indian cinema heritage foundation

"Leke Pehla Pehla Pyar" – Shyam Kapoor

16 Apr, 2020 | Beete Hue Din by Shishir Krishna Sharma
Shyam Kapoor. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

Readers with a keen interest in the golden era of Hindi Cinema often asked me, who are the other 2 artistes who are seen in the song Leke pehla pehla pyar bharke ankhon me khumar of C.I.D. along with Dev Anand and Shakeela? This question has had made me curious too. With a little effort I came to know that the girl dancing in this song was Sheela Vaz but it wasn’t easy to know about the actor who sings and plays the harmonium. Sheela Vaz was a known dancer of her time but the harmonium player was an unknown face. But this mystery also got solved one day. That harmonium player was Shyam Kapoor who was an assistant director with Guru Dutt
 

Shyam Kapoor in Pyaasa (1957). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din


I tried to trace out Shyam Kapoor but failed. Though truthfully mine were half hearted efforts as I wasn’t sure if Shyam Kapoor was around or not. And then I got a message on Facebook from a reader. He wrote that Shyam Kapoor was still around. Shyam Kapoor’s incomplete address was also mentioned in the message but the sender didn’t have Shyam Kapoor’s telephone number. Therefore, I had to take help from the MTNL’s phone directory CD. I found Shyam Kapoor’s contact number in the CD. The same CD helped me reach the singer Shamshad Begum

Shyam Kapoor’s phone was continuously out of service. Constrainedly I decided to personally to go to his place. Somehow I reached his home with incomplete address in hand one day and found the door locked. I came to know that they have gone out of town for few days. I got another contact number of Shyam Kapoor’s from the lady residing in the adjoining flat and returned. And few days later, eventually I succeeded in speaking with him. 
 
Shyam Kapoor in C.I.D (1956). Image Courtesy:Beete Hue Din

I spent around 4 hours with Shyam Kapoor on 24th September 2014 at his home. Apart from his personal and professional life, he spoke a lot about Guru Dutt and Waheeda Rehman during our conversation.  

Born on 24th April 1928 in Lahore’s Chooniyaan tehsil, Shyam Kapoor was very little when his mother died. His father was a post master at Quetta. Shyam Kapoor and his 21/2 year older brother Banarasi Dass stayed with their paternal grandparents at Chooniyan. They completed their schooling till 8th and shifted to a hostel in Lahore for their further studies. Banarasi Dass was in his B.A. (final) and Shyam Kapoor in 12th when the partition took place. Leaving their studies incomplete, they shifted to Ludhiana with their grandparents. On the other hand, their father got transferred to Dehradun from Quetta.  
 
After 3 months of social service at the camp, Banarasi Dass got his B.A. degree and Shyam Kapoor got his 12th pass certificate. They also got a job offer from the government which they happily accepted.
Meanwhile an advertisement in the newspaper was published which said that the students who do social service for 3 months at the refugee camp set up at Kurukshetra will be considered as having passed their respective classes without taking any examination. Seeing this advertisement, Shyam Kapoor and his elder brother Banarasi Dass Kapoor shifted to Kurukshetra. After 3 months of social service at the camp, Banarasi Dass got his B.A. degree and Shyam Kapoor got his 12th pass certificate. They also got a job offer from the government which they happily accepted. Shyam Kapoor joined as the P.A. to the camp officer Col. Puri.  
 
With Shakeela in Aar Paar (1955). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
According to Shyam Kapoor, Kurukshetra camp was equivalent to a small city where lakhs of refugees who came from different parts of Pakistan were staying. Those who came from Peshawar and Rawalpindi were especially hot tempered who started fighting on trivial issues. Shyam Kapoor successfully controlled and minimized their daily fights very tactfully. He also opposed the camp official’s decision to make these refugees from Peshawar and Rawalpindi settle in Rajasthan.
According to Shyam Kapoor, Kurukshetra camp was equivalent to a small city where lakhs of refugees who came from different parts of Pakistan were staying. Those who came from Peshawar and Rawalpindi were especially hot tempered who started fighting on trivial issues. Shyam Kapoor successfully controlled and minimized their daily fights very tactfully. He also opposed the camp official’s decision to make these refugees from Peshawar and Rawalpindi settle in Rajasthan. Shyam Kapoor told them that it wouldn’t be possible for these people to cope with the dry and hot environments of Rajasthan. Still Shyam Kapoor was sent to the newly founded Alwar Head Office for the Rajasthan based refugee camps. 

But the refugees from Peshawar and Rawalpindi flatly refused when they were asked to shift to Rajasthan 6 months later resulting into the closure of the Alwar camp, thus the termination of Shyam Kapoor’s job. Meanwhile Banarasi Dass left his job and shifted to Dehradun to live with his father. On the other hand, their grandparents had shifted from Ludhiana to settle in Firozepur. As Shyam Kapoor returned from Alwar to Kurukshetra, there broke out a fight between him and the camp officer and his P.A. on some issue. Shyam Kapoor ran away to Ambala to join his maternal uncle after the camp officer threatened to get him arrested. 

Shyam Kapoor’s uncle was hardly 3 years elder to him. He had a flourishing sugar business. Shyam Kapoor joined him as a partner and started looking after the Moga Mandi office where he fell in love with a girl. Shyam Kapoor with all his enthusiasm started telling his love stories to his uncle. One fine day his uncle suddenly got very angry. And then Shyam Kapoor came to know that his uncle was also in love with the same girl. He fought with his uncle for that girl and parted ways from him and his business. 
 
Shyam Kapoor took some money from his uncle and came to Mumbai with the navy officer on his helper’s pass. Shyam Kapoor’s boarding & lodging in Mumbai was also arranged by the same navy officer. Shyam Kapoor was 21 at that time. 
Shyam Kapoor had very cordial relations with a neighboring sweet shop owner. The shop owner’s son, who was an officer with the navy in Mumbai was home on leave those days. He was entitled for an extra pass for a helping hand with him. At the time of his return to Mumbai he asked Shyam Kapoor to accompany him to Mumbai. Shyam Kapoor took some money from his uncle and came to Mumbai with the navy officer on his helper’s pass. Shyam Kapoor’s boarding & lodging in Mumbai was also arranged by the same navy officer. Shyam Kapoor was 21 at that time. 

Shyam Kapoor simply wanted to see Mumbai.  He had kept 100 Rupees with the officer as a precautionary measure. He had planned that when all the money he had with him was spent; he would take back those 100 Rupees from the officer to buy the train ticket and would return home. During those days there used to be a tram service from Colaba to King’s Circle. Shyam Kapoor took the tram to King’s Circle and returned by the same tram daily. One day there was some film shoot going on at King’s Circle. According to the scene being shot some boys sitting in a truck had to chase and tease the girls who were sitting in a car. One of those boys had to speak a dialogue ‘east meets west’ which he failed to deliver despite many attempts and retakes. 
 
C.I.D. (1956). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
Suddenly Shyam Kapoor asked the supplier, ‘Can I try this’? Though the supplier ignored him the assistant asked Shyam Kapoor if he could speak the dialogue. As he nodded affirmatively, Shyam Kapoor was taken in front of the camera. And the shot got okayed in the first take itself.
According to Shyam Kapoor, the director was vilifying his assistant and the assistant was vilifying the junior artist supplier who brought that actor. Suddenly Shyam Kapoor asked the supplier, ‘Can I try this’? Though the supplier ignored him the assistant asked Shyam Kapoor if he could speak the dialogue. As he nodded affirmatively, Shyam Kapoor was taken in front of the camera. And the shot got okayed in the first take itself. According to Shyam Kapoor, at that time an ordinary junior artist was paid 6 Rupees 6 Anna’s per day whereas the one who spoke English dialogues was paid 25 Rupees. The supplier asked Shyam Kapoor to meet him at Dadar Naka next morning to collect his payment where Shyam Kapoor met many more junior artistes. 
In such odd times the junior artistes came forward to help him. They included Shyam Kapoor into their group and Shyam Kapoor also found a way to earn money in this city.
By now, all his money had over. Simultaneously he had also been asked to vacate the place where he was staying. Shyam Kapoor tried to meet the navy officer to take his 100 Rupees back to return to Punjab only to find that the said officer had already left for Vishakhapatnam on the naval ship. Shyam Kapoor neither had money to buy a return ticket nor did he have a place to stay in Mumbai. In such odd times the junior artistes came forward to help him. They included Shyam Kapoor into their group and Shyam Kapoor also found a way to earn money in this city. For the next few years he continuously worked as a junior artist and during the same stint he met Guru Dutt one fine day. 

He met Guru Dutt during the shoot of Aar Paar’s club song Babooji dheere chalna, pyar me zara sambhalna. In one of the shots Shyam Kapoor had to get up from his table and come to Shakeela and immediately return to his table, angry, after finding Guru Dutt staring at him. Guru Dutt really liked Shyam Kapoor’s work. He called Shyam Kapoor to his makeup room and asked if he could speak the dialogues. As Shyam Kapoor said yes, Guru Dutt asked him to keep on meeting him.  
 
In Pyaasa with Guru Dutt. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
Guru Dutt showed both the versions to Shyam Kapoor and asked which one he liked more. Shyam Kapoor opined that the reshot version was better.
Guru Dutt’s office was at Mahalaxmi’s Famous Studio at that time. Now whenever Shyam Kapoor found time he reached Guru Dutt’s office. According to Shyam Kapoor, Guru Dutt’s mood was such that usually he didn’t like the initial footage shot by him and often preferred to reshoot the things. The song Babooji dheere chalna, pyar me zara sambhalna was also completely reshot.  Its second version was being edited those days. Shyam Kapoor wasn’t there in the original version. Guru Dutt showed both the versions to Shyam Kapoor and asked which one he liked more. Shyam Kapoor opined that the reshot version was better. He also asked Guru Dutt not to feel that he (Shyam Kapoor) was rejecting the original one just because he wasn’t a part of that version. He said, ‘In fact neither of the versions is bad but the reshot one is better’. Guru Dutt was happy with Shyam Kapoor’s reply.  
 
Mr & Mrs 55 (1955). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
As Shyam Kapoor was keen to join Guru Dutt as an assistant, he was given the job of assistant in place of Niranjan Sharma. According to Shyam Kapoor, he joined the unit of the film Mr. & Mrs.55 on 17th September 1954 during the song Udhar tum haseen ho idhar dil jawaan hai being shot at Mehboob Studios as an assistant.
Meanwhile Guru Dutt’s chief assistant Raj Khosla got his debut movie (Milap/1954) and he left his job with Guru Dutt Films. Subsequently, Niranjan Sharma was promoted from assistant to the chief assistant in place of Raj Khosla. As Shyam Kapoor was keen to join Guru Dutt as an assistant, he was given the job of assistant in place of Niranjan Sharma. According to Shyam Kapoor, he joined the unit of the film Mr. & Mrs.55 on 17th September 1954 during the song Udhar tum haseen ho idhar dil jawaan hai being shot at Mehboob Studios as an assistant. Since that very day he worked with Guru Dutt till his death.   
Remembering O.P Nayyar, Shyam Kapoor says, 'He was a very talented composer. But nobody could predict what he would speak to whom and when.'
Remembering O.P Nayyar, Shyam Kapoor says, “He was a very talented composer. But nobody could predict what he would speak to whom and when. When he first saw the newcomer from south Waheeda Rehman who had come for her debut Hindi movie C.I.D, O.P.Nayyar asked Guru Dutt, ‘Did you appoint a new ayah?’ Guru Dutt could only say, ‘Wait! Let time speak for itself.’  

Shyam Kapoor says, the production of Guru Dutt Films’ C.I.D. and Pyaasa had started simultaneously.  Guru Dutt was the hero and the director of Pyaasa. Being Guru Dutt’s assistant, Shyam Kapoor was a part of Pyaasa’s unit. On the other hand, C.I.D. was being directed by Raj Khosla. His assistants Pramod Chakravorty and Bhappi Soni were good friends with Shyam Kapoor and Shyam Kapoor often visited the sets of C.I.D. 
 
Shyam Kapoor with Sheela Vaz in the song Leke pehla pehla pyaar. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
One day Guru Dutt told Shyam Kapoor, ‘You have to act in one of C.I.D.’s songs.’ Shyam Kapoor wasn’t mentally prepared to act again. But due to Guru Dutt’s pressure he had to act in the C.I.D. song Leke pehla pehla pyar bharke ankhon me khumar.  This song was shot on the Worli Sea Face in 3 days.  

Talking about C.I.D.’s another song Jaataa kahan hai deewaane sab kuchh yahan hai sanam sung by Geeta Dutt, Shyam Kapoor says, ‘This is completely a wrong notion that this song was removed from the film due to the censor board’s objection on the use of the word ‘fiffy’ in the lyrics of this song.  The actual reason of its removal was to lower the length of the movie within 13 thousand feet of length. At that time a movie exceeding the limit of 13 thousand feet of length was imposed with many other heavy taxes as per government rules.’   
 
Pyaasa (1957). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
After Pyaasa was shot up to 12-13 reels, it’s trial show was arranged along with that of C.I.D’s. Guru Dutt was disappointed with Pyaasa.
After Pyaasa was shot up to 12-13 reels, it’s trial show was arranged along with that of C.I.D’s. Guru Dutt was disappointed with Pyaasa. He asked the company’s Director and Production Controller S. Gurumoorty to halt Pyaasa till C.I.D was released. C.I.D proved to be a big hit.  Then Guru Dutt once again started working on Pyaasa’s script. Johnny Walker’s role was added to the script. The character of the hero’s friend was created who deceives him. This negative role was played by Shyam Kapoor. Except 2-3 songs the complete film was reshot.  
Raj Khosla and O.P. Nayyar were not happy with Pyaasa being reshot. They both openly said in a party that the money they earned for the company from the movie C.I.D. was being wasted on Pyaasa by Guru Dutt.
Raj Khosla and O.P. Nayyar were not happy with Pyaasa being reshot. They both openly said in a party that the money they earned for the company from the movie C.I.D. was being wasted on Pyaasa by Guru Dutt. Guru Dutt was hurt to know what they both said, though Pyaasa also proved to be a big hit. According to Shyam Kapoor, O.P. Nayyar was also annoyed with the idea of taking S.D. Burman on board in Pyaasa. He even told many people, ‘At least Guru Dutt should have spoken to me once, am I worth only for action movies?’ 
 
Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

Apart from Niranjan Sharma and Shyam Kapoor, one more assistant named Gobind joined in the movie Kaagaz Ke Phool. This movie was shot 4 times more than the average. The film flopped miserably and all the money which C.I.D. and Pyaasa generated was lost. C.I.D. was released in the year 1956, Pyaasa in 1957 and Kaagaz Ke Phool in the year 1959. Shyam Kapoor says, ‘Kagaz Ke Phool’s failure had shaken Guru Dutt’s self-confidence badly. To come out of the financial crunch he did the movies like Sautela Bhai (1962), Bharosa (1963), Bahurani (1963), Suhagan (1964), and Saanjh Aur Savera (1964) for outside producers. But officially he never directed a film after Kagaz Ke Phool.’  
 
Chaudhvin Ka Chand (1960). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
Guru Dutt remembered the 1958 Muslim social Mehndi which had Ravi as composer. Guru Dutt signed Ravi for Chaudvin Ka Chand. Ravi didn’t have any objection to work with Sahir but he did recommend his fellow lyricist Shakeel Badayuni’s name to Guru Dutt. Guru Dutt liked Shakeel Badayuni’s poetry and thus Shakeel came on board in the film Chaudhvin Ka Chand in place of Sahir, 
Guru Dutt produced Chaudhvin Ka Chand, a Muslim social, in the year 1960 wherein he signed M.Sadiq to direct. Guru Dutt wanted Sahir Ludhianvi to write the songs for this film. This clearly meant that Chaudhvin Ka Chand would not have S.D. Burman and O.P. Nayyar on board as they both were reluctant to work with Sahir Ludhianvi. Guru Dutt remembered the 1958 Muslim social Mehndi which had Ravi as composer. Guru Dutt signed Ravi for Chaudvin Ka Chand. Ravi didn’t have any objection to work with Sahir but he did recommend his fellow lyricist Shakeel Badayuni’s name to Guru Dutt. Guru Dutt liked Shakeel Badayuni’s poetry and thus Shakeel came on board in the film Chaudhvin Ka Chand in place of Sahir, 
 
Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962)Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
'But Meena Kumari refused to work in the film under Abrar Alvi’s direction. She said yes for the film on the condition that Guru Dutt will have to be present on the sets. Though it was Abrar Alvi’s name as director in the credits of Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam in reality the film’s 90% part was directed by Guru Dutt. This was a 1962 release.’ 
Shyam Kapoor says, ‘Guru Dutt Films’ next film Saheb Bibi Aur Ghulam’s direction was handed over to the writer Abrar Alvi. After Kagaz Ke Phool’s debacle Guru Dutt didn’t want to give his name as a director.  But Meena Kumari refused to work in the film under Abrar Alvi’s direction. She said yes for the film on the condition that Guru Dutt will have to be present on the sets. Though it was Abrar Alvi’s name as director in the credits of Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam in reality the film’s 90% part was directed by Guru Dutt. This was a 1962 release.’ 

Baharen Phir Bhi Ayengi had been shot for almost 14 reels. Suddenly Guru Dutt passed away on 10th October 1964. There are many theories which are prevalent even today regarding his mysterious death. People often say that Guru Dutt committed suicide but I don’t believe in such sensational theories. Actually he died in the night and the same day we had shot the climax scene, the death scene of Mala Sinha’s character of Baharen Phir Bhi Ayengi at Guru Dutt Studio.  Guru Dutt was the hero of the film and the director was Shahid Lateef. Guru Dutt Studio was behind the Natraj Studio at Andheri (East). That place has been taken over by the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Highway today.’  
As Tanuja asked him if he was ok, he replied, ‘I am feeling uneasy, it seems like some heart problem’. Then on a lighter note he said, ‘Just see Mala taking leave tomorrow...what else the artistes give to the producers except heart problem’.
‘After the pack up in the evening Mala Sinha requested Guru Dutt to grant her leave for the next day as she had to attend a film premier in Kolkata. Mala Sinha went to her makeup room and Guru Dutt, along with Tanuja started climbing up the stairs to his first floor office. Suddenly Guru Dutt stopped mid-way and started massaging his chest. As Tanuja asked him if he was ok, he replied, ‘I am feeling uneasy, it seems like some heart problem’. Then on a lighter note he said, ‘Just see Mala taking leave tomorrow...what else the artistes give to the producers except heart problem’. Actually Guru Dutt was not feeling well since morning that day. I firmly believe that he was too unwell to stand the effects of drinks or the sleeping pills which he reportedly took in the night. It’s wrong to call it suicide as it was an accident as per my belief.’ 
Shyam Kapoor says, ‘Waheeda wanted Guru Dutt to convert to Islam and marry her, though M. Sadiq and Johnny Walker were against Waheeda’s condition regarding the conversion. They always said that it was totally wrong to force someone to convert."
Talking about Guru Dutt and Waheeda Rehman’s relation, Shyam Kapoor says, ‘Waheeda wanted Guru Dutt to convert to Islam and marry her, though M. Sadiq and Johnny Walker were against Waheeda’s condition regarding the conversion. They always said that it was totally wrong to force someone to convert. On the other hand, Guru Dutt said that Geeta Dutt will never be ready to divorce him. One evening I was at my in laws’ home when suddenly one of my acquaintances Ujagar Singh came searching for me. Ujagar Singh was known to lots of film personalities. He said that Waheeda Rehman’s brother in law was extremely angry and was shouting that he was going to drag Guru Dutt then and there and also that he would see how come he doesn’t convert and marry Waheeda. I, along with my father in law immediately rushed to Guru Dutt’s home.  I spent that night at Guru Dutt’s home though nothing happened which we were afraid of”. Shyam Kapoor’s father in law Ravi Khanna was a renowned fight master of his times. Shyam Kapoor married Ravi Khanna’s daughter Sharda in the year 1961. 
But the distributor of the film put a condition that the reshoot of the film should be directed by Abrar Alvi. Atma Ram ji had no other option but to agree but as per the original contract, Shahid Lateef’s name was given as the director in the credits.
After Guru Dutt’s death his brother Atma Ram ji took the responsibilities of Guru Dutt Films. In place of Guru Dutt, Dharmendra was signed for the film Baharen Phir Bhi Ayengi. But the distributor of the film put a condition that the reshoot of the film should be directed by Abrar Alvi. Atma Ram ji had no other option but to agree but as per the original contract, Shahid Lateef’s name was given as the director in the credits. All the Guru Dutt portions including the hit song Aap ke haseen rookh pe aaj naya nor hai were reshot. Abrar Alvi was a very lazy person. Shahid Lateef had shot the original 14 reels of the film Baharen Phir Bhi Ayengi in just 60 days whereas Abrar Alvi took 288 shifts to reshoot Guru Dutt’s parts with Dharmendra and emptied all the accounts of Guru Dutt Films. This film released 2 years later in 1966. 
In the year 1968, Atma Ram ji produced the film Shikar under Guru Dutt Films banner which was a jubilee hit. Bonus was paid to the staff of the Guru Dutt Films. Atmaram ji promised that he would get a residential building built for the permanent staff of the company in Guru Dutt’s remembrance.
In the year 1968, Atma Ram ji produced the film Shikar under Guru Dutt Films banner which was a jubilee hit. Bonus was paid to the staff of the Guru Dutt Films. Atmaram ji promised that he would get a residential building built for the permanent staff of the company in Guru Dutt’s remembrance. A plot of land was bought in Andheri’s Versova area. Meanwhile Atmaram ji founded his own banner Guru Dutt Films Combine and produced Chanda Aur Bijli (1969), Umang (1970), Memsaab (1971) and Ye Gulistaan Hamara (1972) but none of these films could make an impact on the box office.  On the other hand, the building’s work had started. Atma Ram ji said, due to financial constraints he would have to sell the flats and the staff members who are interested to buy, would be given priority. This building named Guru Dutt Apartments in the Police Colony on Fisheries Road – Versova was completed in early 1970’s decade. Shyam Kapoor bought a flat in this building and has been living here since then. 

 
 

A sculptor named Pradeep Sharma lived in the flat adjacent to Shyam Kapoor’s flat who shifted to Dehradun many years back. He sculpted a bust of Guru Dutt which is still displayed on the entrance of the Guru Dutt Apartments and reminds us of the great film maker. 

Shyam Kapoor was associated with the Guru Dutt Films Combine till 1976. Afterwards he tried to direct films independently but all 3 films which he started got shelved because of some or other reason. Constrainedly he had to leave direction to start a production job. As a production controller he did some movies including Darinda (1977), Professor Pyarelal(1981), Sohni Mahiwal (1984) and then he joined the company owned by the well known T.V. show producer-director Ajay Sinha.  After looking after the production of Ajay Sinhas T.V. shows Hasratein, Astitva, Ghar Ek Sapna, Gudgudi, Kesariya Balma etc., Shyam Kapoor is now living a retired life since last few years.  One of his 2 daughters lives in Canada and the other daughter and one son are settled in America. One of his Mumbai based 2 sons is a stuntman in films and the youngest one has his own business in computers.   

Shyam Kapoor, who completed 86 in last April, is still fit and healthy. Guru Dutt’s memories are still fresh in his mind and at the very mention of his name Shyam Kapoor gets immersed in those memories. 

English Translation edited by: Mrs Aksher Apoorva

Part of Shishir Krishna Sharma’s Beete Hue Din blog series. 
 

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