Late great legend Elvis Presley changed the face of popular music, but what most people in the west don’t realise is the huge role he played in the evolution of Indian cinema.
Shammi Kapoor was a struggling actor in the 1950s trying to jump out of the shadow cast by his superstar elder brother Raj Kapoor and famous father Prithviraj Kapoor. In stark contrast, sizzling young singer Elvis was blazing a trail with his red-hot image, dynamite dance moves and magnificent songs.
While Elvis could do no wrong, Shammi was trying different genres along with various looks and trying to break through into the Bollywood big time, but nothing was working for him.
When all looked lost, the young Indian actor teamed up with debutante director Nasir Hussain for the 1957 film Tumsa Nahin Dekha and decided to change everything about himself after getting inspired by Elvis Presley.
Right from the hair and clothes to the rock n roll swagger and daring dance moves, everything was modelled on the American singer creating waves across the world.
If that didn’t work, then Shammi was ready to retire from Bollywood, but it did. The rock n roll classic became a huge hit and turned the Indian answer to Elvis Presley into a sensation overnight. The Indian star continued to model himself after Elvis Presley in subsequent classics such as Dil Deke Dekho and Junglee with a rebellious image that took India by storm.
That Elvis impact made by Shammi created tremors beyond his onscreen presence and gave a movie industry in cruise control a massive kick up the backside.
Suddenly, the other Indian heroes started to model themselves on Elvis in some way and rock n roll-inspired music gave Hindi cinema that western edge, which enabled it to reach international audiences. This would enable the industry to grow and help define Bollywood throughout the 1960s.