Naseeruddin Shah has often called Shammi Kapoor and Dara Singh among his favourite screen icons and the veteran actor says people are often surprised by this answer. Shah, 68, said before Kapoor, Hindi cinema actors lacked style when it came to being a part of songs, often looking "awkward" as they tried to dance.
"Whenever I am asked who my favourite actors are, I say Shammi Kapoor and Dara Singh. People expect me to say Balraj Sahni and Dilip Kumar. I admire them too but Dara Singh and Shammi Kapoor were my favourites.
"Shammi kappor is the man who gave a form to song picturisation in India, what men should do in a song. Post Shammi Kapoor, every actor has done a Shammi Kapoor or tried to do a Shammi Kapoor and every choreographer has tried to make them do a Shammi Kapoor," Shah said on Thursday while speaking at a session at the ongoing Mountain Echoes literary festival in Thimphu.
As someone, who by his own admission, is not good when it comes to being a part of a song, Shah said he loved watching Kapoor own one like a boss.
"There were actors singing songs, and they didn't seem like they were singing themselves, which they weren't, of course. All you saw was these rather awkward gents trying to look younger than they were.
"The only one who I enjoyed watching in songs was Shammi Kapoor. I knew I could never be a Shammi Kapoor. When you see a performance and feel 'I couldn't have done it', that's the kind of performance you really admire. So when I watched Dilip Kumar and Balraj Sahni, I used to feel I could do this," he said.
Shah made his debut as a lead actor with Shyam Benegal's "Nishant" and went on to collaborate with him on a number of classics and the actor said the director told him to treat the camera as his audience, an advice that he follows even today.
"The most useful advice that Shyam (Benegal) gave me was that when you are on stage you try to be in contact with every single person, you got to create the same contact with the camera because the camera is the eye of every man in the audience.
"To me, that was really a mind opener and I learnt to make friends with the camera and that has helped me. (Though) When I had to do a song and dance number in front of the camera, it didn't work as much," Shah said.