It was the first-time Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne was visiting India and Bombay was very much on his Itinerary. He showed a lot of interest in The Gateway of India which was built to welcome one of his ancestors, King George of England. He was for some strange reasons very much interested in seeing the Victoria Gardens (now known as the Jijamata Udyan) he was also very interested in knowing more about Hindi films about which he had heard a lot.
The Government of Maharashtra wanted to show him one of the better studios while a shooting was going on. They gave him a complete background of two studios, R.K Studios built by the showman Raj Kapoor and the Rajkamal Kala Mandir, a posh studio built by a man called Vankudre Shantaram who had started his life as a “coolie” whose job was to carry cameras and other equipment from one place to another. The Prince was charmed by the story of Raj Kapoor and his Studio, but he opted for Raj Kamal because he was very interested in knowing Shantaram, a man who could start as a nobody and rise to be the owner of one of the best studios in India and also be one of the pioneers of great cinema in India.And because he was told Shantaram had several wives living in one bungalow.
The evening of the visit of the Prince saw a large crowd of people from different sections of life. The Prince and his entourage arrived exactly in time, 5:30 pm and “Shantaram Bapu” and his family were at the gate to receive him. The Prince who was a bachelor then and one of the most handsome and powerful men in the world hardly got out of his car when “Shantaram Bapu” held out his hand, but before they could shake hands the Prince cast his eyes on a balcony on the first floor which was the palace-like residence of “Shantaram Bapu”. He saw a number of women standing there dressed in their most colorful sarees with flowers in their hair and gold all over their bodies. The Prince looked at them again and asked “Shantaram Bapu” if they were all his wives. “Shantaram Bapu” laughed and said, “Not all, only two, the others are friends and relatives of my wives.” The Prince told him that he was told stories about how he had several wives and thanked him for clearing the idea about his personal life.
That evening there was only one film being shot on one of the four floors. It was a film called “Aahista Aahista” and had stars like the veteran actor Shammi Kapoor, Nanda, Padmini Kolhapore and Kunal Kapoor, the son of Shashi Kapoor who could not make it in Hindi films “because he was too English” as some of the filmmakers said. The Prince was interested in watching the shooting, but before he could reach the gate of the floor Padmini came rushing towards him and without thinking twice planted a kiss on the cheek of the Prince who was taken completely unawares but also showed signs of being delighted. Even the photographers who were catching every moment of the visit did not know what Padmini would do, but it was only one photographer who was known as P.D.Jagtap who was my photographer and a very lazy one at that managed to get that great moment in his camera and the next morning every newspaper in India and England had the photograph on their front pages. The Prince said he had heard that Padmini was a very good actress and he told her that and Padmini blushed, ran away and hid herself in one of the make-up rooms. The Prince spent some time on the set but “Shantaram Bapu” was more interested in showing him some of his own films. All arrangements were made for the special screening at the studio. The Prince saw glimpses of films like “Do Ankhen Baarah Haath”, “Navrang”, “Jhanak Jhanak Paayal Baaje” and “Jal Bin Machali Nritya Bin Bijli”. The Prince and his team from England watched all the scenes and the Prince exclaimed, “All those films made by you, you must be a genius to make such extraordinary films. I tell you frankly we don’t make such film in Britain”. The great Indian filmmaker who had many other scenes to show but had to cut it short because of protocol reasons.
The Prince then came out into the vast compound of the Studio where the entire team of “Aahista Aahista” was lined up to meet him. He was introduced to each of them by “Shantaram Bapu”. And when he came to Shammi Kapoor who had now grown into a fat aged man with a thick grey beard “Shantaram Bapu” stopped and told the Prince, “He is Shammi Kapoor, one of the greatest dancers to have ever come to Indian films. He is an institution in dancing and the dancing steps he follows are just like magic. There have been many other heroes who have tried to imitate him but all of them have failed miserably. There is only one Shammi Kapoor and there will always be one Shammi Kapoor “. The Prince was interested in having a talk with the actor because he said he was interested in dancing but there was no time. Before he could move ahead Shammi Kapoor bowed before “Shantaram Bapu” and touched his feet and said, “Bapu, you have not only made my evening but my entire life worth it. I will always be grateful for what you have said about me in public, before the Prince of England and the entire media. I cannot express my feelings in words” and the veteran filmmaker said, “I have only said what is true. I firmly believed that there has and there never will be another dancing star like you”. The entire crowd gave Shammi Kapoor a huge ovation and he finally let the tears of joy roll down his cheeks. It was indeed one of the greatest moments in Shammi Kapoor’s life, a moment he talked about even when he was very sick and knew he was dying. Jaya Bachchan who was one of the last to talk to him remembers how he talked about that memorable evening and two days later Shammi left for the dancing floor in heaven.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *