Raj Kumar – the stylish actor of Bollywood.
Raj Kumar can be considered as one of the most stylist actors of bollywood whose style of stretching the dialogues with a unique manner of expression entertained the film lovers for the last 50 years. Born on 8th October, 1926, his original name was Kulbhushan Pandit, but he gained popularity in Indian silver screen with the name of Raj Kumar. He started his career with the film Merry Women, in 1952, but got recognition after acting in an epic role opposite Nargis in Mehboob Khan’s cine-classic Mother India in 1957. Although it was a female oriented movie with Nargis showing the struggle of a widow in a peasant family in rural India who had faced the crude realities of life after Raj Kumar died in bringing up her two sons Sunil Dutt and Rajender Kumar, Raj Kumar kept his mark in the initial part of the film.
Raj Kumar started getting prominent roles in the 60s with the success of the film Dil Apna Aur Preet Parayi in 1960 opposite Meena Kumari and Nadira. He was sublime in the performance relating to complexity of emotions in the films as he had to balance the duties towards his wife Nadira in spite of having weakness towards the nurse played by Meena Kumari. Raj Kumar also acted with his personality in the film Dil Ek Mandir, 1963, where he played the role of the sick husband of Meena Kumari and was treated successfully by the doctor played by Rajender Kumar who died at the end of the film. The songs composed by Shankar Jaikishan in both these films became evergreen hits.
In mid-60s Raj Kumar displayed a new style of performance in the film Kajal, 1965, where the song sequences with his role of a drunkard appealed to the masses. The songs “chulene do nazuk hoton ko”, “yeh zulf agar khulke bikhar jaye to accha ho”, composed by Ravi and sung with a sombre expression of Mohammad Rafi had astonished the viewers. At that time Raj Kumar appeared in multi-starrer films of BR Chopra including Waqt, 1965, along with Sunil Dutt, Shashi Kapoor and Humraaz, 1967, along with Sunil Dutt. He acted in a unique role in Neel Kamal opposite Wahida Rehman and Manoj Kumar, where he used to appear in the dreams of Wahida Rehman and reflected a past relationship. Ravi’s composition and Rafi’s song “tujhko pukare tera pyar” became super duper hit at that period. He was well appreciated in the film Heer Ranjha, opposite Priya Rajwangsh and the songs of Rafi and Lata including “yeh duniya yeh mehfil” composed by Madan Mohan became everlasting hit.
Raj Kumar also performed well in historical roles like Lal Patthar in 1971 which was the hindi adaptation of Bengali Superstar Uttam Kumar’s film Lal Pathor made in 1964. the royal nature of lifestyle of the badshahs residing near Agra was displayed with style by Raj Kumar. He also complimented Meena Kumari in Kamal Humrohi’s musical blockbuster Pakiza, 1971. His dialogue “yeh paer bari haseen hai, ise zameen par mat phekna, maile ho jaenge” was memorised by numerous film lovers in India and abroad. Ghulam Mohammad was excellent with his use of the dholak and the duet song Rafi and Lata titled “chalo dildar chalo” picturised on Raj Kumar and Meena Kumari symbolised majestic romance.
After performing in other significant roles in films like Maryada, 1971, Raj Kumar shifted to action films in the 80s and 90s. In the 80s his film Bulandi stormed the silver screen, where he played the role of a Professor and used the students of his institutions to raise their voice against corrupt businessmen operating in the society. The dialogues in the film including “humko mita sake zamane me dum nahi, humse khud hai zamana, zamane se hum nahi” almost reciprocated his personality.
He continued to perform in big productions including Subhas Ghai’s Saudagar, in early 90s opposite Dilip Kumar and Tiranga opposite Nana Patekar. In Saudagar, he did maintain his family heritage which confronted with Dilip Kumar’s set of values and the audience enjoyed their clash of personality and witty postures. With his death in the mid-90s, the generation of stylist actors faded away.
His son Puru Raj Kumar, is sometimes seen performing with stylish endeavour in films like Mission Kashmir, opposite Sanjay Dutt, but he gets mainly characters resembling anti-heroes. Raj kumar’s films should be restored to update the present generation with the blend of personality with style and depth of performance which Raj Kumar had displayed for the last 50 years.