Rauf Ahmed’s biography Shammi Kapoor The Game-Changer (Om Books International) is packed with nuggets of information about the 1960s star, whose other name was surely “Shimmy Kapoor” for the unforgettable manner in which he sashayed across the screen in movie after movie.
Kapoor had a fabulous ear for music, as Ahmed reveals, and apart from participating in the presentation of songs in his movies, he was also an amateur music composer. The popular lullaby “Neela Aasman So Gaya” from Yash Chopra’s 1981 romance Silsila, in which Amitabh Bachchan sings in his own voice to his lady love played by Rekha, was originally composed by Kapoor. The song also has a female version, by Lata Mangeshkar.
Ahmed writes in Shammi Kapoor The Game-Changer that the track was inspired by a folk song. Here is the anecdote about one of Silsila’s most well-known tracks.
“Perhaps few know that the song ‘Neela Aasman So Gaya’ which Amitabh Bachchan sang in Yash Chopra’s film Silsila (1981), had been composed by Shammi Kapoor.
“During the making of B.R. Chopra’s Zameer (1975), Amitabh Bachchan (who played the lead in the film opposite Saira Banu) and Jaya Bachchan had got very friendly with Shammi Kapoor and his wife Neila Devi. During the shooting of the film at the Kunigal farm near Bangalore, they would regularly meet after work. The routine had continued even after the venue of the shooting had shifted from Kunigal to Pune. The Bachchans, who were staying in the same hotel (Blue Diamond, Pune) as the Kapoors, kept in touch with them. “In the evenings, after pack up, Jaya and Amitabh would drop by for a chat,” reminisces Neila Kapoor. “Amitabh would invariably bring his guitar along and Shammiji and he would get down to a session of music. During one of those sessions, Shammji had spontaneously composed a tune inspired by a folk song he had heard, with dummy words. Amitabh had liked it very much.”
“Almost seven years later, sometime in the early ’80s, one day, Amitabh had called Shammi Kapoor and asked him if he could use that tune in one of his forthcoming films. Shammi, who had almost forgotten the episode, was delighted. He told Amitabh, “Go ahead, it’s all yours.” The rest, as the cliché goes, is history. The film was Yash Chopra’s Silsila and the song was ‘Neela Aasman So Gaya’.”