A still from the film Junglee starring Shammi Kapoor. Image Credit: Supplied by Anusha Gill

Mumbai: Shammi Kapoor, who died on Sunday aged 79, was India's Elvis Presley, a gyrating, swivel-hipped actor who revitalised Bollywood's song-and-dance sequences with a modern, racy style.

As one of the Kapoor acting dynasty that has dominated Hindi-language cinema virtually since its inception, he was perhaps always destined to be famous. But it was his dancing style, heavily influenced by "The King of Rock 'n' Roll", that transformed Bollywood's innocent on-screen portrayal of love and romance into something more raunchy.

"He wouldn't sit still or walk straight," a biography of him on The Official Shammi Kapoor Fan Club web site www.shammikapoor.net said. "He jumped, bounced, swayed and cavorted...

"He made of the Hindi-film song tradition a primitive courtship ritual, which often included a Me-Tarzan-You-Jane message, tapped out in rhythmic code. "He exuded a macho charm, an almost narcissistic awareness of his masculinity."

Kapoor in later life

To look at Kapoor in later life – balding, with a grey beard and an expanded waistline – it was hard to imagine that he was the screen heart-throb of the 1950s and early 1960s.

But at the time, he was the self-styled "rebel" of romantic hits such as "Tumsa Nahin Dekha" (You're One of a Kind, 1957), "Dil Deke Dekho" (Give Your Heart and See, 1959) and "Junglee" (Wild, 1961).

Key to his success was his avid interest in music. Kapoor personally selected the songs he would dance and mime to, mindful that they needed to fit his style. He and singers like Mohammed Rafi provided some of the industry's most popular and memorable tunes. In later years, he would lament the lack of catchy songs in modern cinema.

Many suspected that Kapoor's exuberant film persona masked his deficiencies as an actor but he defied critics with strong performances in the 1966 murder mystery "Teesri Manzil" (Third Floor) and "Brahmachari" (Bachelor) in 1968.

As the 1970s arrived, Kapoor's star was fading along with his youthful good looks and slim-hipped figure as a new romantic icon emerged in the shape of Rajesh Khanna.
One of his last hits was "Andaz" (Style) in 1971.

In 1974 he starred and directed "Manoranjan" (Entertainment), based on the Hollywood film "Irma La Douce" starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine but it was poorly received.

"Renaissance man, retired actor, computer buff"

His appearances became rarer and in later years his health failed and he was largely confined to a wheelchair.

An avid Internet user, Kapoor was the founder-chairman of the Internet Users Community of India, maintaining a Facebook page, a Twitter account and a web site on his famous family, www.junglee.org.in.

He described himself on his Twitter account profile as a "Renaissance man, retired actor, computer buff".

"My foremost activity is still surfing on the Internet," he wrote on junglee.org.in, and recognised that his film days were over.

"I don't think I am ever going to be making any comeback," he said in an interview with the Press Trust of India news agency in May 2010. "Wouldn't that be asking too much from God?"

Born Shamserraj Kapoor on October 21, 1931, Shammi Kapoor was the son of the Bollywood actor Prithviraj Kapoor and brother of popular screen actors Raj and Shashi.
He married first Geeta Bali in 1955 and had a son and a daughter. Bali died of smallpox in 1965. He married Neela Devi Gohil, an Indian aristocrat, three years later.