Geeta Bali’s Personality Had the Energy of Shammi Kapoor’s Dance
“If you see the way Shammi Kapoor danced, that was Geeta Bali’s personality,” remembers Aditya Raj Kapoor. He was only 9 when the iconic actress and his mother Geeta Bali succumbed to small pox, at the young age of 34. In an interview, he recalls her as a loving person who was full of life and very adventurous.
Geeta Bali was born in Amritsar as Harkirtan Kaur. She was trained in classical dance, horse riding and Gatka, a form of martial arts. Bali was one of the most interesting actresses of her time. She was a career girl from a very young age and the only Kapoor woman at the time, to continue working in films after her wedding.
Geeta Bali started her acting career as a child actor at the age of 12 in The Cobbler. She made her full fledged debut with Badnaami (1946) and was a big star in the 1950s. Bawre Nain (1950) with Raj Kapoor, Baazi (1951) and Jaal (1952) opposite Dev Anand, Albela (1951) with Bhagwan Dada and Baaz (1953) with Guru Dutt made her immensely popular with the masses.
Many believe that in real life she was very much like her character in Albela (1951), a very gracious lady, always ready to help and full of music, fun and laughter. Shammi Kapoor and Geeta Bali’s love story is adorably filmi too. The veteran actor remembers her with great fondness and shares details of how they met and fell in love, in Ranikhet.
I loved hill stations. I loved music. I love the folk tunes and the songs and the music that goes along with a hill station. So did Geeta. So we had a lot in common and we got to share these mutual admirations of nature. I fell in love with her and she fell in love with me. When we came back to Bombay, I proposed to her. That was in April of 1955 and she said ‘no, I don’t think I can marry you. I have so many responsibilities and I have to fulfil them. But I love you.’ I said ‘alright, we’ll keep it at that’.Shammi Kapoor, Actor
I kept on asking her on every occasion, ‘let’s get married.’ She said ‘let’s wait and see’. In August eventually, there came a moment, and I don’t know how she arrived at that, when she said ‘yes ok, let’s get married.’ I asked her ‘shall I inform your parents and my parents?’ She said, ‘no, let’s get married right now, today.’ We went to Johnny Walker, a dear friend, who had gotten married just a week earlier, to ask him how to go about it.Shammi Kapoor
Johnny Walker suggested that they get married in a temple and that’s what they did. The couple drove down to a temple complex nearby at Banganga. They arrived there late at night and it happened to be pouring heavily. The temple priest sent them away saying that ‘the gods are asleep, come in the morning at 4 am’. Shammi and Geeta drove back to Matunga and waited for sunrise.
They were back at the temple at 4 am, just like the priest had asked of them, and were married soon after.
The gods were waiting for us. The temple doors were open and the pujari said ‘aayiye, hum aapki shaadi karva dete hain.’ Geeta did a wonderful thing, which I’ve never forgotten. She took out a lipstick from her purse, gave it to me and said ‘yeh aap meri maang mein lipstick bhar do.’ Wonderful gesture, and that’s what I did. That’s how we got married.Shammi Kapoor
Shammi took her back to his rather surprised grandfather and got his blessings. The actor remembers that day, the 24th of August 1955, as one of the most beautiful days in his life, one that he’ll never forget.
Aditya Raj Kapoor, their son, also believes that she was a rare kind. If she liked someone, she would give her heart and soul to that person. An example of that was when she agreed to work with Bhagwan Dada, who was a character artist at the time. She agreed to act opposite him because she thought that the script of Albela (1951) was lovely and that he deserved success.
In another unplugged video, Shammi Kapoor shares the story of the most touching surprise that he got from his wife Geeta Bali, just after the first, and the biggest hit of his career, Tumsa Nahin Dekha.
(This story is from The Quint’s archives and was first published on 21 January 2016. It is being republished to mark Geeta Bali’s death anniversary.)