There is something heartening and hopeful about a timeless love story. So here is my favourite real-life one of Hindi cinema’s golden couple Geeta Bali and Shammi Kapoor.
They shared a love for nature and fell in love early 1955, around picturesque Ranikhet (close to Nainital) where they were shooting for a movie called Rangeen Raatein. Kapoor proposed to her the same April but Geeta Bali, who was supporting her family at the time, refused. He asked her again and again, and she kept saying no. An impulse decision on 23rd August, 1955, changed that. They eloped and married the same day at the Banganga temple in Mumbai.
She continued working after marriage, unheard of in the Kapoor family. “My mother was a career girl from a young age. She was the only Kapoor woman at the time to continue to work in films after her wedding,” said son Aditya in a Rediff interview. “She was a bigger and more successful star than my father when they got married.”
Bali also had a hand in the screen persona of Shammi Kapoor. “She gave him his confidence and his personality. If you see the way he danced… that was Geeta Bali’s personality.” Three movies that established Kapoor as a dancing star released when Bali was around: Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957), Dil Deke Dekho (1959) and Junglee (1961).
Tragedy halted their life together when she contracted smallpox on the sets of a Punjabi movie Ek Chadar Maili Si. It was all over in just 15 days. According to Rajinder Singh Bedi, Shammi Kapoor didn’t want Bali to do such a bold role: of a Punjabi woman who marries her brother-in-law after her husband’s death. But the character was very close to her heart and she gave it her best. Dharmendra was the lead hero. Sadly, the movie, only two-thirds complete, was shelved after she passed away.
Kapoor was shattered after her death and took years to recover. “Shammiji spoke often about Geetaji. He missed her. He did care for me and couldn’t do without me but the way he loved Geetaji was different. He never loved me the way he loved her,” says second wife Neila Devi, his pillar of strength after Bali, in an interview to Filmfare.
Internet savvy Kapoor, who left behind some wonderful videos of him sharing his life and stories, remembers Geeta Bali in this beautiful vignette.