Bollywood actor Shammi Kapoor dead at 79

Legendary Bollywood heart-throb Shammi Kapoor, whose energetic acting and dancing style heavily influenced modern-day Indian film stars, died on Sunday aged 79.

"Shammi Kapoor ji passed away this morning at 5:15 am," Bollywood veteran Amitabh Bachchan wrote on Twitter, using the Hindi honorific, saying Kapoor had brought "flamboyance and joie de vivre" to the screen.

Nikhil Gangavane, a family friend who headed the official Shammi Kapoor fan club, said the actor had been admitted to the private Breach Candy Hospital in south Mumbai within the last week.

"He was on a ventilator for three or four days. He was having some chest infection, which he had had for the last one or two years. He died of renal failure this morning," Gangavane told AFP.

"He had been undergoing dialysis for the last six or seven years but developed complications."

Kapoor's dance performances in romantic hits such as "Tumsa Nahin Dekha" (You're One of a Kind, 1957), "Dil Deke Dekho" (Give Your Heart and See, 1959) and "Junglee" (Wild, 1961) earned him comparisons with Elvis Presley.

Key to his success was his avid interest in music. Kapoor personally selected the songs he would dance and mime to, mindful that they needed to fit his exuberant on-screen style.

In doing so, he and singers like Mohammed Rafi provided some of the industry's most popular and memorable tunes.

But he admitted much later that he was never a natural dancer, even if his original moves were a big draw for audiences and made him an unlikely romantic hero.

"The truth is I could never learn to dance. I even tried coaching classes but failed," he told the BBC in a 2006 interview. "I always had a sense of music and rhythm. And that worked in my favour."

In later years, as he withdrew from acting and directing, Kapoor became a champion of the Internet and was the founder-chairman of the Internet Users Community of India, maintaining a Facebook page and a Twitter account.

His own web site www.junglee.org.in profiled his famous family, the Kapoors, who have dominated Hindi-language cinema virtually since its inception.

He described himself on his Twitter account profile as a "Renaissance man, retired actor, computer buff".

Tributes flooded in immediately from fellow actors and fans.

"It is a terrible shock. Shammi Kapoor was a wonderful human being. He is eternal," actress Saira Banu, who starred alongside him in "Junglee", told the CNN-IBN television news channel.

Film director Karan Johar described Kapoor on Twitter as "one of the finest and strongest men I knew" while Priyanka Chopra, one of today's most glamorous Bollywood stars, said she was "at a loss" after hearing the news.

Kapoor's cremation is expected on Monday.

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