How Jeetendra managed to impress V Shantaram and make his film debut

Jeetendra began his film career with iconic filmmaker V Shantaram. On Jeetendra's 75th birthday today (7 April), we take a look at his humble, yet eventful beginnings in the film industry.

Sukhpreet Kahlon

Most cinema lovers remember Jeetendra as the archetypal ‘Jumping Jack’, with his whacky dance moves and signature all-white outfit complete with white shoes. But Jeetendra began his film career with iconic filmmaker V Shantaram and it was quite an eventful beginning for sure.

Jeetendra’s father, Amarnath Kapoor, used to supply artificial jewellery for films. As a young boy, Jeetendra would help deliver the jewellery to the studios.

One day, he expressed his desire to watch the shooting of a film and his father requested veteran film maker V Shantaram to allow him on the sets. Shantaram was very particular about visitors on his sets and suggested Jeetendra do junior artist roles to be on the set instead. A young Jeetendra was thus chosen to be a part of the song, 'Tu Chhupi Hai Kahan' in Shantaram’s Navrang (1959) but it was not so easy.

Shantaram was very punctual and expected his entire staff to be particular about timing as well. But during a shoot in Rajasthan, Jeetendra arrived late for dinner and the veteran director was livid. He asked the production team to send Jeetendra back and the make-up man was instructed to not get him ready for the shoot on the following day. Jeetendra called his father expecting to be consoled, but his father scolded him as well for ruining his chances of doing something with his life.

So a dejected and desperate Jeetendra woke up the next morning at 4am, implored the make-up man to get him ready and waited outside Shantaram’s room with a tearful face. The director saw him dressed for the shoot and was impressed. He decided to give him another chance and from thereon, Jeetendra spared no opportunity to impress the director and was cast in his next film Sehra (1963), as actress Sandhya’s body double.

Jeetendra’s debut film as a lead actor eventually came with Shantaram’s Geet Gaaya Pattharonne (1964) in which he starred as a young sculptor alongside Shantaram’s daughter, Rajshree.

Here is the title track of the film: