Shammi Kapoor is no more. His passing away has been mourned by all film buffs, particularly those belonging to the ‘yahoo’ generation. His demise reminds me of the time when we used to paddle to various locations in Kashmir to watch his film shootings. Special programmes to recall the contribution of Shammi Kapoor to Indian cinema are being beamed by all news channels. And it is in a song in one of these programmes that I, after a very long time, once again, came face to face with Rajshree, my first crush, the dream girl of my younger days. Rajshree was virtually like a modern day ‘desi’ Barbie Doll. Watching her on screen as a 10-year old, I used to get enveloped in her. For me, she was the perfect woman, my first heartthrob. Ever since I saw her in the film ‘Geet Gaya Patharon Ne’ in the now defunct Firdous cinema hall in Srinagar sometime in the sixties, I adored her, and loved her.
While watching her film ‘Jaanwar’ I would always imagine that it was me, and not Shammi Kapoor, who wooed the ‘woman in red’ in the song ‘Laal chhadi maidaan khadi ‘. In the film “Around the World”, it was not an aging Raj Kapoor, but me, who followed her on a world tour on a measly eight dollars. The paltry economic condition suited me in those adolescent years. Eons later, when I walked the streets of Geneva, Paris, Rome and London, that Raj Kapoor had traversed alongwith his ladylove, I always had a feeling that Rajshree would somehow surface out of nowhere and demurely stand in front of me. Woebegone, all such delectable daydreams would melt like a snowflake as soon as they touched ground. Yet, visiting these locations was virtually like a pilgrimage for me. The places had at some point of time been sanctified by the steps of Rajshree, my beloved.
While I was still preparing to grow into a man and be worthy of her attention, the news of her marriage floated. My heart broke. She had married a foreigner. I somehow consoled my bleeding, broken heart with the thought that there was no man in India who deserved her and solely for that reason, she had married a foreigner. For me, she was a ‘desi princess’ who had found solace in the embrace of a ‘gora prince’. After marriage, she simply disappeared and not a word was heard about her. I too stored her memory in the deep recesses of my mind and moved on with life.
But my heart finally and resolutely broke today. After watching the film-clipping of hers with Shammi Kapoor, I googled her name and tried to find out the details about her whereabouts. And what I found has, once again, thrown me into deep despair. Sadly, she had not married a ‘gora prince’, as I had imagined. She had actually married a struggling young tailor. As Shakespeare would have said “O! What a fall was there, my countrymen”? I am so angry with her today. A tailor? I have nothing against tailors per se, but I cannot visualize a tailor as the prince charming of the darling of my dreams. My heart bled anew after watching the website of her husband Greg Chapman. He spells her name as ‘Raj’a’shree’ and calls her ‘my Raju’. After more than forty years of being married to her, he cannot spell her name right, and ‘Raju’, for god’s sake!
When in Los Angeles next, I intend to go and meet Rajshree, albeit taking full care to guise my feelings and put my dreams to rest. Maybe I’ll take my revenge by ordering her husband to stitch a suit for me.
Ravinder Kaul is famed Global Critic for Art, Literature, Dance, Music, Poetry and Theater