“Mujhe samundar dekhna hai”

According to Madhu Jain in her book The Kapoors: The First Family of Indian Cinema, this what the 22-year-old Prithviraj Kapoor told his taxi driver after he stepped off the train from Peshawar.   He had never seen the ocean.   After arriving at the shore, he pledged to God to become an actor in Bombay, or he would set sail for Hollywood.

Jain was in Manhattan tonight at the Sundaram Tagore Gallery to promote her biography of the filmi Kapoor dynasty, released in India at the start of the year, and just a month ago in the U.S.   Unlike most of these kind of events, attendance tonight was about 50-50 desi to non-desi.  

After a quick intro from the gallery’s namesake and owner, rather than reading passages from her book, Madhu Jain, tall and wearing a grey and black sari,  spoke to the audience, giving an overview of the lives and significance of Pritviraj, Raj, Shammi, Shashi and Rishi.

Of Prithviraj, Jain said he was the “banyan tree” from under whose shadow the menfolk had to emerge (not easily for some).   Russian sailors knew who he was and when they came to Bombay, they would bring him a large fish, which he would cook and they would eat together.   As an aside Jain told the audience that Vikram Seth has recounted to her that when traveling in China (at the time that his book From Heaven Lake covers), one day some Chinese came up to him crying and saying “Your Rita has died”.   They were referring to Nargis by the name of one of her characters.

Jain  credits Shammi Kapoor with for having “brought adolescent sexuality to the screen”, and maintains that the name for the search engine Yahoo! came from a song that Shammi sang in the movie Junglee.  

She considers Shashi “would have been too perfect were it not for  those two crooked canine teeth” and was once told by James Ivory that “Indian cinema never explored the dark side of Shashi”.   That was something that he and Ismail Merchant rectified  with the toothy hunk in their Bombay Talkie.

In writing this book, Madhu Jain said that she tried to strike a balance between academia and gossip.   Her assessment of the Kapoor men later in life: “They hit 50 and all that food and alcohol goes horizontal.”

As if all this wasn’t fun enough, in a separate little room to the side, a continuous loop of Helen: Queen of the Nautch Girls, the documentary narrated by Sundaram Tagore’s friend  Anthony Korner, was playing.  

6 thoughts on ““Mujhe samundar dekhna hai”

  1. Ajay, thanks for visting.

    Her comments were preceded by a reference to someone of Indian origin involved in the early history of Yahho!, though I’ve yet to see who she was talking about…

  2. “maintains that the name for the search engine Yahoo! came from a song that Shammi sang in the movie Junglee. ”

    Well. At least Yahoo isn’t saying so.

    The name Yahoo! is an acronym for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle,” but Filo and Yang insist they selected the name because they liked the general definition of a yahoo: “rude, unsophisticated, uncouth.”

    From http://docs.yahoo.com/info/misc/history.html

    The ‘general definition’ of Yahoo does fit in with Shammi Kapoor in Junglee, though. Coincidence?

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