Divya Solgamawrote on Aug 20 2008 6:14PM
Ranbir Raj Kapoor (his real name) was son of Prithviraj Kapoor, the head of India’s greatest and most famous film family. Raj Kapoor was born on December 14th, 1924 in a town called Samandru in Peshawar (now in Pakistan). However his entire family moved to Bombay (now Mumbai) in 1929. Raj Kapoor’s father Prithviraj Kapoor had already earned a big name as a very good actor even before he landed in Mumbai. Raj Kapoor was the eldest son of the 4 children. His other 2 brothers Shammi Kapoor and Shashi Kapoor also became very popular as actors. After failing in his matriculation examination, Raj Kapoor first joined Bombay Talkies and began to work as an attendant on the sets of Jwar Bhataa which was Dilip Kumar’s first film as a hero. Later, Raj Kapoor assisted famous producer director Kedar Sharma as a clapper boy. Here he was asked to do menial jobs such as sweeping floors as well as the clapper boy. Once Kedar Sharma, while shooting in his studio, found that young Raj Kapoor did not obey his orders, he slapped him on the sets. Slap on his face changed everything for Raj Kapoor. This was like a turning point of his life. However, Kedar Sharma also saw young man’s determination to make it big some day.
In 1947, Kedar Sharma gave Raj Kapoor a break as a hero opposite Madhubala in his movie Neelkamal. The following year in 1948, Raj Kapoor set up his own studio and formed his banner R.K.Films and made his directorial debut with film Aag (Fire). Aag was a very interesting film where he challenged traditionally established conventions of having sympathetic characters and simple story telling. Aag was Raj Kapoor’s first film with charming actress Nargis. After the release of this movie, Raj Kappor and Nargis went on to become the most famous leading romantic pair of Hindi silver screen. Aag was Raj Kapoor’s first film which explored duality. Aag was the first film to tackle physical beauty v/s inner beauty ( a theme that he revisited again in Satyam Shivam Sundaram in 1978). Next year, in 1949, Raj Kapoor produced superhit movie Barsaat. Also in 1949, Raj Kapoor acted opposite Dilip Kumar in Mehboob Khan’s Andaaz where Nargis was heroine. In Andaaz, Raj Kapoor matched his ability as an actor one to one with brilliant Dilip Kumar. This was Raj’s one of his most memorable roles. It was passionate romance of Raj Kapoor with Nargis in Barsaat which was also brought him recognition as a director of much merit. Barsaat, a runaway hit, also brought into limelight the most famous duo Music Directors Shankar-Jaikisan, lyricists Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri and Actor Premnath (Raj’s brother-in-law) and actress Nimmi. The raw passion between Nargis and Raj Kapoor in Barsaat shot with beautiful poetic use of light and shade drove audience wild. Lead female singer Lata Mangeshkar climbed greater heights after her songs in film Barsaat became raging hits. First time in history of Indian Cinema an orchestra of more than 200 musicians was set by music director Shankar Jaikisan. Jaikisan was only 19 years old when he composed music with Shankar for the film Barsaat. Thus Jaikisan became the youngest music director ever until that record was broken by Usha Khanna in 1959 when she was only 17 when she composed music for the film Dil Deke Dekho. Raj Kapoor had a great sense of music and rhythm. He himself played lots of instruments such as Harmonium, Piano Accordian, Tabla, Bul Bul Tarang etc. Many a times, Raj Kapoor gave his own suggestions to music directors Shankar-Jaikisan when they composed songs for Raj Kapoor films. Shankar-Jaikisan never ever allowed anyone to meddle in their composition. They made an exception only to Raj Kapoor and listened to his advise and at times changed some tunes to the satisfaction of Raj Kapoor. But when it came Raj Kapoor films, Shankar-Jaikisan gave a very special touch when they composed music. This was similar to what great maestro S.D.Burman did to Dev Anand for Navketan banner. In short, Raj Kapoor’s musical sense, feel for rhythm and his involvement in music sittings (with music director Shankar-Jaikisan) ensured the highest quality of music in all RK films. In 1950’s, cinegoers saw Raj Kapoor as one of the greatest Producer-Directors besides establishing himself as one of India’s biggest ever film stars along with handsome Dev Anand and tragedy king Dilip Kumar – the Trimurty. Film Awaara (1951) had the tale of a vagabond was perhaps his greatest triumph and was also released in Russia as Bradyaga. Film Awaara was a superhit not only in India but was also very popular in Russia and many middle eastern countries. The title song Awaara Hoon set in Raga Bhairavi was so popular in Russia and that Russions literally used to dance in the cinema halls when this song sequence appeared on the screen. Raj Kapoor went on to become a very famous man in Russia next only to the then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. In Awaara, Raj Kapoor gave a social message that the character of any human being is shaped by the circumstances that he undergoes during his lifetime and not by genes of the family from where he is born. In Awaara, the dream sequence song Ghar aaya mera pardesi had huge statues set amongst the clouds and this song sequence stands out even today. Many of the present day movies follow this idea in their song sequence. Visual imagery was always an important part of his films. Raj Kapoor always tried to give a social message in every film that followed Awaara. Raj Kapoor’s film Boot Polish (1954) was a brilliant creation. It won national acclaim and also won Filmfare award as the Best film of 1954. In Boot Polish, Raj Kapoor skillfully portrayed how one can stand in dignity by doing menial work against heavy odds to survive when one is stricken by poverty. With Awaara, Raj Kapoor created Charlie-Chaplin type of image. He often played a tramp-like innocent person’s role, despite adversity, could still be honest and cheerful. He made every effort to ensure that his films appealed to every section of the society. This image again was used in his next film Shree 420 in 1955 depicting the exploitation of an innocent soul who comes to the city to make his living. In many of Raj’s films, he tried to portray himself as a naïve simple hero exploited by cruel and corrupt society like in the film Anari (1958). In 1956, Raj Kapoor’s one of the most ambitious films Jagte Raho bombed at the box office. This movie was in fact one of the best films of Raj Kapoor. But for unknown reasons, audience rejected the theme of this film. Raj Kapoor was very much hurt. But Raj Kapoor continued to explore social issues. In 1962, he produced one of his masterpieces Jis Desh Me Ganga Behati hai. In this movie, he showed that an innocent person can change even the character of a hardcore decoit to become a good man. This movie was a superhit and Raj Kapoor recovered all his financial losses occurred after screening Jagte Raho. In 1956 after the film Chori Chori was released, he broke with his leading actress Nargis and hence in 1962, he took Padmini as his lead heroine for the film Jis Desh Me Ganga Behti Hai and in 1964, he took beautiful Vyjayantimala in lead female role for his film Sangam. Reverting back to his Charlie-Chaplin image, in 1970, he produced one of his life’s most ambitious films magnum opus Mera Naam Joker which was about a clown who always laughs and maintains a cheerful image to the outside world and cries within. This film had 3 parts and 4 and half hours of footage. It took Raj Kapoor 5 years to produce this film. The first part of this film was simply superb where adolescent hero (acted by his son Rishi Kapoor) discovers love and sex. Since this film was too long, a highly self-indulgent exercise, flopped miserably at box office. The failure of this film shattered Raj Kapoor completely. The failure of the film Mera Naam Joker forced Raj Kapoor to turn to sensuality.In 1973, Raj Kapoor released Bobby which started te