Around his world with Aditya Raj Kapoorby Aparajita Krishna February 5 2022, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 14 mins, 53 secs
Aparajita Krishna talks to Aditya Raj Kapoor, a keen biker traveled across half the world on his two-wheeler, author of books and learner like his father, one of the greatest actors of Indian cinema, Shammi Kapoor, was always known to be.
He carries in his being the familial presence of the great Prithviraj Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor, Geeta Bali, Neila Devi, Raj Kapoor, Shashi Kapoor, among other influences. Even a formal, passing acquaintance with Aditya Raj Kapoor receives a very prompt and genial response. Through this article I want to also acquaint myself and the readers with his present occupation, hobbies while the mainstay of the article would be about his parents: Geeta Bali, Shammi Kapoor and Neila Devi. Adityaji sent me copies of heirloom black and white Kapoor family photos that we carry herein. They tug at the heartstrings. Yahoo!
On the social media/website he describes himself in the present as “A retired businessman, part time actor and full time biker.” He further adds, “I’m indulging in my hobbies of acting, dancing, cooking, riding bikes and painting as well. I’m in no hurry now and just unwinding myself after a long corporate career. Then I’ve just finished a book - Biker’s Diaries, which will be releasing soon.”
Sixty five years young Aditya Raj Kapoor has been an assistant director to Raj Kapoor in Bobby and Satyam Shivam Sundaram and on more films by other directors. He then wrote and directed Don’t Stop Dreaming and Sambar Salsa (both 2007) and followed acting. The noted films being Chase (2010), Yamala Pagla Deewana 2 (2011), as also in Ashutosh Gowariker’s TV series Everest (2014). In the year 2014 he also participated in the bike-ride ‘India Hai’ that covered several Indian states and nearby countries like Nepal and Bhutan. His earlier book ‘Quest’ got released in 2021.
We get riding on a talk…
In 2017 you embarked on a motorcycle trip around the world. I read that you biked through Russia, Poland, Europe, Germany, Italy, USA and Indonesia. Were you primarily visiting ashrams in the countrie? Of what duration was this motorbike tour around the world?
I wanted to see the world for myself and by myself. So when I got the opportunity, I took it with both hands. This trip took me 2 years to put together. To plan and process the information. My book details my route in detail.
Is riding bikes akin to riding dreams?
Now that’s a lovely question! Dreams that you actually dream are different from what you think about with your eyes open. These are your aspirations and desires, as you have mentioned. To ride a bike requires considerable skill and process coordination. So do day-dreams. If you want these to materialize, you have to burn your fat on all sides!
You own a truck and warehouse business. Your construction company has developed the amusement parks Fantasy Land in Mumbai and Appu Ghar in Delhi? Right?
Yes. That’s how I started my business career. Absolutely at the bottom of the ladder. I was taken out of my core competency, that’s the Indian Film Industry, by my Guruji: Bhole Baba. He wanted me to do something different. Probably wanted to change my generational career path. This happened with a lot of difficulty and over my lifetime. I am not a qualified businessman. I posed as a management consultant, because I had to write something on my card. But, I didn’t have any business qualifications - MBA etc. Still, the street smarts I gathered were enough to take me forward. And it did. I just flew with the flow and moved forward in the direction, from client to client. I learnt a lot in the process. Of course I realized that there is no replacement for proper education. Which is what I am doing now at the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU).
You are of a deeply spiritual bent? Do share.
I wasn’t. I was sympathetic to the supernatural presence and that’s it. At the age of 16/17 I was too busy learning the ropes at RK Studio. This was all changed by the presence of Babaji in my life. He revealed his nature and showed me that I too can become like him: compassionate, poised, honest, energetic, logical, rational, mystical, humble, focused and vigorous. And so many traits that exhaust me when I think of them. But the charm worked and I decided that whatever this is, I need it and it’s surely different from what I’m doing in the middle of my complete family.
Religion and spirituality and other words to this effect are often jumbled all together. These need to be understood. These are my truths, of the 3 steps in this direction - Religion: A social code of conduct with the help of a book, Spirituality: A social code of conduct without the help of a book, and Mysticality.
You and your wife Priti have two children, Tulsi Kapoor and Vishwa Pratap Kapoor. You have a sister, Kanchan Ketan Desai.
Yes, I have a wonderful family. I am indeed blessed. My daughter Tulsi is a musician and a writer. She combines her traits into an adventure when she finds herself amidst the traffic of the world. Vishwapratap (was named by Babaji), my son, is a Summa cum Laude student who got into IT and stayed there. He recently got married to a lovely girl, a doctor. Both are progressive in their own way and very focused. My sister Kanchan, never got to spend time with our mother, Geeta Bali, and that loss was always there. Kanchan is a very well read lady, a student of Psychology and as compassionate as the Wind of God. Married to my dear dear friend Ketan, the son of Shri Manmohan Desai, Kanchan and Ketan have two bright girls, who are making their mark on Planet Earth. My wife Priti is my first cousin, but not through a bloodline. She is a Naturalist and a great Horticulturist. Trees bend their boughs towards her when she walks under them. Babaji selected her as my wife and we have never looked back. I keep getting amazed at the newness of her breath even at this age in life.
Neilaji has been a wonderful mother to you all. Share what you want to.
My mother, Geeta Bali, died when I was 9 years old in a boarding school and completely upset with life. My dad had become by this time a superstar and his career kept him busy. In a boarding school (The Lawrence School Sanawar), I learnt to be independent, but emotionally I was getting tattered day by day. At this very juncture of complete darkness, my dad married Neila Gohil-Kapoor and she entered my life like the best Disney movie. Full of love, light and compassion. It was an amazing situation for me. She took the task of single handedly repairing my torn mind that was bordering on some disaster or the other. She took the decision of not having any children of her own and instead spent that time with my sister and me. My wife is her elder sister’s daughter.
As a 65 year old audience-son how do you assess your parent’s (Shammi Kapoor-Geeta Bali) work in cinema? How individualistic is their repertoire?
Shammiji was in a class of his own - one of the stalwarts of the Romcom genre. A dancing genius, who even danced through the expression of his eyes, therefore giving a lot of meaning to the lyrics. Geetaji, was a natural artist. Much more disciplined, as a result of her hard upbringing. She never acted, rather emoted the content as she felt it right. There was no pretension in her work.
Actually, if you see a music dance piece in ‘Jab Se Tumhe Dekha Hai’, you will see her dance like dad. I later found out that she helped him evolve a style of his own. She probably gave him her style.
Do you recall the first or the first few films you saw as a child of Geeta Bali and Shammi Kapoor?
I didn’t get to see too many of mom’s films as a child. But then I saw Albela, which is her own personality coming forward. I followed Dad’s track right from Tumsa Nahin Dekha onwards. It’s great to see your parents on the screen. You see the adulation they get and you take pride in the fact that they’re your parents.
Did you like seeing your parents on screen?
Of course. That’s where I saw my mother most of the time. Rather all the time. I do remember that she would sing a song to put me to sleep and that was ‘Chanda-mama door se…’ I would adore that moment. Much, much later on I realized that she had acted that song in her film ‘Vachan’ (1950). She left me with that lovely moment for eternity. When I miss her, I see this song on YouTube.
Did Geeta Bali always want to be an actress or circumstantially she became one? She started her career as a child artiste at the age of 12 with the film The Cobbler and her debut as a heroine was in Badnaami (1946).
She leaned towards the media with her singing and acting in plays and finally into the movies. Her father, my Nanaji, Pandit Kartar Singh Bali, was a philosopher and she had to work to make the ends meet. And she did so very handsomely.
She was a star of the 1950s Hindi cinema. Interestingly she acted with Raj Kapoor in Bawre Nain (1950) and Prithviraj Kapoor in Anand Math (1952).
Yes, she worked with our family. My grandfather was very fond of her.
Which of her films are your personal favorites?
Albela and Baazi.
Which of her songs are your personal favorites?
All in Albela, Tadbeer in Baazi, Chanda mama in Vachan.
She has acted with Bharat Bhushan, Madhubala, Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Bhagwan Dada, Ashok Kumar, Pradeep Kumar, Guru Dutt, Shammi Kapoor, Sohrab Modi and I S Johar. From information that may have come down to you who were her favourite actors, male and female?
She was fond of Guru Dutt and helped him start of. She was fond of Asha Parekh and did her make up in Dil Deke Dekho when Ashaji’s makeup man didn’t turn up! She worked with Bhagwan Dada, even when she was a top star and was advised not to. She listened to intuition and the rest is history!
With Shammi Kapoor she acted in Coffee House (1957). Any other film?
He was a guest artist in Jab Se Tumhen Dekha Hai (1963). So was Shashi Kapoor.
She helped Surinder Kapoor, a relative of Shammi Kapoor, to become a producer. Boney Kapoor films start with Geeta Bali photograph credit by way of respect.
Yes Surinder uncle and his wife Nirmal aunty were like parents to me. She financed his movie Jab Se Tumhen Dekha hai (as producer) and that started off their family’s walk to filmdom!
Yogeeta Bali is Geeta Bali’s niece?
Yes, she is Geetaji’s elder sister’s daughter. We grew up together in what was Seven bungalows in Versova.
Your mother Geeta Baliji died in 1965 at the young age of 34-35. She kept acting till the end and did around 70 films in her career. Her last film was Jab Se Tumhe Dekha Hai (1963). Rano, the film was under-production and had to be abandoned. Right?
Yes, she wanted to start her own production house, probably as a step for me later on in life. But it didn’t happen. She took up Rajinder Singh Bedi’s book: Ek Chadar Maili Si. During the shoot she got infected with smallpox. She progressed from a sweet smile to a memory in three weeks. Rajinder burnt the book at her funeral. He wept and tore it up. I heard it from Dad when I was young.
Shammi Kapoor, became a huge star-actor who till the present of 2022 and in the future too will be a reference point in Hindi cinema for generations of actors. He developed an unique style both in acting and in dancing. The Shammi Kapoor ada! Information says he acted in over 50 films as the lead and over 20 films in supporting roles. From debut film Jeevan Jyoti (1953) to Rail Ka Dabba (1953) to Manoranjan (1974), which he also directed. How do you recall your father’s films as a lead hero? Your favourites?
I guess I saw films in the order they released. He would take us for the movie trial at Film center Laboratory. Junglee, Professor, Chinatown, Kashmir ki Kali, Janwar, Teesri Manzil and right till Brahmachari and Andaz. I grew up with these visuals. These were the hallmark movies that defined Shammi Kapoor as a film actor, along with all of the other films too. Chinatown, I still think is a cult film; Junglee, just too good as a romcom story and Professor, I went to Darjeeling for the shoot and had a great time. My mom was alive. Kashmir ki Kali, I saw in Kasauli while in boarding, from the first row at 25 paisa!, Teesri Manzil had very scary title tracks and my sister and I got scared while seeing the movie. She ran out! All the others I have mentioned above, I still keep seeing.
So much is said and written about Shammi Kapoor’s sense of abandon in acting and dance. A sense of joie de vivre (joy of living) in roles. How do you assess?
Yes, complete abandon. Joyful movies. Wooing the heroine with song and dance. And some good action too, with Shetty as the permanent fight director and the great Herman as the choreographer. No gimmicks. Straight in your face content. Still remembered and adapted. Surely must mean something.
He is said to have had a great sense of rhythm and music. Do share some nuggets. How did he develop his style and ear for music?
He was always fond of music. Music was always present in our house. Western and Indian music. Dad had a great sense of visualization for a music piece. Guess he built a story around it and then put himself in one corner of the music piece. Additionally, he was a trained singer and knew a lot about Indian Ragas.
How would you differentiate between the three great actor-brothers, Raj Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor, Shashi Kapoor as actors?
Raj Kapoor was the eternal socio-hero, whether he was acting in the film, or was represented by Rishi or Rajiv or Randhir. He had a platform, which had a socio-spiritual culture and held his ground firmly. Shammi Kapoor was just a lover and he made no bones about loving. Shashi uncle, I always say, was the handsomest Kapoor. He took romcom to a different level with his slightly British accented movements, which were very refreshing for that time.
Then followed the phase of Shammi Kapoor as a senior actor in important supporting roles. Zameer (1974), Parvarish (1976), Shalimar (1978), Professor Pyarelal (1981), Prem Rog (1982), Vidhata (1982), Betaab (1983), Hero (1983), Allah Rakha (1986), Batwara (1989), Ajooba (1990), Heer Ranjha (1992), Prem Granth (1996) and Rockstar (2011). How do you see this transformation? Did he find the film industry a changing/changed place?
I saw his transformation taking place, both physical and mental transformation. He took it squarely on the jaw. At heart he was a sportsman so fair is square. Of course he grumbled about his golden times, etc. Still, he had a fascination for modernity and did a lot of films as a character artiste.
Out of the many awards he was conferred with, which ones did he most prize?
Probably Brahmchari. You can see he worked on that film hard and deserved it.
Many of us know, but many outsiders and general public may not know of Shammi Kapoor’s great talent for technology. He was in my knowledge perhaps the first one to way back in early 1990s bring out India’s first or one of the first Hindi Video Entertainment magazines, Manoranjan. I had co-anchored it with Vijayendra Ghatge. Do give more inputs.
This was the beginning of the digital space still on video tape. But the working was different from films and closer to digital. In this program, he had a terrific platform, that of cross questioning, and here one actor was analyzed at a time. On the whole a great experience for all concerned and the advent of the digital space laid this project to rest. Yes, you had co-anchored with Vijayendra Ghatge and that was very nice. I value the work you did at Manoranjan. I am grateful for your presence and this article by which I can thank so many people.
He was very computer savvy? What made him so?
He was a savvy guy. Period. If there was new technology, he had to know it, study it and use it. There was no compromise in that. And when the internet came about, he already had his Apple platform in place. He rode the storm he created.
Did he have an association with Yahoo web portal?
No. He inaugurated the Indian Chapter of Yahoo.
To honour Shammi Kapoor a brass statue of his was unveiled at Walk of the Stars at Bandra Bandstand in Mumbai. It must have danced in the winds.
Aparajita, Shammiji is the wind that dances with man!
Ahhh! Here’s wishing Aditya Raj Kapoor the energy and spirit of his Biker’s Rides in his journey of life.