By Atul Mishra Last Updated:
Shamsherraj Kapoor, fondly known as Shammi Kapoor was one of the legendary actors of Indian cinema. From the mid-1950s and mid-1970s, he was a superstar unparalleled. His acting style and the way he brought exuberance to his characters have, even till today, not found a match.
It was because of his stardom that Shammi Kapoor’s love affairs were always the talk of the town as he was linked up with many leading ladies from the film industry. A lot is known about Shammi Kapoor’s filmography and his acting career, but not many know about his love life. So, let’s take a deep dive into Shammi Kapoor’s love stories!
Shammi Kapoor was born on October 21, 1931, in Mumbai to the renowned Kapoor family. His father was the legendary actor, Prithviraj Kapoor. Shammi Kapoor had two brothers, Raj Kapoor and Shashi Kapoor. Shammi had started his acting career with the 1953 film, Jeevan Jyoti but the film had tanked at the box office. However, it was in 1957 that the film, Tumsa Nahin Dekha, had shot Shammi Kapoor to fame. And then, there was no looking back for the actor and he had starred in numerous super-hits like Dil Deke Dekho, Singapore, Junglee, College Girl, Professor, China Town, Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya, among others. His last film, before his death, was Rockstar.
Nutan and Shammi Kapoor grew up together as they were neighbours to each other. It is said that Shammi was in love with Nutan right from his childhood. The two were very fond of each other and the fact that their families shared a good bond, acted as a catalyst in their relationship.
When they grew up to be teens, Shammi and Nutan had decided to get married. But then, Nutan’s mother, Shobhna Samarth had separated from her husband, and it was her actor-friend, Motilal on whom she could rely for opinions and suggestions. It was Motilal, who had rejected Shammi and Nutan’s union. Eventually, Shobhna had sent Nutan off to Switzerland for her studies and that had ended the childhood love story of Shammi Kapoor and Nutan. Later, Shammi Kapoor and Nutan had acted in three films together and had remained friends for a lifetime.
It was in 1953, when Shammi Kapoor, along with his brothers, Raj Kapoor and Shashi Kapoor had gone to Sri Lanka for a star-studded cricket match. One day, on his tour, Shammi Kapoor had gone to watch a cabaret performance in his hotel, where he had met, Nadia Gamal. Nadia was, back then, the best cabaret performer in the world, and is often thought to have invented modern belly dancing.
Once in a media interaction, Shammi Kapoor had confessed:
“She was gorgeous, and I am irresistibly in love with her. She was so beautiful that I could not take my eyes off her. I was totally bonkers”.
He had extended his stay in Sri Lanka for a while so that he could spend more time with Nadia. 22-year-old, Shammi Kapoor could not resist his love for Nadia and had proposed to the 17-year-old, Nadia to marry him despite the 5 years age difference. In response, she had said that he would have to wait for 5 years as she was very young then, and if the love remains intact, she would definitely tie the knot with him.
After the tour, Nadia and her mother had gone to Mumbai before finally departing to Egypt. That’s when Shammi Kapoor had introduced Nadia to the Kapoor family. Later in the evening, Nadia had told Shammi that they must settle in Cairo after they get married in five years. He had said yes, and then Nadia had gone to her home country and Shammi was back to his films and acting. But, without the internet and mail, Shammi and Nadia had drifted apart and had lost touch with each other.
Wondering how Shammi Kapoor and Geeti Bali had met? In 1955, Shammi Kapoor had met Geeta Bali on the sets of the film, Rangeen Raatein. The shooting for the film was to take place in Kumaon, Uttarakhand. Perhaps the weather had played cupid between the two, and within a few weeks, the two had fallen in love with each other. After Shammi Kapoor and Geeta Bali had returned to their homes in Mumbai, they had realised that they could not live without each other. But the two were very fearful of confessing their love. Shammi had once said:
“She was hesitant. I was adamant. It was four months of agony, tears, cajoling, pleading, non-togetherness, desperation…”
It would have been the same way if Geeta Bali would not have decided to get married suddenly. It was August 23, 1955, when sitting in a hotel room, she had exclaimed:
“Let’s get married now!”
Soon after the wedding proposal by Geeta Bali, by the next morning, they were married. Immediately after Geeta Bali had proposed the idea of marriage, Shammi Kapoor had made a few calls to his friends, who had suggested that they need not waste too much time and get married soon. In the evening, Shammi and Geeta had gone to Banganga Temples – a famous temple complex in Mumbai but the priest had asked them to come in the morning. And the next day, on August 24, 1955, Shammi Kapoor and Geeta Bali had gotten married to Hari Walia, the priest, as the only witness. Shammi had once said,
“Geeta took out a tube of lipstick from her purse and asked me to apply it on her maang.”
The two had later gone to the Kapoor residence and had taken blessings from their elders, and even Geeta Bali’s parents were okay with the unison.
In 1956 and 1961, Shammi Kapoor and Geeta Bali became proud parents to Aditya Raj Kapoor and Kanchan Kapoor, respectively. While Shammi Kapoor’s son, Aditya Raj Kapoor is an actor and filmmaker in the Bollywood industry, his daughter, Kanchan is married to a businessman, Ketan Desai, who is the son of late producer-director Manmohan Desai. She is a film producer by profession.
In January 1965, Geeta Bali had fallen ill on the sets of one of her films. She was diagnosed with smallpox and was admitted to a hospital for days. Geeta Bali had died because of smallpox on January 21, 1965, and had departed for the heavenly abode. Needless to say, Shammi Kapoor was devastated because of the loss of his wife. For many years, he had sleepless nights but the call of the moment was the fact that his young children, Aditya and Kanchan needed a mother.
In an interview with SpotboyE, Shammi Kapoor and Geeta Bali’s son, Aditya Raj Kapoor had talked about his mother’s death and his father’s condition and had said:
“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.”
After, Geeta Bali’s death, Shammi Kapoor had met the socialite, Bina Ramani. In her autobiography, Bina had revealed that she was attracted to Shammi Kapoor and was in infatuation for a long time. Bina, in fact, was ready to marry Shammi Kapoor and had even eloped with him but the Kapoors didn’t endorse that choice, and later, she had married a US-based businessman.
After the 1968 film, Brahmachari in which Shammi Kapoor and Mumtaz had acted together, the two had gotten very close. In fact, Shammi had also proposed marriage to Mumtaz once and she had happily accepted the proposal but she was strictly against the Kapoor khandaan’s parampara in which women were not allowed to work in the films after marriage. Their fling, hence, lasted for a very short time.
Distraught by the loss of Geeta Bali, the Kapoors had started searching for a potential bride for Shammi Kapoor. Shammi’s sister-in-law, Krishna Kapoor (Raj Kapoor’s wife) had thought that Neila Devi, sister of Shammi’s friend, Raghuvir Singh would make the best wife for the devastated actor and mother for Aditya and Kanchan.
Neila Devi belonged to the royal family of the kingdom of Bhavnagar at that time and her parents shared a good bond with the Kapoor clan. One day, Shammi Kapoor had invited Neila to the Kapoor residence and the two talked the whole night in which he confessed everything about his marriage and children. And in the end, he had asked her to come to his house and stay there for a lifetime. The next day, Shammi’s father, Prithviraj Kapoor went to Neila’s father to ask her hand for his son. Shammi Kapoor and Neila Devi had gotten married on January 27, 1969.
Neila Devi was 10 years younger than Shammi Kapoor and in a conversation with Filmfare had revealed had talked about their wedding and children. She had said:
“People gave our marriage two months. But the Rajput in me took on the challenge to make it work. I never went beyond my husband and children. That was the key.”
When Neila Devi had married Shammi Kapoor, the biggest challenge for her was to make Shammi ji and Geeta Bali’s children, Aditya Raj Kapoor and Kanchan Kapoor her own. Shammi Kapoor’s wife, Neila Devi had decided against having children of her own and had talked with Filmfare about the same. She had said:
“It was a bigger challenge for me to make Aditya and Kanchan my own than have my own. I went through the same pangs that a mother does. I was strict with them because I didn’t believe in winning their favour by being lenient. Maybe if I had my own children there could have been tension at some point of time.”
Shammi Kapoor’s second wife, Neila Devi wanted to be friends with Shammi Kapoor and Geeta Bali’s kids, Aditya and Kanchan. While it was easy for her to bond with Aditya, she had to struggle a bit to win over Kanchan. Neila Devi had revealed to Filmfare that Aditya and Kanchan were her main concern and had said:
“I wanted to be friends with them. It was easier to make friends with my son Aditya who was around 12 then. He was miserable in the boarding school in Sanawar. So, I got him back. I made him feel he was at home. When my husband went for shootings, the kids and I had a gala time here.”
Talking about how difficult it was to win over Shammi Kapoor and Geeta Bali’s daughter, Kanchan, who was just seven at that time, she had said:
“She was only three and a half when her mother passed away. Kanchan was difficult because she had not known a mother – just a little bit of her father and Krishnaji and now someone had come to share her father. She’d keep watching me. She’d wonder pehle aate the aur jaate the (earlier women would come and go) … yeh toh permanent ho gayee (she is permanent).”
Later, Neila Devi had talked about how she had bonded with Kanchan and had said:
“I began taking Kanchan along with us wherever we went - whether it was a premiere or outdoors. I didn’t want her to feel that I had taken her father away from her. Once we became friends, it was fine. Today she’s a pillar of strength. When I happen to be low, she comes to know intuitively. She’ll call up and ask if I’m fine. The best compliment Kanchan gave me was when she wrote my name under ‘mother’s name’ in her college form. I told her, ‘You should write Geetaji’s name. She said, ‘I respect my mother. But I didn’t know her. I know you’. This was the best gift I could have got.”
Shammi Kapoor was suffering from kidney disease for some time. He was admitted to the Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai on August 7, 2011, as he suffered from chronic kidney failure. He was in serious condition for the next few days as he was on a ventilator. Shammi Kapoor was 79 when he had breathed his last on August 14, 2011.
So, these were the women in Shammi Kapoor’s life, and the story of his two weddings. What we can possibly learn from his love life is that one must never be afraid to give love and marriage a second chance and that way the whole life comes back to a joyful track.