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Actor / Producer / Director Hindi

Raj Kapoor

Raj Kapoor Biography

Birth Name: Ranbir Raj Kapoor

Born : 14 December 1924, in Peshawar, North West Frontier Province, British India

Death : 02 June 1988, in New Delhi, Delhi, India

‘The Showman of Indian Cinema’, as Raj Kapoor was popularly known, is remembered for his contribution to Indian theatre as an actor, producer and director. Kapoor defined the golden era of Hindi cinema during the 1950s with classics like Awaara (1951), Shri 420 (1955), Jaagte Raho (1956), and Barsaat (1949).

Born in Peshawar, Pakistan to actor Prithviraj Kapoor and Ramsarni Devi Kapoor, Raj Kapoor joined the Hindi film industry at a very young age. He began his foray into the industry working as a clapper-boy for the Bombay Talkies and as an actor for Prithvi Theatres. He made his debut opposite Madhubala in Kidar Sharma’s Neel Kamal (1946). The film gave him visibility and at the age of 24, he started his own studio by the name of R K Films in 1948. In the years that followed, the studio became an intrinsic part of Raj Kapoor's career and the most significant studio of the post-Independence era of Indian cinema.

Raj Kapoor’s first film under the banner of R K Films was Aag (1948). The film starred him along with Nargis, which started his long association with the beautiful actress. The film became a hit and Kapoor continued his work by making a number of successful films such as Barsaat (1949), Awara (1951), Shri 420 (1955), Jaagte Raho (1956). Raj Kapoor's films of the 1950s voiced the concerns of a newly independent nation and dealt with social issues like education, employment, poverty, and housing amongst others. While looking at ideas of social reform, some of Kapoor’s most memorable roles were modelled on Charlie Chaplin’s tramp figure, and Kapoor would play an honest but poor tramp, giving voice to the concerns of the common man. Kapoor's films also expanded the boundaries of Indian cinema and he was immensely popular in foreign markets like Russia, Africa and the Middle East, as well as the film festival circuits. 

In addition to his acting and directorial skills, Kapoor had a keen ear for music and his association with the composer duo Shankar-Jaikishen created some of the most memorable compositions of Hindi cinema. The songs are unrivalled, and popularized Hindi music in domestic and international markets. Kapoor's mise-en-scene was often defined by extensive use of elaborate sets, brooding landscapes with sharply contrasting light. Kapoor associated with noted cinematographer Radhu Karmakar for Awaara (1951) and they worked together for four decades.

During the 1960s, Kapoor continued to make successful films and collaborated with Vyjajanthimala in a number of projects. His most known films from the decade were Chhalia (1960), Sangam (1960), and Teesri Kasam (1966). However, after the box office failure of his ambitious Mera Naam Joker (1970) and Sapnon Ka Saudagar (1968), Kapoor reinvented his form and chose to direct and not act in his films any more. He made a comeback with son, Rishi Kapoor's debut film, Bobby (1973) and subsequently launched Randhir and Rajiv Kapoor as well. Kapoor started to focus on young stories and more explicit imagery which can be seen in films like Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978) and Ram Teri Ganga Maili (1985).

Raj Kapoor has been recognised both internationally and nationally as one of the most influential figures in Indian cinema, and was awarded for the same. Film festivals in his honour have been held in numerous locations including in The Netherlands, Oman, and Russia. The Government of India awarded him with the Padma Bhushan in 1971, as well as a National Award for Cinematography. Not only was he the first recipient of the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award, but it is also named after him. Apart from that, he has won awards for individual movies and roles, such as the Filmfare Award for the Best Actor in Anari (1951) and the Best Film for Boot Polish (1954).

On May 2, 1988, Kapoor suffered an acute asthma attack and died one month later. Raj Kapoor will always be remembered for popularizing Hindi commercial cinema and setting a template for generations to come. Kapoor’s contribution to cinema remains immeasurable. His grandchildren Kareena Kapoor and Ranbir Kapoor continue to be an integral part of Indian cinema.

Family Tree

Krishna Kapoor (1946-1988)