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Junglee (1961)

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Shammi Kapoor and Saira Bano in Junglee (1961)

Shammi Kapoor yelled ‘Yahoo!’ and became a new kind of hero for the 1960s. Raj Kapoor’s younger brother had shaved off his trademark pencil moustache in the 1950s and created a new Elvis-style image for the Indian hero as he danced to western-style songs in nightclubs and discos. His physical presence dominated the screen, with his height, striking fairness and endless energy as he danced and pulled comic faces while wooing the new style of heroine, leading a whole generation of young men to imitate his style. Raj Kapoor never found a hero’s role for his younger brother in his films, and Shammi was linked with the Filmistan ‘film factory’, with directors such as Subodh Mukherji and Nasir Hussain, as well as Shakti Samanta, who followed their style. Shammi worked with the most glamorous of a new generation of actresses — Asha Parekh, Saira Banu and Sharmila Tagore.

Mohammed Rafi sang Shammi’s songs with a panache and flair suited to the dancing hero, perhaps surprising those who knew the gravitas and dignity he bestowed on romantic heroes, such as Dilip Kumar and Guru Dutt in the 1950s. Few other singers have the range he displayed in this film, from the dance numbers to the ever popular ghazal, ‘Ehsaan tera hoga mujh par’.

Junglee was one of the first of the decade’s light romances to be shot in colour, which it used to great advantage on locations in snowy mountains and on elaborate sets, such as for Suku Suku, which has an MGM-style set of a giant artist’s palette and an unexplained troupe of Russian dancers. Shammi plays the businessman returned from foreign climes, whose mother is intent on keeping the family away from love and laughter and focused instead on the business and accumulating wealth. Shammi’s seriousness is presented as ridiculous and makes him a figure of fun, a ‘stuffed shirt’. When he falls in love with Rajkumari (Saira Banu), his world is turned upside down and, although his realization of love begins with Urdu poetry, the real epiphany occurs when he leaps around the snow yelling ‘Yahoo!'(‘Chahe koi mujhe junglee kahe’). The newly romantic hero resists his mother’s attempts to marry him off to a princess (a rajkumari) by pretending to be mad. Although he will not marry Rajkumari without his mother’s permission, he reveals the princess to be a fraud put forward by her scheming family, before he and his sister, who elopes with her lover, persuade the mother to become more loving and give up her ‘patriarchal’ role. The theme of young lovers obeying their parents, while persuading them that love is the answer, is a regular theme of Hindi films even up to the present.

Cast and Production Credits

Year – 1961, Genre – Drama, Country – India, Language – Hindi, Producer – Subodh Mukherji Production, Director – Subodh Mukerji, Music Director – Shanker Jaikishan, Cast – Helen, Shammi Kapoor, Saira Banu, Shashikala, Anoop Kumar, Azra, Sangeeta, Asit Sen, Rajen Haksar, Shivraj, Lalita Pawar

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