“The rebel star label was created by Mr LP Rao and Mr Bunny Reuben. One fine day we were drinking at my house in Chembur. In those days we used to have a very fine rapport with the newspaper people. There weren't any PROs, it was on a one-to-one level. This was during the shooting of Tumsa Nahin Dekha. We were discussing as to how I could get through the barrier of the top three--Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand. They had all made images for themselves and it was very difficult to penetrate through that and make your image. Everyone did their own kind of roles, so either you had to come out and create your own style or get someone very influential to get through. I couldn't get a picture with Mr Mehboob Khan, and Dev Anand was working with Filmistan and Subodh Mukherjee all the time and Raj Kapoor had his own team of workers and he was his own producer.
“We were talking of James Dean who had just made the scene in East of Eden. We had heard of his picture Rebel Without A Cause which was not released in India. All of a sudden, Rao said, here is our guy, we've got a rebel star at home. And somebody wrote about it, others picked it up from there. Then Tumsa Nahin Dekha was released, they said he's the rebel star. It just led from one thing to another. It stemmed off from my saying that at times I feel like going out with a gun in the middle of the night and shooting anything. That's how they termed me the rebel.”
Shammi Kapoor had written in a piece (Filmfare January 3,1958) that his was a "one man rebellion, trying to break the old and make the new. A rebel who wanted to find himself, his real self, not a reflection of the personalities of other people."
And later, after giving it a thought, “I am a born Bohemian, unconventional in everything….I hate rigid, iron-clad rules and regulations. I want to be free. Perhaps that’s why I seem unusual to others. I rebel against conventions. Anything that smacks of formality, anything that is pedestrian is anathema to me.”
What did the reviews say about the new hero? Filmfare (January 31, 1958) said, "Shammi Kapoor playing a gay, carefree role discards the Kapoor grand manner and invests his portrayal with his own zestful, reckless attitude to life. His performance is more memorable for the effortless ease with which it is put over. It should prove a turning point in his career, and help put him among the ranks of the top-notchers."
Basant was the first film he signed after Tumsa Nahin Dekha—he had promised himself that he wouldn't sign a film for less than a lakh of rupees.
“After the success of Tumsa Nahin Dekha, I had no job for six months. Because I made certain promises to myself. They wanted me to do every second picture. But I said no, I wanted it to have my kind of music and my type of role. I wanted to grow now and break certain barriers that are there between the top three. What to do in between? So I took my jeep and went for shikars to Bhopal. Geeta and I ran off to Pune, Delhi. Geeta said go take a trip, forget the movies.
I mortgaged my car and went to Japan. I had ten thousand rupees with me. A first class ticket used to cost four thousand rupees. So I went off. Friends had given me a few numbers. I went to Tokyo, Kobe, Osaka had a fabulous time, came to Hong Kong, stayed there for some time. Came back to Bombay. One month and I came and signed Mr Vibhuti Mitra's Basant for a lakh of rupees. I remember I didn't do Bhappi Sonie's film Ek Phool Char Kaante because he was paying me ninety thousand and I said I wouldn't do it for less than a lakh. So just for the heck of it, we fought over that, and he went and signed Sunil Dutt.”
Dil Deke Dekho, with the Tumsa Nahin Dekha set-up followed and was an equally big hit.
Subodh Mukherjee had fallen out with Tolaram Jalan and left Filmistan to start his own concern Filmalaya. Nasir Hussain was flooded with offers, but Mukherjee didn’t like any of the subjects narrated to him. Those were the days of the permit system, when a producer was allowed to make just one film at a time. Nasir Hussain was about to sign up with another producer, when Shammi took him back to Mukherjee and he said come on let's all do it again. So Filmalaya, announced Dil Deke Dekho.
“We didn't have a heroine,” Shammi Kapoor recollects. “I remember I used to play badminton at Guru Dutt studios with Guru Dutt. We went and tried to get Waheeda for the picture. She was not free, she was doing Kagaz Ke Phool in those days. Then Mr Mukherjee and Nasir both got Asha Parekh. I don't quite remember how she was discovered. I think she attended Mr Mukherjee’s Filmalaya School. It made no difference to me who the heroine was. We had fabulous experiences during the film. New girl, new music director, Usha Khanna.”
A few days before the muhurat of Dil Deke Dekho, early one morning, driving home with director Naresh Sehgal (director of Boyfriend), Shammi Kapoor ran his jeep into a bus. “I went through the windscreen, and into the bus. My forehead was cut up. I remember lying there, blood coming down my face. Naresh passed out, the public collected, the buswalla ran away. I asked where I could ring up from. Someone pointed to a house nearby. I went there, they called me in. They put a bucket near my head for the blood to flow in, while I rang up Geeta. We stayed at Chembur, she came immediately, put us both in the car and went to Sion Hospital.
“Naresh got stitched up but I said don't touch me, because I had known from Geeta that she had a very bad experience while coming back from Goa with Dev after some shooting. They stitched her up in Goa and she had the marks on her head. I didn't get myself stitched up. We came home, my eyes were swollen. Mr Mukherjee came to see me and I asked what happens to my muhurat? Am I still in the picture with all this? He said, don't be stupid, we'll wait. And Dr Charlie Pinto, a very fine plastic surgery did the job. He stitched it up across the forehead. There were about 25 stitches, but he did it so beautifully, you could hardly see the scars.
Dil Deke Dekho went on the floors with Shammi Kapoor and Asha Parekh, and they went once again to romantic Ranikhet which held such fond memories for him. “It was a fabulous picture. I still think that is a picture that people have not taken seriously. Because it was a fun movie, it was full of music--14-15 songs. There were some lovely moments, comedy, music, suspense and it was a very successful picture. My pairing with Asha clicked after this film--we did three or four movies, but my friendship with Nasir didn't. He went off on a different tangent after that.
“After this picture was successful, one fine day, Nasir rang me up and said, Shammi I'm going to produce my own picture. I've got Jaikishen, I've got Asha Parekh. Do I have you? That sort of hurt me. I thought it would be the other way round, that I've got you and Asha and Jaikishen, so let's go and make a picture. But he put it the other way. Jaikishen was my friend, I introduced him to Nasir. Asha was my heroine, am I there or not? He left it with a question mark. I said, no you don't have me. And he went and signed up Dev Anand.
“You can't fight that off--it's written, it's destiny. Dev had always worked with Subodh Mukherjee, right from Paying Guest, Love Marriage. Nasir and Subodh Mukherjee were friends also, from Filmistan. Nasir was Subodh's assistant director in and his writer for Paying Guest. When Subodh found out Dev had gone to Nasir, he rang me up. He said I am doing a picture with you. Would you like to do it? I said let's hear the role. And he came and narrated a picture called Mr Hitler, and he wanted to make it in colour.’’
So Shammi Kapoor did Junglee with Subodh Mukherjee, and Dev Anand did Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai with Nasir Husain. Both were hits.
The exuberant cry of Yahoo in the film Junglee became Shammi Kapoor's 'signature'. He has said the word Yahoo once in Tumsa Nahin Dekha and twice in Dil Deke Dekho and in Junglee there was the great song; Yahoo!! Chahe koi mujhe junglee kahe—which was like an anthem of youthful rebellion.