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Ranbir Raj Kapoor (14 December 1924 – 2 June 1988), also known as “the greatest showman of Hindi cinema“, was a noted Indian film actor, producer and director of Indian cinema. Born at Kapoor Haveli in Peshawar to actor Prithviraj Kapoor–he was a prominent member of the Kapoor family–that produced several celebrated Bollywood superstars.
Kapoor is regarded as one of the greatest and most influential actors and filmmakers in the history of 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 on him in 1987 by the Government of India.
Kapoor was born into a Punjabi Hindu family in 1924 at Kapoor Haveli, a house then owned by his father, in Peshawar, North Western Frontier Province, British India (in modern-day Pakistan), 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 were the late actors Shashi Kapoor and 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. His maternal cousin, Juggal Kishore Mehra, was a singer, whose daughter, Salma Agha, later became a Bollywood actress.
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.
In May 1946, Raj Kapoor married Krishna Malhotra (b. 30 December 1930), who was his first cousin once removed. Krishna’s father was Prithviraj Kapoor’s maternal uncle. It was a match arranged by their families, according to Hindu traditions. Krishna’s brothers, Rajendra Nath, Prem Nath and Narendra Nath, later became actors, and her sister Uma is married to the actor Prem Chopra. The news of Raj Kapoor’s marriage was reported in the cine-magazine Filmindia June 1946 issue as, “Raj Kapoor, the talented and versatile son of Prithviraj Kapoor ended his career of wild oats by marrying Miss Krishna Malhotra in the second week of May at Rewa”.
Raj and Krishna Kapoor were blessed with five children: three sons, actors Randhir, Rishi and Rajiv, and two daughters, Ritu Nanda and Rima Jain. Randhir is married to former starlet Babita and is the father of actresses Karishma Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor. Rishi is married to former actress Neetu Singh and is the father of two children, a daughter Riddhima, and a son, the actor Ranbir Kapoor. Raj Kapoor’s elder daughter, Ritu Nanda, is the wife of industrialist Rajan Nanda (scion of the family which promoted and controls the Escorts group), and she is the mother of two children. Her son, Nikhil Nanda, is married to Shweta, daughter of actors Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bachchan. Raj Kapoor’s younger daughter, Rima Jain, is the wife of investment banker Manoj Jain and mother of aspiring actor Armaan Jain.
Both of Kapoor’s brothers, all three of Kapoor’s sons, two of Kapoor’s daughters-in-law and three of Kapoor’s grandchildren have been active at various times in the film industry. His granddaughters Karisma and Kareena (daughters of Kapoor’s eldest son Randhir), and grandson Ranbir (son of Kapoor’s second son Rishi) are the latest Bollywood stars from the Kapoor family, while another of his grandsons, Nikhil Nanda (Kapoor’s daughter Ritu’s son), is a noted industrialist.
Kapoor had a longtime romantic relationship with the renowned actress Nargis during the 1940s and 1950s, despite being a married man, although neither ever publicly admitted to this. The couple starred in several films together, including Awaara and Shree 420. As Raj would not leave his wife and children, Nargis ended their relationship after Chori Chori and married Sunil Dutt with whom she fell in love on the set of Mother India (1957). Kapoor is also said to have had an affair with top 1960s actress Vyjayantimala during the shooting of Sangam. Vyjayanthimala has denied that she was ever involved with Kapoor. She deemed the whole thing a publicity stunt by Kapoor to promote his film. Kapoor has also been linked with the southern actress Padmini. in 2017 His second son Rishi confirmed his father’s affairs in his autobiography Khullam Khulla
Raj Kapoor suffered from asthma in his later years; he died of complications related to asthma in 1988 at the age of 63. He collapsed at the event where he was to receive the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, and was taken to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) for treatment. He was hospitalised for about a month before he succumbed to complications arising from his asthma.At the time of his death, he was working on the movie Henna (an Indo-Pakistan based love story). The film was later completed by his sons Randhir and Rishi Kapoor and was released in 1991.
Kapoor had received many awards throughout his career, including 3 National Film Awards, 11 Filmfare Awards and 21 nominations. His films Awaara (1951) and Boot Polish (1954) were nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. His acting in the former was rated as one of the “Top-Ten Performances of all time” by Time Magazine. His film Jagte Raho (1956) also won the Crystal Globe award at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.
The Government of India honoured him with the Padma Bhushan in 1971 and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1987 – the highest award for cinematic excellence in India. In 2001, he was honoured with “Best Director of the Millennium” by Stardust Awards. He was named “Showman of the Millennium” by Star Screen Awards in 2002.
In June 2011, Noah Cowan, Artistic Director of TIFF Bell Lightbox, and Sabbas Joseph, Director, Wizcraft along with members of the Kapoor family came together to pay tribute to the life and work of Indian actor, director, mogul and legend Raj Kapoor, as presented in partnership by TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival), the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA), and the Government of Ontario. Indian Mirror Reports suggest Kapoor will be inducted onto the Brampton Walk of Fame in Ontario, Canada.