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Book review: Jubilee Kumar offers a glimpse into yesteryear star Rajendra Kumar

The book, by Seema Sonik Alimchand, takes you into the actor’s early life, his struggle in the film industry and, eventually, his glorious streak of hit films that earned him the nickname ‘Jubilee Kumar’.

Sonal Pandya

When we think of Hindi film actors from the 1950s, the triumvirate of Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand springs to mind above everyone else. A new book by Seema Sonik Alimchand, Jubilee Kumar: The Life and Times of a Superstar, highlights the forgotten star Rajendra Kumar whose silver streak at the box office earned him the nickname ‘Jubilee Kumar’.

Sonik Alimchand earlier wrote the more straightforward biography of wrestler-turned-actor Dara Singh, Deedara aka Dara Singh!. This time around, she delves into the life and career of Rajendra Kumar Tuli and takes us from Sialkot in West Punjab, now in Pakistan, to Mumbai, India, where he finally fulfilled his dreams of starring on the big screen.

Like Deedara, Jubilee Kumar narrates the star’s journey almost like a film. The inner monologues and the recreation of certain portions of the actor’s life feel believable. There is a lot of insight on the actor apart from just his films.

The early portion of the book narrates Rajendra Kumar's idyllic existence in Punjab before Partition as the son and grandson of successful businessmen. The Tuli family had to rebuild its life completely when it came over to India.

The book also charts Rajendra Kumar’s early struggle to become an actor. He assisted filmmaker Harnam Singh Rawail on seven films before getting a small walk-on role in Patanga (1949). With Vachan (1955), Mother India (1957) and Goonj Uthi Shehnai (1959), there was no stopping him.

Each chapter features Rajendra Kumar himself speaking about different portions of his journey. His inner thoughts are the strong point of the book, especially as they give you a sense of how the Hindi film industry operated at the time. The late actor also opens up about his failures towards the end of his career, when newer competitors arrived on the scene.

The book Jubilee Kumar, blessed by his family, also divulges personal details about family life, his process on the film set, and his battle with cancer in the latter stages of his life. The biography is filled with many family photos that give a look at the man behind the star image.

Hindi film buffs will enjoy the behind-the-scenes information on some of their favourite films. Rajendra Kumar was himself very involved in the making of his films, and often collaborated with writers and directors to enhance them. The book also highlights the many newcomers, like Manoj Kumar and Feroz Khan, that he supported along the way.

The biography Jubilee Kumar works both to introduce Rajendra Kumar to those who did not know him and to represent him in a new light for even his most ardent fans.

Jubilee Kumar: The Life and Times of a Superstar is published by Hachette India. Click here to order your copy.

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