Raj Kapoor – The Ultimate Showman
Ranbir ‘Raj’ Kapoor ( 14th December, 1924 – 2nd June,1988), also known as ‘The Show Man’, was an Indian actor, producer and director of Hindi cinema. Born in Peshawar, Pakistan, Raj was the eldest of the six children in a Hindkowan Punjabi family. Hard work and innate talent won him 9 Filmfare Awards. His films like Awaara (1951) and Boot Polish (1954) were nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. His performance in Awaara earned him number one position in ‘The Top Ten Performances of All Times’ by the Time Magazine. The Indian Government also honored him with the Padma Bhushan in 1971 and the Dada Saheb Phalke Award in 1988 for his tremendous contribution to Indian Cinema.
At the age of 11, Kapoor appeared in films for the first time, in the 1935 movie, Inqalab. After acting in several other films in the next 12 years, his big break came with the lead role in Neel Kamal (1947) opposite actress Madhubala. It was Madhubala’s debut movie. In 1948, at the age of 24, Raj established his own studio, the famous R.K. Films and became the youngest film director of his time. The signature pose of the black sculptures (a lady arched gracefully in waltz over her man’s arm) came to be synonymous with romance. He made his directorial debut with the movie Aag.
In 1949, Kapoor starred alongside Dilip Kumar in Mehboob Khan’s blockbuster Andaz, which was actually his first major success as an actor. He went on to produce, direct and star in many box office hits such as Barsaat (1949), Awaara (1951), Shree 420 (1955), Chori Chori (1956) and many more. The timeless tunes of ‘Pyar hua, ikrar hua hai; pyar se fir kyun darta hai dil…’ captured the hearts of millions of music aficionados- nicknamed, the eternally romantic rain song!
In 1964, Raj forayed into color cinema with his ‘Sangam’ which he not only produced and directed but also acted in. Outside of his home productions, his other notable films were Anari (1956), Chhaliya ( 1960) and Teesri Kasam ( 1963). He directed, produced and starred in one of his most ambitious projects Mera Naam Joker which took nearly 6 yrs to complete ; however, unfortunately, when released it was a Box Office disaster.
Raj Kapoor launched his second son, Rishi’s career with Bobby (1973) which went on to become one of the greatest hits of all times. In the latter half of the 1970s and 80s Raj produced and directed films which mainly focused on female protagonists : Satyam Shivam Sundaram (Zeenat Aman), Prem Rog (Padmini Kolhapure) and Ram Teri Ganga Maili (Mandakini). Kapoor gradually reduced his acting graph and was last seen alongside Rajesh Khanna in ‘Naukri’ and opposite Sanjay Khan in ‘Abdullah’. He closed his acting chapter in 1982 with ‘Vakil Babu’.
Raj Kapoor suffered from asthma in his later years. He died of complications related to asthma in 1988 at the age of just 63. It was while receiving the Dada Saheb Phalke Award from then President Venkataraman, that Kapoor felt severe discomfort and collapsed on the stage itself. He was rushed to AIIMS for immediate treatment. However hard the country’s best cardiac surgeons tried, they could not save the legend.
Kapoor was often referred to as the Charlie Chaplin of Indian cinema who, despite all adversities, remained cheerful and honest. Raj Kapoor’s quirky dance moves added sparkle to his already distinctive persona. His fame spread quickly all over the world. He was greatly adored by audiences in South Africa, Middle East, Soviet Union Russia, China and South East Asia. It was he who was instrumental in introducing the music composer duo, Shankar-Jaikishan. The duo, fondly called as ‘Ram-Lakshman’ (they were inseparable friends), was chosen by Kapoor as the lead composers for his home production, Barsaat. It was this composer ‘jodi’ which gave Barsaat two trend-setters– ‘Barsaat mein humse mile tum’ and a Cabaret ‘Patli Kamar Hai’. Mukesh came to be known as Raj Kapoor’s voice as most songs of Raj were sung by him in his movies.
Raj sahab and Mukesh were trained singers, both, disciples of the same music Guru. Mutual respect and a passion for composing soul-stirring melodies was what brought the two men extremely close. Some years down the lane, Mukeshji was grappling with meager finances and Raj Kapoor didn’t think twice before helping him get through it. Mukesh’s son, Nitin Mukesh, credits his achievements in the music industry to this magnanimous artiste. The Kapoors and the Mathurs were like family. No doubt Raj Kapoor was absolutely bereft on Mukeshji’s death. These were the very words the actor spoke remembering his singing soul mate, “there was Mukesh- my soul, my voice, I was a mere body…”. Raj Kapoor, very emotionally, expressed that he had lost his voice too. Such was the actor’s humility and benevolence….!!