Shammi Kapoor had a short stint at Ruia College, in Matunga, Mumbai, after which he joined his father’s theatrical company "Prithvi Theatres".
He entered the cinema world in 1948, as a junior artiste, at a salary of Rs. 150 per month, stayed with Prithvi Theatres for the next four years and collected his last paycheck, Rs. 300, in 1952.
He made his debut in Bollywood in the year 1953, when the film Jeevan Jyoti was released. It was directed by Mr. Mahesh Kaul and Chand Usmani was Kapoor’s first heroine.
Kapoor started out with serious roles but with Filmistan's Nasir Hussain directed Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957) opposite Ameeta and Dil Deke Dekho (1959) with Asha Parekh, he attained the image of a light-hearted, stylish playboy. Tall, athletic, lively, fair complexioned, green-eyed and with handsome features- Shammi was a heartthrob, and his good looks and physique complemented his image.
With Junglee (1961) his new image was cemented and his subsequent films were all in this genre. He particularly chose Mohammed Rafi as his playback voice. Though in his early career he had often played second fiddle to established heroines like Madhubala in films such as Rail Ka Dibba (1953), producers now loved pairing Shammi with new heroines, and three of them became huge stars in their own right: Asha Parekh, Saira Banu, and Sharmila Tagore. Of all his heroines, he said that Sharmila Tagore, Rajshree, and Asha Parekh were easy to work with. He and Asha Parekh were paired together in four films, the most successful being the murder mystery Teesri Manzil (1966).
In the first half of the 1960s, Kapoor was seen in successful films like Professor, Char Dil Char Rahen, Raat ke Raahi, Dil Tera Diwana, ‘Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya’, China Town, Kashmir Ki Kali, Bluff Master, Janwar and Rajkumar. Although nominated before, in 1968, he received the first Filmfare Best Actor award of his career for the film Bramhachari.
In the 1970s, Kapoor’s weight problem proved an obstacle in his path of success and ended his career as a romantic hero. One of his last hits, in which he played the lead role, was Andaz (1971). With time, he moved to carecter roles and acted in films like Zameer, Hero and Vidhaata. In 1974, he donned the hat of a director and made Manoranjan, a film based on Irma La Douce. Two years later, he made Bandalbaaz (1976). However, both the films failed to create magic at the box office. His last appearance, as a character actor, was in the delayed 2006 film, Sandwich.Recently he has decided to act with Ranbir Kapoor, the great-nephew of his brother Raj Kapoor, in Imitiaz Ali's next movie.