Shammi Kapoor Wedding: An Undying Love For Geeta Bali

Shammi Kapoor was once described as filled with joie de vivre by none other than Amitabh Bachchan. Kapoor was after all one of the few actors of his generation who could breathe such life in his character that even his on-screen representation of a person would invariably exude the ultimate ‘joy of living’.

Born into the legendary Kapoor clan, Shammi Kapoor was always on the path of becoming an actor but unlike his siblings Raj and Shashi, he carved his very own niche that perhaps remains unchallenged even to this day.

Kapoor married his co-star Geeta Bali in 1955. But after her death to smallpox in 1965, he was left devastated. Since his two children needed a mother, he married Neila Devi a member of the royal family of Bhavnagar, Gujarat. His had some brief flings as well, but most of them slipped into oblivion. We take a closer look at Shammi Kapoor and Geeta Bali marriage, and also his other pursuits of love.

Shammi Kapoor – The Junglee And Lovable Star

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Shammi Kapoor was born Shamsher Raj Kapoor on 21st October 1931 as the second son of the actor Prithviraj Kapoor. Kapoor was born in Mumbai, and later moved to Kolkata and received his primary education there. He later returned to Mumbai for his higher studies, and joined his father’s theatre company as a salaried full-time junior artist.

It was in the year 1953 that Kapoor made his debut with the film Jeevan Jyoti, which met lukewarm success at the box office and didn’t really bring Kapoor any recognition. It was his 1957 film Tumsa Nahin Dekha, however, that catapulted him to fame. Kapoor followed it up with the equally successful Dil Deke Dekho in 1959. Finally, the romantic comedy Junglee in 1961 cemented Kapoor’s image as a rom-com actor and a force to be reckoned with. Junglee’s song Chahe Mujhe Koi Junglee Kahe gained a cult fan following and stuck with Kapoor’s image for the rest of his life. Kapoor went on to play more supporting roles from the mid-1970s onwards, and stayed an active actor until as recent as 2011 – the year of his death.

Shammi Kapoor – The Internet User

Shammi Kapoor was an ardent endorser of the Internet, and one of the founding members (and chairman) of the Internet Users Community of India (IUCI). He loved to surf the Internet, and he was even responsible for a website elaborating the entire Kapoor family tree.

Shammi Kapoor, later in life, had to contend with a restriction in his freedom to move around freely due to renal problems – he had to undergo dialysis every week. He suffered severe renal failure on 7th August 2011, and was rushed to hospital where ventilator support helped keep him alive. Sadly, his condition deteriorated the following week, and he did not show any sign of improvement. He breathed his last on 14th August 2011 in Mumbai at the age of 79. He left a lasting legacy unparalleled by anyone. To honour his contribution to films, a brass statue in his likeness was unveiled at the popular ‘Walk of the Stars’ promenade in Mumbai.

Did You Know?
Shammi Kapoor even started a website called ‘Junglee’

A Blossoming Love For Nutan

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The first love of Shammi Kapoor’s life was Nutan, the svelte actress and the mother of actor Mohnish Behl. Kapoor and Nutan grew up together – it is said that the two knew each other right from when they lived in the same neighbourhood as kids. Their families were also good friends, which was a catalyst in their relationship.

Growing up, Kapoor is said to have been madly in love with Nutan – she was the epitome of perfection in a woman as far as Shammi Kapoor was concerned. Nutan, three years younger to Kapoor, got along really well with her suitor, and by their late teens the two decided to get married.

While Nutan’s mother Shobhna Samarth had no objection about it, her close friend actor Motilal staunchly opposed it. Shobhna Samarth had separated from her estranged husband Kumarsen Samarth for some years, and it was her friend Motilal whom she would consult for suggestions and solutions. In accord to her friend’s opposition, she sent off her daughter Nutan to a school in Switzerland, invariably marking an end to the togetherness of the two young love-birds. Despite their failed past relationship, Kapoor and Nutan remained friends for life, and even did three films together.

An Affair With The Egyptian Beauty

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In 1953, Shammi Kapoor accompanied his brother Raj Kapoor and superstar Dilip Kumar to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) for a star-studded cricket match. The two Kapoor brothers and Dilip Kumar are said to have been there for their additional motive to explore the various business opportunities for Indian films in the country.

It was one day in his tour that Shammi went to a cabaret performance at his hotel. It was there he saw the performance of the gorgeous Egyptian belly dancer Nadia Gamal. Nadia Gamal is considered a pioneer in cabaret performance and is often regarded as the founder of modern belly dancing. Shammi was totally smitten by Nadia. “She was gorgeous, and I am irresistibly in love with her.” he gushed later in an interview. Shammi made it a point to meet the lady backstage after the performance in order to compliment her. Needless to say, he was transfixed the moment he saw her. “She was so beautiful that I could not take my eyes off her. I was totally bonkers,” he said later.

Kapoor was slated to have a three-day stay but he kept on extending it by a day just to be able to spend more time with the pretty Nadia Gamal. Four days after the first meeting the 22-year old Shammi Kapoor proposed to the 17-year old Nadia Gamal to which she assented. But she put forth a condition that since they are very young, he will have to wait for five years after which if they are still in love, they would definitely tie the knot. Shammi found her suggestion sensible and conceded to it.

Nadia and her mother were having a stopover at Mumbai before their departure to Cairo, and thus Shammi Kapoor received them at the airport and checked them at the Taj Mahal Hotel as his own guests. The same day he took Nadia out to the premiere of his brother Raj Kapoor’s film, where he introduced her to his entire family. Later that evening, the two discussed their plans before Nadia’s departure the next day, and came to a conclusion that it would be wise if Shammi settled in Cairo, if they marry after five years. The plan was swell enough for both, and so the two bid adieu with heavy hearts, and Nadia Gamal went back to Cairo, while Shammi Kapoor returned to his films.

Oceans Apart

Things would have perhaps worked as planned, but 1953 was a different time – an era without internet and mobile phones. Back then, communication was always a challenge and somewhere in the vast lengths of the physical distance, the two lovers lost their relationship. By 1955, they completely grew adrift and owing to which Shammi found himself getting enticed towards actress Geeta Bali, a woman who would go on to become the true love of his life.

Did You Know?
There is an entire page dedicated to Nadia on Shammi Kapoor’s very own website

The Early Morning Wedding With His True Love

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In the year 1955, Shammi Kapoor signed for the film Rangeen Raatein which also starred the established actress Geeta Bali. Like Shammi Kapoor once said, Geeta Bali ‘was past her prime’ while he was still trying to find a firm foothold. The movie was slated to be shot in the hills of Kumaon in Uttrakhand, and the duo left for the location where they fell in love with the serene landscape.

Perhaps it was the weather, perhaps the environment, but the two fell in love with one another within days of commencing principal photogrpahy. When they returned to their respective homes in Mumbai, the duo had a stark realisation – that they could not live without each other.

Geeta Bali was almost the same age as Shammi Kapoor, but had been in the industry for quite a long time, and in fact, had shared screen space with Shammi Kapoor’s elder brother and father, Raj Kapoor and Prithviraj Kapoor, respectively. The fresh-in-love couple were nervous of disclosing their relationship to their respective families, and it took four months for Shammi and Geeta to amass the needed courage to take the next step.

“She was hesitant. I was adamant. It was four months of agony, tears, cajoling, pleading, non-togetherness, desperation…”
– Shammi Kapoor about the courtship with his wife-to-be Geeta Bali

Things would have continued that way, perhaps forever, had Geeta not taken a resolute and unexpected step one night when she was meeting Shammi at a hotel. It was the night of 23rd August, and Geeta and Shammi were seated in their hotel room, when suddenly Geeta exclaimed, “Let’s get married now!”

Shammi half-thought she was joking but soon realised by the solemnity of her facial expressions that she was indeed serious. He immediately called one of his best friends in the popular Johnny Walker, who had recently eloped with his girlfriend. Johnny suggested that the two waste no time in getting to a temple and getting married. Thus Shammi rang Hari Walia, the producer of his and Geeta’s ongoing film Coffee House and he immediately picked them up from hotel to visit the Banganga Temples – a famous temple complex in Mumbai that houses 92 ancient temples.

Since it was already much too late in the evening, the priest asked them to come in early – at four in the morning. And so, the lovebirds returned at 4:30 i the morning and finally got married the traditional way with Hari Walia as the sole witness.

“Geeta took out a tube of lipstick from her purse and asked me to apply it on her maang.”
– Shammi Kapoor sharing an incident from his wedding

The newlyweds went straight to the Kapoor residence where they took the blessings of Shammi Kapoor’s grandfather Dewan Basheswarnath Kapoor. Since the rest of the Kapoor family was out of town he rang them up to inform that he was now a married man. They later visited Geeta Bali’s parent’s place, where they assented to their marriage.

The Irreplaceable Loss Of His Life

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Shammi Kapoor and Geeta Bali were blessed with their first born, a son, in 1956. They named him Aditya Raj Kapoor. In 1961, they had a daughter, Kanchan Kapoor. It was a perfect matrimony, and there was nothing more Shammi would have desired at that time. Things were all well, when suddenly in early January 1965, Geeta Bali took ill during the making of one of her Punjabi films. She was diagnosed with smallpox, and was completely bed-ridden thereafter. Her condition deteriorated with time, and on the 21st of January in 1965, she breathed her last after just a couple of weeks of illness.

Needless to say, Shammi Kapoor was devastated by the loss of his beloved wife. It is said for many years he was in a deeply depressed state because he just could not come to terms with his wife’s untimely and sudden demise. However, there was another thing. Their children, Aditya and Kanchan, were young and they needed the love and support of a mother.

Neila Devi – Bringing Life Back On Track

Shammi Kapoor’s family was very much stirred by the loss of Geeta Bali, and the grief of Shammi Kapoor was too much for them to see. Shammi’s sister-in-law, Krishna Kapoor, wife of Raj Kapoor, felt she knew what could be done. Krishna felt that Neila Devi, the sister of Shammi’s friend Raghuvir Singh, would make an ideal spouse and mother for the Kapoor family.

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Neila Devi and Shammi Kapoor were no strangers – Neila was only nine years old when the 19-year old Shammi Kapoor had visited her Bhavnagar, her home town, to stage a play with his father’s theatre company. Neila Devi belonged to the erstwhile ruling family of the royal kingdom of Bhavnagar, and her father and brother soon became good friends with the Kapoor clan. Neila Devi’s family later resettled in Mumbai, which strengthened their bond with the Kapoors.

Shammi’s family stayed insistent that he gave marriage a second chance with Neila Devi, and therefore due to his family’s persuasion he called Neila Devi one day. Neila Devi later shared in an interview that their conversation, which started around midnight lasted till dawn in which Shammi Kapoor shared everything about his marriage with Geeta Bali, his children, his work and other various nuances of his life. At the end of his conversation, he asked Neila Devi to come to his house and ‘stay for a lifetime’.

The very next day, Shammi Kapoor’s father Prithivraj Kapoor visited Neila Devi’s father to seek her hand for his son Shammi Kapoor.

Shammi Kapoor and Neila Devi got married the same day that is 27th January 1969 at the Kapoor residence. Neila was well aware that her first role was to be a mother and then a wife. In an interview, she once shared that she never felt ‘threatened’ by Geeta Bali’s memory. In fact she always admired Geeta Bali, and was her ardent fan – she even had her autograph, which she considers one of her most prized possessions.

“When I got married, I knew I’d always get second billing…. Shammiji spoke often about Geetaji. He missed her. He did care for me and couldn’t do without me but the way he loved Geetaji was different.”
– Neila Devi about marriage with Shammi Kapoor

Neila Devi didn’t have any children of her own, so to speak, but she didn’t forsake her motherhood per se as she was responsible for the upbringing of two children. She was always content with her role of being the second woman in her husband’s life. It was after all a promise made to her husband that she will always be the caring mother to her children, and keep the family happy and united – exactly how Geeta Bali would have done it.

A Life Not Free Of Admirers

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For Shammi Kapoor, the suave star, it was always raining admirers. One of his zealous admirers was actress Mumtaz, with whom he worked in the 1968 film Brahmachari. During the making of the film the two got quite close, and soon Shammi proposed marriage to Mumtaz. It was a dream come true for the actress, and while she conceded to his marriage proposal she was not going to endorse the archaic Kapoor family policy – women are not allowed to work in films. It became a bone of contention in their brief fling, and soon the two parted ways after the completion of Brahmachari.

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While the Mumtaz episode occurred right before Shammi’s second marriage with Neila Devi, there was always a perpetual admirer of him who had just met him when his first wife has passed away. It was the socialite Bina Ramani. She made the expositions of her infatuation towards Shammi Kapoor in her autobiography. Bina Ramani always harboured a liking for the actor and was introduced to him by Raj Kapoor’s wife Krishna Kapoor just few days after his first wife Geeta Bali had passed away. Bina was keen to tie the knot with Shammi – and was ready to elope for that – but her parents did not endorse her choice, and she later married a US-based Indian businessman.

Joy Of Living, Indeed

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Shammi Kapoor’s energy was totally electric, and those who knew him even regarded his zeal infectious. He was known as someone who had a certain ‘zest for life’, which is till day unmatched by anyone in the showbiz. Perhaps no better way to sign-off would be this wonderful quote about Shammi Kapoor by his co-star, the actress Ameeta.

“I can look back and say that there has been nobody like Shammi Kapoor. His sense of music, his sense of rhythm, his comic timing and his unique performing style were just amazing. They made him stand apart. He was an original. Whatever he had done decades ago, the youngsters are doing now.”
– Actress Ameeta on Shammi Kapoor

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