Shammi, the `Yahoo’ man logs out. RIP

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The author of this tribute to Shammi Kapoor is Anand Parthasarathy. Reproduced here courtesy

Veteran Hindi cinema star Shammi Kapoor who died in the early hours of August 14, 2011 at the age of 79, had more in common with the world of Internet, than his catchphrase ‘Yahoo’!
A fact forgotten in the ensuing decades, is that he was something of an Internet pioneer in India.

What was then the government’s overseas communication agency – Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL) – brought Internet access to the general public, almost exactly 16 years ago on Aug 15 1995. But almost a year earlier, Shammi, an Apple computer buff, had set up an Internet café in a 5-star hotel in Mumbai using a leased TCP/IP line. He was also the founder and first chairman of the Internet Users Community of India (IUCI). He was a one of those responsible for setting up cyber organizations like the Ethical Hackers Association. But for millions of his fans ( at least those who are also Internet users), Shammi is the man who coined the cry Yahoo! 

It first surfaced in the 1961 film `Junglee’ in a song voiced for him by Mohammed Rafi : “Chahey koi mujhe junglee kahey…..”. But in the course of a series of You Tube interviews , Shammi Kapoor Unplugged (, he reveals that the Yahoo shout was not Rafi’s voice of Rafi but that of a writer at the Kapoor clan-run Prithvi Theatres, Parag Raaj. At any rate, it became Shammi’s signature sound and he is indelibly associated with the phrase.

In 1994, two Stanford University engineering students, David Filo and Jerry Yang, created an application to help people communicate with each other, find and access information and purchase things using the Internet. They called it Yahoo, an acronym for for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle”. But according to the official Yahoo history, Filo and Yang insist they (also) selected the name because they liked the general dictionary definition of a yahoo: “rude, unsophisticated, uncouth.” 

In an interview with Sanjeev Srivastava for the BBC  in 2006, Shammi recalls that “when Yahoo opened its office in Mumbai (Bombay) several years ago, he was invited by Jerry Yang. As the launch festivities started building towards a climax, Kapoor was pleasantly surprised to hear the band playing his Yahoo song from `Junglee’. Later, Yang told him how inspired he was by the Yahoo song and the way the actor had used the word in his inimitable style in so many of his films. 

“It was all very flattering. Many of my relatives still call up and ask whether I own Yahoo,” Shammi said. But what did the word Yahoo really mean to him? Why did he use it with such energy in so many of his movies? “It was an expression of joy after having won over my lady love,” he explained.

Long after he gave up acting, Shammi remained a hard core computer and Internet buff. He has his own website devoted to the life and work of Kapoor clan of actors. Twitter, Facebook – he was into everything. And he told an interviewer about one important reason for his devotion to computertech: “The machine (computer) did another good to me. The moment the mouse came in my hand, the cigarette flew away permanently.”

  1. August 14, 2011

    Kinnera Murthy

    Did not know about Shammi’s tech savvy skills. He brought vibrancy and animation to Indian cinema and fun became acceptable in our otherwise prim middle class world in those days. Yahoo, Tally ho and so many other words! Songs lilted when picturised on Shammi. RIP

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