Flashback: 'My mother contributed in the making of Shammi Kapoor:' Aditya Raj Kapoor remembers Geeta Bali

On Geeta Bali's death anniversary, Aditya Raj Kapoor recalls his mother and credits her for his father Shammi Kapoor's ‘Yahoo’ star image

Subhash K Jha January 21, 2022 14:32:00 IST
Flashback: 'My mother contributed in the making of Shammi Kapoor:' Aditya Raj Kapoor remembers Geeta Bali

Long before the coronavirus, there was the pox. It was the killer contagious disease of the 1950s and 60s and it spared no one. Not even the ebullient Geeta Bali who was the original Sridevi…perky, ebullient, bubbly, effervescent, Geeta lost her life at 35.

“All of a sudden she was gone,” her son Aditya Raj Kapoor recalls. Aditya is the son of Shammi Kapoor and Geeta Bali.

Recalling the painful and sudden death of his mother, Aditya added, “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.”

Asha Parekh who starred with Shammi Kapoor in Teesri Manzil recalls the time when Shammi came back to the shooting after his wife’s death. “The entire shooting was shrouded in a pall of gloom. We didn’t feel like shooting. But the show had to go on. The first thing we shot when Shammi Chacha came back was the soberest song of Teesri Manzil, 'Tumne mujhe dekha hokar meherbaan' which required no dancing. Shammi Chacha had lost his spark.”

Aditya credits his mother with his father’s ‘Yahoo’ image. “She is the one who turned Shammi Kapoor into a star. Before Geetaji, Shammi Kapoor was under the shadows of his father Prithviraj Kapoor and his brother Raj Saab. Geetaji brought that change of image. She made him the 'Yahoo' star. She pulled him out of his obsession with socialist cinema and gave him this new wild sexy image. My father’s famous dance moves were actually my mother’s steps. If you see her dancing in Kidar Sharma’s 'Jabse Tumhe Dekha Hai' she moves exactly the way my father became famous doing. The death of my mother left me scarred. It took my second mother a good ten years to heal me.”

Flashback My mother contributed in the making of Shammi Kapoor Aditya Raj Kapoor remembers Geeta Bali

Born on 23 August 1955, Geeta Bali’s real name was Harkirtan Kaur. She made her debut as a child artiste at age 12 and as a leading lady in 1946 in the film Badnaami. Director Kidar Sharma who played a very important role in Geeta Bali’s stardom once said about her, “I consider her one of our great artistes. There was nobody who performed like her. She was very versatile. When she entered the industry, everybody had written her off. I believed in her and made her a star."

Geeta’s memorable roles were in Suhaag Raat, Bawre Nain, Albela (where she matched dancing strides with the inimitable Bhagwan). Geeta also starred opposite Dev Anand in two of Guru Dutt’s lightweight crime thrillers Baazi and Jaal. Dev Anand, never one to hold back his admiration, told me, “Geeta Bali was a natural in front of the camera. Something happened when she was on camera. Some magic. In Baazi she had the audience eating out of her hands when she danced to 'Tadbeer se bigdi hui taqdeer bana le'. That was one Geeta (Dutt) singing another Geeta (Bali) to fame.”

Geeta Bali’s most memorable role has to be in Kidar Sharma’s Rangeen Raatein where she played a man!! Not a woman disguised as a man. Geeta actually played the role of a man. The heroine’s role was already taken up (by Mala Sinha) and she so desperately wanted to be close to the film’s hero Shammi Kapoor. Convincing her mentor Kidar Sharma to let her play a male character was easy. There was nothing that Geeta Bali couldn’t do.

Subhash K Jha is a Patna-based film critic who has been writing about Bollywood for long enough to know the industry inside out. He tweets at SubhashK_Jha

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