The Ultimate Showman, Mr. Raj Kapoor

It came in his gene, the worm of an actor. He rose to be the Showman of Indian Cinema. There has been no one and will be no other Showman in the history of Bollywood. Many who came close to touch the lustrous torch, enlightened by this Showman, were barely able to hold on to the position that was bestowed upon them. Perhaps, they lacked vision, passion and the craft. The film industry was blessed with the father-son duo who took the Indian film industry to a new height. The early Kapoor generation laid a foundation for “THE” Hindi cinema.

A man with a large heart and a small built, RK was a people’s man. He was close to the common man as was evident by the characters he portrayed. Hailing from a theater background, Mr. Kapoor traveled the lengths and breadths of the country and so, took with him a little bit of every culture. He’d speak fluent Marathi, was well-versed with a few of Tamil and Telugu phrases as well as Bangla. Kapoor’s early childhood lessons made him the man we today call as the Showman. The man was carved out of curiosity and passion. As passionate as he was for food and knowledge, he was much curious to know about different professions. He’d want a person to rant about his profession so as to understand the trade.

Prithviraj Kapoor, Raj’s father, was a man with a Pathani built who came to Mumbai with dreams in his eyes to become an actor. Prithviraj had left his family behind and given up on his law education. Raj was the one who would be taking care of his family in the absence of his father. Later, when Prithviraj became a cult-personality, Raj Kapoor would try hard to come out of the shadow of his father’s fame and to whittle a path for himself. He’d do two shifts to earn his bread, all the while dreaming that one day he be the face for the lead character. Little did he know that a slap from a director would be a stepping stone for his first film, Neel Kamal.

Raj Kapoor too, gained a cult following, albeit of a different kind. However, unlike his father; he didn’t follow the theater style of acting but a niche which got him closer to the hearts of aam junta. Raju, Rajan, Raj, his alibis in the films were what he saw in the common man of the time. Raj Kapoor would promptly forward his hand for a hand shake no matter which bracket of society you belonged to. His humble gesture of introducing himself with a bow “Mujhe Raj Kapoor kehte hain” speaks volumes for the man. If his father’s affinity was seen in Prithvi Theaters that he established, Raj’s was seen in RK films that he nurtured. Prithviraj portrayed larger-than-life caricatures on celluloid while Raj Kapoor was smaller-than-life, influenced by the tragedies of life. His films usually echoed his personal life. Being a pudgy guy that he was, he was laughed at; his dreams of being an actor or getting into sports were crumbled by his peers who often mocked at him. Rather than fighting with them, he started joining the laughter and hence was born a joker.

As much as Raj loved idli and vada sambars from South Indian Udipis, Chicken Pattis from Marosa, he loved his Johnny Walker Black Label imported from London. Raj was man with taste for good food, good books and great comics. A hedonist in the true sense of the word. His love for comic books is understandable when one realizes how Dimple Kapadia’s costumes (Bobby) were inspired from the characters Betty and Veronica of Archies comics. He even asked the make-up man to paint his son, Randhir, in a way that he reflects an Archie look for the film, Biwi O Biwi.

Kapoor’s fame transcended the borders and he became a ‘pilgrimage spot’ for tourists who visited India. With a sound understanding of technicalities of filmmaking, from editing to lighting and make-up, Kapoor was also interested in intellectual cinema and is believed to have asked Satyajit Ray to make a film for him. But his liking for alcohol got the better of him and he was often seen posing as a drunkard and would banter the crowd around him. Kapoor was a man who was spiritual in his own way. His passion for craft was his God as were many other Gods usually seen hanging on his office wall. Many have even claimed to have spotted Kapoor chatting with Christ. But deep down the loneliness loomed in his mind. A fear of imperfection gripped throughout. Belonging to the Pathani terrain, Raj wasn’t endowed with tall and broad shoulder looks, like his brothers. He was short and plump with illuminating blue eyes. This made him anxious and possessive about his sapphire treasure inherited from his mother. However, overcoming his fears we always found him entertaining and endearing in the characters of his films. Be it Raju or Rajan, Shree 420 or Awara, he was a visionary who made the dreams come true. He sold dreams and the audience bought it willingly. The Kapoor-clan will evolve, generations after generations of the family will take the stage to entertain us, but Raj Kapoor will be the sole showman etched in our memories.

Raj Kapoor was The Ultimate Showman, and the show must go on… now and forever!

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