The unforgettables

TIMELESS

The unforgettables

CULT FILMS(Left) Dilip Kumar in ‘Mughal-e-Azam’; Raj Kapoor in ‘Sangam’

Ranbir Raj Kapoor, eldest son of film and stage doyen Prithviraj Kapoor, and Muhammad Yusuf Khan, one of 12 children born to fruit tycoon Lala Ghulam Sarwar, had two key aspects in common — both were born in Peshawar (now in Pakistan) on December 14, 1924 and December 11, 1922, respectively. One a Punjabi and the other a true Pathan with Afghan roots, destiny had something special planned for these two. By the ‘50s, Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar, as these mega-stars came to be known to the world, became part of the  legendary trimurti (including Dev Anand) and they ruled the box-office well into the ‘60s.

Before Raj Kapoor passed away on June 2, 1988 and Dilip Kumar saw his last release in 1998 with Qila, they had a lot in common. Besides their sole professional union – the Golden Jubilee romantic triangle Andaz in 1949, both were awarded the Padma Bhushan — Raj in 1971 and Dilip 20 years late — and finally, in addition to a whole lot of national and international awards, they were awarded the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke award in 1987 and 1994 respectively.

Early careers

Raj Kapoor began his film career as a child artiste . His first movie was Inquilab (1935). It is also said that Raj did a fleeting appearance in a V Shantaram film for which he was paid a huge amount since he was Prithviraj’s son. An indignant Prithviraj took his son along to return the money but Shantaram persuaded him to keep it and with that amount of a few hundred rupees, Raj Kapoor purchased the land on which he built an institution called RK Studios! After several supporting roles, Raj was introduced as a hero by Kedar Sharma in Neel Kamal (1947) opposite two more debutants — Madhubala and Begum Para.

On the other hand, Dilip Kumar’s father migrated to Mumbai in the ‘30s. It is said that after an altercation with him, a young Yusuf went off to Pune where he ran a canteen and also supplied dried fruits as a side business. It was there that he was spotted by Devika Rani, a superstar in those days, who offered him Jwar Bhata (1944). However, Dilip Kumar really took off with Jugnu (1947). Raj, however, made a mark with Aag (1948), which also saw the launch of RK Films, his banner, and his own debut as a producer-director. But it was really with his second film as producer-director, Barsaat, as well with Andaz, both in 1949, that Raj hit big time.

And it was with Awara (1951) that Raj Kapoor broke new ground as filmmaker as it became the first Hindi film and music score to have a cult following even in Russia. RK Films soon went from strength to strength by churning out a string of critically-acclaimed films, most of them hits as well, either directed or ghost-directed by Raj himself. These included Shree 420, Jagte Raho, Boot Polish, Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai, Sangam, Mera Naam Joker, Bobby, Satyam Shivam Sundaram, Prem Rog and Ram Teri Ganga Maili. Outside his banner, Raj had hits like Chori Chori, Sharda, Phir Subah Hogi, Parvarish, Anari and Chhalia. In 1967, he worked in India’s first 70 mm film, Around The World.

Awara (which had Hindi cinema’s first-ever dream sequence) and Shree 420,  presented Raj as a Chaplinesque lovable tramp and underdog while as a filmmaker, he was termed as the showman. With 1971’s Kal Aaj Aur Kal, Raj shifted to character roles with indifferent success.

His last acting vehicle was Vakil Baboo (1982) but his swan song as the director of Ram Teri Ganga Maili (1985) became the filmmaker’s biggest-ever hit and he took official credit for its story. Raj Kapoor, early in his career, also sang (under SD Burman) in Dil Ki Rani and it is said that he ghost-composed several of his films’ chartbusters for which he never took credit.

Dilip Kumar had similar traits too — it is said that he would interfere (or get involved, depending on perspective) in many of his films to the extent of writing the final script and also ghost-directing many of his films. He officially co-wrote Bairaag (1976) in which he played a triple role of father and two sons, and also directed Kalinga, which never made it to the theatres. Dilip also produced Ganga Jamuna and sang in Musafir under Salil Chowdhury.

Before shifting to character roles with Kranti, Shakti and Vidhaata between 1981 and 1982, Dilip Kumar had a long hit-streak as a ‘tragedy king’, which was followed by lighter roles under medical advice as his method acting-like approach led to mental trauma.

His best-known hits, apart from Ganga Jamuna, are Daag, Aan, Insaniyat (in which he co-starred with Dev Anand, which Raj never could, though a film was planned with all three of them in the ‘70s), Azaad, Naya Daur, Madhumati, Mughal-e-Azam, Kohinoor, Ram Aur Shyam (a trendsetting double role) and Gopi.

Dilip also essayed a dual role in Dastaan while Raj never did one. Professionally, Dilip Kumar was considered to be one of India’s finest actors, but Raj Kapoor’s brilliance as a filmmaker deflected attention from his acting prowess despite his brilliant portrayals in a range of roles right from Teesri Kasam to Chori Chori.

Both these legendary actors worked with the leading ladies of Hindi cinema including, Madhubala, Nimmi, Nalini Jaywant, Meena Kumari, Waheeda Rehman, Nanda, Saira Banu and Nutan. While Raj’s youngest heroine was Hema Malini (Sapnon Ka Saudagar), Dilip Kumar had Raakhee (Shakti) and Rekha (Aag Ka Darya, Qila). They also worked with great filmmakers like Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Asit Sen and of course Mehboob Khan.

Private lives

Befitting their status, perhaps, Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar had their share of controversies. Raj Kapoor was often castigated for the use of overt erotica while Dilip Kumar’s evoked the wrath of some politicians by accepting the Nishan-E-Pakistan honour from Pakistan. It is also said that Raj had offered Dilip Kumar the other lead in Sangam, which Dilip declined for personal reasons.

While Raj married 16 year-old Krishna, his father’s maternal cousin, at the age of 22, Dilip Kumar wed 22-year-old actress Saira Banu, daughter of actress Naseem Banu, when he was 44. While both, Raj and Dilip, ardently supported the Congress, Dilip also became a Rajya Sabha MP and served as the sheriff of Mumbai for a term. Raj Kapoor, however, stayed away from active politics.

Raj Kapoor loved fostering new talent — his biggest finds and longest associations remain ace composers Shankar-Jaikishan and lyricists Hasrat Jaipuri and Shailendra. He also discovered singers Shailendra Singh and Narendra Chanchal as well as actresses Dimple Kapadia and Mandakini. With Nargis (with whom Dilip did limited work), Raj co-starred in a record 17 films, while Shankar-Jaikishan scored for 18 of his films.

With Neel Kamal, he began his association with playback singer Mukesh. As for Dilip Kumar, he worked the most with Vyjayantimala. With Jugnu he began his association with Mohammed Rafi, who later became his favourite singer. Naushad and lyricist Shakeel Badayuni were his other favourites.

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