Raj Kapoor began his career as a clapper boy assisting Kidar Sharma. At age eleven, he appeared in films for the first time, in the 1935 film Inquilab. Raj Kapoor’s big break, however, came when he played the hero’s role in Neel Kamal (1947) by Kidar Sharma. In 1948, at the age of twenty-four, he established his own studio, R. K. Films, and became the youngest film director of his time. His first movie as a producer, director and star was Aag which was an immediate success.
Raj Kapoor’s career as director spanned the years from 1948 through 1988. He directed and starred in many films that are still remembered and loved, from Barsaat (1949) to Awaara (1951), Shri 420 (1955), and Sangam (1964). He often starred with actress Nargis, who was his real-life love interest in his films.
After the box office failure of his ambitious 1970 film, Mera Naam Joker (My name is Joker), which took more than six years to complete, he produced and directed Bobby (1973) which was not only a huge box office success but also introduced Dimple Kapadia, later a very popular actress, and was the first of a new generation of teen romances. Dimple wore bikinis in the film which was quite unique for Indian films then. Raj Kapoor focused a lot on the female form in later films like Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978) and Ram Teri Ganga Maili (1985). His last film appearances were in Vakil Babu (1982) where he appeared opposite his brother Shashi Kapoor and a British made-for-television film Kim (1984).
Raj Kapoor suffered from asthma in his later years; he died of complications related to asthma in 1988 at sixty-three years of age. At the time of his death he was working on the movie Henna (an Indo-Pakistani love story). The film was later completed by his son Randhir Kapoor.
Raj Kapoor is appreciated both by film critics and ordinary film fans. Film historians and movie buffs speak of him as the “Charlie Chaplin of Indian cinema”, since he often portrayed a tramp-like figure, who, despite adversity, was still cheerful and honest. His fame spread world-wide. He was adored by audiences in large parts of Africa, the Middle East, the former Soviet Union, China, and Southeast Asia; his movies were global commercial successes.
Many of Raj Kapoor’s movies had a patriotic theme. His films Aag, Shri 420 and Jis Desh Men Ganga Behti Hai (In the Country Where the Ganges Flows) celebrated the newly independent India, and encouraged film-goers to be patriots. Raj Kapoor commissioned these famous lyrics for the movie Shri 420:
“Mera joota hai Japani, Ye pataloon Inglistani
Sar pe lal topi Roosi, Phir bhi dil hai Hindustani”
The song is still extremely popular and has been featured in a number of movies since Shri 420.
Raj Kapoor was a canny judge of filmi music and lyrics. Many of the songs he commissioned are evergreen hits. He introduced the music directors Shankar-Jaikishan and the lyricist Hasrat Jaipuri. He is also remembered for his strong sense of visual style. He used striking visual compositions, elaborate sets, and dramatic lighting to complete the mood set by the music. He introduced the actors Nimmi, Dimple Kapadia, Zeenat Aman and Mandakini, as well as fostering the careers of his sons Rishi and Rajiv.
Raj Kapoor: Personal Life
The Kapoor family hailed from Samundri near the town of Lyallpur in present-day Pakistan. Raj Kapoor was born on 14th December 1924, at Peshawar in the North-West Frontier Province of what is now Pakistan. He was named Ranbirraj Kapoor at birth, and was the eldest of the four children of renowned stage and cinema actor Prithviraj Kapoor and his wife Smt. Ramsarni (Rama) Devi nee Mehra. His younger brothers were the actors Shammi Kapoor and Shashi Kapoor. He also had a sister by name Urmila Sial. In 1946, at the age of twenty-two, Raj Kapoor was wed to Krishna Malhotra belonging to Jabalpur in a traditional family-arranged wedding. Krishna was Raj Kapoor’s first cousin once removed, being his father’s maternal uncle’s daughter. Her brothers Premnath as well as Rajindernath were also actors. Raj Kapoor and Krishna’s eldest son Randhir Kapoor was born the following year, followed by their elder daughter Ritu the year after, in 1948. The second son Rishi Kapoor was born in 1952, and second daughter Rima in 1956. Their youngest son, Rajiv Kapoor was born in 1962. Randhir Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor and Rajiv Kapoor have all been associated with the Hindi film industry as actors, directors or producers.
Raj Kapoor is also known to have had a longtime romantic relationship with the renowned actress Nargis Dutt during the 1950s. The couple starred in several films together, including Awaara and Shri 420.
Noted film personalities Karisma Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor are the granddaughters of Raj and Krishna Kapoor, being the daughters of their eldest son Randhir Kapoor by his wife Babita.
Filmfare Awards Won By Raj Kapoor:
Raj Kapoor had been nominated for 16 Filmfare awards in all.
- 1985: Winner Best Film for Ram Teri Ganga Maili.
- 1985: Winner Best Director for Ram Teri Ganga Maili.
- 1982: Winner Best Director for Prem Rog.
- 1980: Nominated Best Actor in Supporting Role for Abdullah.
- 1978: Nominated Best Director for Satyam Shivam Sundaram.
- 1973: Nominated Best Director for Bobby.
- 1973: Nominated Best Film for Bobby.
- 1971: Winner Best Director for Mera Naam Joker.
- 1971: Nominated Best Film for Mera Naam Joker.
- 1964: Nominated Best Actor for Sangam.
- 1964: Winner Best Director for Sangam.
- 1964: Nominated Best Film for Sangam.
- 1961: Winner Best Actor for Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai.
- 1959: Winner Best Actor for Anari.
- 1958: Nominated Best Actor for Phir Subhah Hogi.
- 1956: Nominated Best Actor for Jagte Raho.
Honors and Recognition:
- Raj Kapoor was nominated for the 1953 Grand Prix award at the Cannes Film Festival for Awaara.
- In 1955, Raj Kapoor was conferred with an honorary degree in Tehran.
- Raj Kapoor had been conferred with a National Award for cinematography for contribution to Indian cinema.
- In 1971, Raj Kapoor was awarded the Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian award from the Government of India.
- In 1987, Raj Kapoor was awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, India’s highest award for cinematic.
- An Raj Kapoor Film Festival was held on his 75th Birth Anniversary at the Cultural Centre of Russia on 17th January, 2000.
- On January 8, 2001, Raj Kapoor was honored with the Best Director of the Millennium award by Hero-Honda-Stardust.
- In 2002, Raj Kapoor was named Showman of the Millennium by Star Screen Awards.
- The 55th Cannes International Film Festival, which was held from May 16-26, 2002, comprised a Raj Kapoor Retrospective as a tribute to the showman.
- The prestigious Centre George Pompidou in Paris was hosting an important 3-month long festival of popular Indian cinema from February to April 2004, dedicated to five great Indian film personalities: Raj Kapoor, Guru Dutt, Mehboob Khan, Bimal Roy and V. Shantaram.