The Kapoor Family Site by Shammi Kapoor

Raj Kapoor

"A lot of work of every artist, of anyone in any creative profession, is somewhat autobiographical ...... Something of his experience is always attached to it, it remains there and one brings it out in one form or another. That is how it is."

Raj KapoorRajji, as he was always addressed, was the eldest son of Prithviraj and Rama Kapoor. He was born on 14 December 1924 in Peshawar, an army cantonment town in the North West Frontier Province of British India, now in Pakistan.

His basic education was spread over different places as Papaji (Prithviraj) was then on the move. He studied in Peshawar, then did part of his schooling in Calcutta and eventually failed to get a form to appear for the Matric exam in Bombay's Antonia D'souza High School. His nemisis at studies was the cumpolsory second language, Latin. He achieved the unprecedented distinction of winning the All India Elocution Competion for three successive years but failed in Latin and that was the end of his academic career. When Papaji asked him as to why he wished to leave school and not try again he replied, "Sir, If I graduate what happens? If you want to become a lawyer you go to a law college; if you want to be a doctor you go to a medical school; and if you want to be a film-maker, where do you go?" Papaji had no answer. It was ordained.

The next 5 years he devoted to learning the different arts of film making in all departments as an assistant. In 1944 he joined Papaji's Prithvi Theatres and was responsible for all that happened backstage, right from the lighting of the sets and sound effects and music to art direction in their first stage play 'Shakuntala". In the next play "Deewar" he acted in a small role of the servant boy, and then in the famous Prithvi Theatre epic, "Pathan" Raj Kapoor as Bahadur Khan that he was noticed as an actor and stardom awaited his entry.

He did his first film as a hero in Kedar Sharma's "Neel Kamal". There followed a number of small films like "Jail Yatra', "Amar Prem", "Dil Ki Rani", "Chittor Vijay" but these were of little consequence, as his heart and mind were set on a different path he had chosen for himself.

His own production, RK Films took shape in 1947 with his first directorial venture, "Aag". Though not a great success it established his obsession as an intense film-maker. A year later his second film "Barsaat", also produced, directed and acted in by him, made headlines as a box office super hit and became the springboard of an outstanding career.

After Barsaat he made the most universally accepted socio-musical and romantic film with a very topical and strong message to world cinema about film standards in India, comprising the first ever father son combination, "Awara".

The Shri 420 had taken off.