember ME’. Geetaji almost blessed Neela Devi as though she knew what was going to happen. Geetaji was very adventurous. She was the only woman in the world who could punch my dad and get away with it. She is the one who turned Shammi Kapoor into a star. Before GeetajiShammi Kapoor was under the shadows of his father Prithiviraj Kapoor and his brother Raj Saab. Geetaji brought that change of image. She made him the ‘Yahoo’ star….My mother was gone in just 15 days.
I had gone on location in rural Punjab where she contracted smallpox. It was for a film called Rano, which was later made with Rishi Kapoor and Hema Malini and titled Ek Chadar Maili Si. At that time Dharmendra was playing Rishi’s role and Mummy was playing Hema’s role. My mom had picked me up from boarding school and taken me to the location. I spent the whole month with her. Then she fell ill. My father left his own shoot and picked both of us up. Her condition got worse and finally she died. Dad was doing Teesri Manzil at that time.The death of my  mother left me scarred. It took my second mother a good ten years to heal me. By the time I was 17, I was a rebel without a cause I was going to make my film debut.
Then I found my spiritual guru. And he told me those life-changing words – Leave The Film Industry. At that juncture when I was to be launched as a hero under the RK Banner right after Rishi’s was launched in Bobby, I left. I was also assisting Raj Saab and preparing to be a film director. My father questioned my decision over and over again. But I was adamant.
My Guruji instructed me to try my luck in entrepreneurship. He arranged for me to work with a shipping magnate Yogendra Madhav Lal, then Rajan Nanda. Then I started my own company. For 25 years I never looked at cinema. I stopped seeing films. The temptation to return to the industry never left me. Even after my Guruji’s death, I didn’t look back at the film industry. Only after I migrated to Dubai, did I return to movies. Circumstances forced me to direct 300 episodes for a TV serial. I directed my first English-language film, followed by two others. When I returned to Mumbai at the age of 52, I became an actor…finally. My father watched every single shot of mine in promos, trailers, films….At the age of 76, he played the role of my career guide and mentor…a role he would’ve played when I was 19 had I not left the film industry. Now at my father’s funeral the entire Kapoor clan came together. The cycle was complete. My father allowed me to go wherever I wanted and do whatever I wished. Today I’ve allowed both my children the same freedom. My father wrote the manual for us to follow.”
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