Rajendra Kumar made his debut in the 1950 film Jogan in which he starred opposite Dilip Kumar and Nargis. He then shot to fame in the blockbuster hit Mother India in 1957 in which he played Nargis’s son. His first major success as a romantic leading man was in Vijay Bhatt’s musical superhit Goonj Uthi Shehnai (1959), co-starring Ameeta.
The 1960s saw Rajendra Kumar rose like no other star had risen in which voice of Mohammad Rafi played biggest role. The songs of his film in Mohammed Rafi’s voice used to become mega hit giving movie the fine opening, and there was a time when every film starring him was a silver jubilee hit. There were times when he had six or seven films running in their silver jubilee weeks at the same time. It was a success that was unbelievable and Rajendra Kumar was soon known as “Jubilee Kumar”.
He had many successful box office hits including Dhool Ka Phool (1959), Mere Mehboob (1963), Sangam (1964), Arzoo (1965), Suraj (1966) and Ganwaar (1970). He received Filmfare Nominations as Best Actor for Dil Ek Mandir (1963), Ayee Milan Ki Bela (1964), Arzoo (1965), and as Best Supporting Actor for Sangam (1964) He was considered a golden boy for the movie producers in the sense that he was the actor who could recover the producers’ money in a matter of few weeks.
However, the mid-1970s from 1972 onwards proved devastating for Rajendra Kumar due to the phenomenon Rajesh Khanna. Several of his films bombed at the box office, and he was not getting the offers he used to receive earlier. It was the bleakest point in his career as he said in an interview. However, the sunshine came when he was offered an interesting role in the film Saajan Bina Suhaagan opposite Nutan. The film was a huge blockbuster of 1978. Rajendra Kumar had regained his ‘Midas Touch’. He then switched from leading roles and played many character roles in the late 1970s and 1980s.
He also starred in a number of Punjabi films like Teri meri ek jindari.
In 1981 Rajendra introduced his son Kumar Gaurav in the film Love Story which he produced, directed and also starred in. The film was declared the blockbuster of 1981. But the success was short-lived as Kumar Gaurav’s later films were huge disappointments at the box office and his son’s career declined as soon as it began. Rajendra produced several other films starring his son which did not do well. In 1986 he produced Naam with his son and his son’s brother-in-law Sanjay Dutt in leading roles which was a box office success but the success was short-lived. His last attempt to revive his son’s career was with the 1993 film Phool where he once again acted alongside his son but this film was also a box office failure.
Rajendra appeared in only a few films after this and his last film appearance was a minor role in Deepa Mehta’s critically acclaimed film Earth in 1998.
He died on 12 July 1999 of cancer only 8 days before his 70th birthday. He was known to never have taken medicines in his entire life.