Ranbir Raj Kapoor (14 December 1924 – 2 June 1988), also known as “the greatest showman of Indian cinema”, was a noted Indian film actor, producer and director of Hindi cinema.
Kapoor is regarded as one of the greatest and most influential filmmakers and actors in the history of Indian cinema. He was the winner of several accolades including 3 National Film Awards and 11 Filmfare Awards in India. The Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award is named after Raj Kapoor. He was a two-time nominee for the Palme d’Or grand prize at the Cannes Film Festival for his films Awaara (1951) and Boot Polish (1954). His performance in Awaara was ranked as one of the top ten greatest performances of all time by Time magazine. His films attracted worldwide audiences, particularly in Asia and Europe. He was called the Clark Gable of the Indian film industry.
The Government of India honoured him with the Padma Bhushan in 1971 for his contributions to the arts. India’s highest award in cinema the Dadasaheb Phalke Award was bestowed him in 1987 by the Government of India.
Early life and background
Raj Kapoor’s birthplace, Dhaki Munawar Shah, Peshawar, Pakistan
Raj Kapoor was born in Dhakki Munawwar Shah near Qissa Khawani Bazaar in Peshawar, then India (modern day Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan) into a Punjabi Hindu family to Prithviraj Kapoor and Ramsarni Devi Kapoor. He was the eldest of six children in the family. He was the grandson of Dewan Basheshwarnath Kapoor and great-grandson of Dewan Keshavmal Kapoor, part of the famous Kapoor family. His brothers are actors Shashi Kapoor and the late Shammi Kapoor. He also had a sister named Urmila Sial. Two other siblings died in infancy. They later on moved from Peshawar into present-day India for residence and for education.
As Prithviraj moved from city to city early in his career during the 1930s, the family had to move too. The constant move meant Raj Kapoor attended several different schools in cities like Dehradun, Calcutta (St Xavier’s Collegiate School) and Mumbai.
At the age of ten, he appeared in films for the first time, in 1935’s Inquilab. After acting in several films over 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 Aag starring himself, Nargis, Kamini Kaushal and Premnath. In 1949 he co-starred alongside Dilip Kumar and Nargis in Mehboob Khan’s hit film Andaz which was his first major success as an actor. He had his first success as producer, director and star of Barsaat released later that year.
He was set to direct Henna starring his son Rishi and Pakistani actress Zeba Bakhtiar before his death in 1988. His son Randhir directed the film and it released in 1991.