Fragrance of Yesteryears: Raj Kapoor

Fragrance of Yesteryears brings you a great personalty of tinsel town, the superstar and multi-talented icon of the 50s.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 | 7:49:52 PM IST (+05:30 GMT)
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Fragrance of Yesteryears brings you a great personalty of tinsel town, the superstar and multi-talented icon of the 50s. His family has been entertaining the masses for many decades, and he is the paramount to which many are compared.

We are of course talking about the showman of Indian cinema - the one and only Raj Kapoor.

His debut as an actor was made at the mere age of eleven, and by the age of twenty-two, he was assistant director for many Bollywood majors, including Bombay Talkies. By the time he was twenty-four, he had established his independent production house - R.K's Studios - and was all set to make his first film as a director. Aag (1948), a film in which he also starred in, was the prelude to the most creative phase of his career, the beginning of the 50s.

It was during this period of time that his artistic collaboration began with Nargis, who went on to become the main female lead in many of Raj Kapoor's films. The great chemistry that developed between the two actors on screen resulted in much gossip and speculations about their personal relationships. What is true and what is not is still up in the air, but it is a fact that Raj Kapoor was married to Krishna Kapoor, who was the sister of actors Rajendra Nath and Prem Nath.

Two of the most iconic films of the era, and subsequently classics of Indian cinema, are Raj Kapoor starrers. Both Awaara (1951) and Shree 420 (1955) had Raj Kapoor reinterpreting Charlie Chaplin, and giving him an original Bollywood twist. The characters in the two films were decisively influenced by Charlie Chaplin's characters and dress styles: the romantic young drifter, with no money, but rich in dreams and ideals, must deal with the grim reality of the metropolis. The mix of candour and morality, social commentary and comedy, and the high sense of rhythm and show, all delicately balanced, it is not wonder this sort of cinema was appreciated even outside of India! The success of the films opened Indian cinema doors to new markets in Russia and the Middle East. 

While the man continued his career as an actor with great success, as a director, he was unable to recreate the magic of these classics. Mera Naam Joker (1970), an ambitious remake of Chaplin's Limelight, was a declared a flop.

This slump came to an end, however, when in 1973, Raj Kapoor returned to Indian cinema as a director. His film was aimed at the young people of the new generation, their dreams and their problems. Bobby was a milestone for popular Hindi cinema, featuring Raj Kapoor's middle son Rishi Kapoor as the male lead, and marking the debut of Dimple Kapadia, who went on to be a huge star. 

Raj Kapoor put aside his acting career in the 80s, but continued as a director and a producer, with much success. However, his health worsened steadily, and in 1988, he sadly passed on due to a severe form of asthma, merely a few weeks after receiving one of the highest honours by the President of the Indian Republic.

Curiousity Corner:
1. Awaara was the first film whereby three generations of a family appeared onscreen together: Raj Kapoor, Prithviraj Kapoor (his father) and Diwan Basheshwarnath (his grandfather).
2. Raj Kapoor admitted to considering suicide after failing a subject in school.
3. He got married at the age of 22 to Krishna Kapoor, whose brothers were actors. The acting bug is still in the family: his granddaughters are Karisma Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor, daughters of Raj's eldest son Randhir and wife Babita; his grandson is Ranbir Kapoor, son of youngest Rishi and his wife Neetu Singh.

Editors: Anhdara & Jenifer
Graphics: Sano

User Rating Rating(5 Votes)
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Posted on: 28 September 2011 at 8:47pm
I've always wanted to sit down and watch "Mera Naam Joker"..but i've s till never gotten around to it. =/

Thanks for the article! :D

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Posted on: 28 September 2011 at 8:40pm
omg. I LOVE Raj Kapoor! <3 Thanks for the article.

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Posted on: 28 September 2011 at 7:04pm
no one can even b near Raj Kapoor, he is d icon!!
luv him! :)

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