At the age of eleven, he appeared in films for the first time, in the 1935 film Inquilab. After acting in several other films the next 12 years, Raj Kapoor’s big break came with the lead role in Neel Kamal (1947) opposite Madhubala in her first role as a leading lady. 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 making his directorial debut with the film Aag. Aag marked the first of many films in which he and Nargis appeared together. In 1949 he co-starred alongside Dilip Kumar in Mehboob Khan’s blockbuster Andaz which was his first major success as an actor.
He went on to produce, direct and star in many box office hits such as Barsaat (1949), Awaara (1951), Shree 420 (1955), Chori Chori (1956), Jagte Raho (1956) and Jis Desh Men Ganga Behti Hai (1960). These films established his screen image as The Tramp modeled on Charlie Chaplin’s most famous screen persona. In 1964 he produced, directed and starred in Sangam which was his first film in colour. This was his last major success as a leading actor. Outisde of his home productions his other notable films were Anari (1959), Chhalia (1960) and Teesri Kasam (1963). He produced, directed and starred in his ambitious film, Mera Naam Joker (My name is Joker), which took more than six years to complete. When released in 1970, it was a box office disaster.
In 1971 he launched his eldest son Randhir Kapoor in Randhir’s acting and directorial debut Kal Aaj Aur Kal which also starred Raj’s father Prithviraj Kapoor as well as Randhir’s would-be-wife Babita. He launched his second son Rishi Kapoor’s career when he produced and directed Bobby (1973) which was not only a huge box office success but also introduced actress 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.
In the latter half of the 1970s and early 1980s he produced and directed films which focused on the female protagonists: Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978) with Zeenat Aman, Prem Rog (1982) with Padmini Kolhapure and Ram Teri Ganga Maili (1985) which introduced Mandakini. He acted in fewer films by the late 1970s and early 1980s and focused on producing and directing films. He starred alongside Rajesh Khanna in Naukri (1979) and played the title role alongside Sanjay Khan in Abdullah (1980).
Raj Kapoor’s last major film appearance was in Vakil Babu (1982) where he appeared with his younger brother Shashi. His last acting role was a cameo appearance in a 1984 released British made-for-television film titled Kim.
Main gate of Raj Kapoor’s birth place at Dhaki Munawar Shah, Peshawar, Pakistan
Raj Kapoor suffered from asthma in his later years; he died of complications related to asthma in 1988 at the age of 63. At the time of his death, he was working on the movie Heena (an Indo -Pakistan based love story). The film was later completed by his sons Randhir and Rishi Kapoor, and narrated by his brother Shammi Kapoor. The movie was released in 1991 and became a huge success at the Box Office. When he was given the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, where his brothers Shashi Kapoor and Shammi Kapoor were also present, the crowd was clapping around when President Venkataraman, who saw Kapoor’s discomfort, came down the stage to give the award to the legend in the middle of thundering claps where he was breathing his last breath. And suddenly Kapoor collapsed, and was rushed to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences for treatment. The country’s top cardiologists tried their best, but could not save him.
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 worldwide. 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. Raj had the knack of getting the best out of any one, since he had mastered all departments of film making and even marketing them.[peacock term] When Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru died in 1964 coinciding with release of Sangam, he took the opportunity to create a scene when Gopal ashes were immersed in Ganges , like Pandit Nehru described in his poetic will. His films reflected the Era in which it was made.
He had a great understanding of the public taste and a great sense of Box-Office. He was one of the pioneers of the Indian cinema, who talked about the potential of Hindi cinema emerging as a great revenue earner from the world market in fifties, which has become a reality today.
Many of Raj Kapoor’s movies had a patriotic theme. His films Aag, Shree 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 “Mera Joota Hai Japani” , a song from the movie Shree 420:
Mera joota hai Japani
Ye patloon Inglistani
Sar pe lal topi Roosi
Phir bhi dil hai Hindustani
My shoes are Japanese
These trousers are English
The red cap on my head is Russian
But still, however, my heart is Indian
The song is still extremely popular and has been featured in a number of movies since Shree 420 was released. Indian author Mahasweta Devi stopped the show with her inaugural speech at the 2006 Frankfurt Book Fair when she used these lyrics to express her own heartfelt patriotism and debt to her country.
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 and Shailendra. 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, Nargis and Mandakini, as well as launching and reviving the careers of his sons Rishi, Randhir and Rajiv.