“Aapke paon dekhe. Bahut haseen hain. Inhe zameen
pe mat utariyega. Maile ho jaayenge (Your feet are beautiful. Do
not let them on the floor. They will get soiled).” - Pakeezah
“Jinke ghar sheeshey ke hote hain woh doosron ke ghar pe patthar
nahin phenka karte (Those whose houses are made of glass don’t
throw stones).” - Waqt Crowd-pleasing, whistle-evoking lines.
That was Raaj Kumar’s gravel-voiced display of vocal
writes DINESH RAHEJA.
He defined aplomb.
He inspired writers
to pen bombastic lines; he also enthused them to conceive
larger-than-life characters to suit his image as a personality
suffused with wit and sarcasm.
He was born as
Kulbhushan Pandit in Panjgur, Balochistan, Pakistan to a
Kashmiri Pandit family.
In the late 1940s he
moved to Mumbai, India where he became Sub-inspector of the
Raaj Kumar made a
quiet entry into Hindi films with Rangeeli opposite Rehana in
For the first five
years of his career, the one-time police inspector with
antecedents from Baluchistan in Pakistan relied on grit to keep
him in the public eye.
After some obscure
films like Aabshar opposite Nimmi, Ghamand, co-starring Shyama,
and Lakhon Mein Ek with Asha Mathur, he struck gold with Mother
India in 1957.
Raaj Kumar was born as Kulbhushan Pandit in Panjgur, Balochistan,
Pakistan to a Kashmiri Pandit family.
In this Mehboob Khan
classic, Raaj Kumar played Nargis’s husband who loses his hands
in an accident.
Anguished at his
inability to provide for his family, he slips out of his house,
never to be seen again.
After the release of
Mother India, Raaj Kumar was an overnight superstar sensation.
One evening he and
his friend director Prakash Aurora and his wife were out for an
Raaj Kumar pulled up
to a local paan store to eat a paan.
While standing there
with his friend, a few men gathered around and started to heckle
Raaj Kumar and bother him.
Finally Raaj Kumar
could not take it anymore and major fight broke out.
At the end of it,
one man lay dead and Raaj Kumar was arrested.
The trial lasted a
year and Raaj Kumar was acquitted of all charges.
Raaj Kumar’s police
background was said to be one of the deciding factors that
helped Raaj Kumar.
After Mother India,
Raaj Kumar was flooded with roles.
He didn’t get the
best, but carved his niche.
In Paigham (1959),
he played Dilip Kumar’s elder brother and Pandhari Bai’s husband
with a marriageable daughter to boot.
As the exploited but
obedient mill worker who rebels only at the end, he stood his
As he did in the
Shammi Kapoor-Mala Sinha starrer Ujala (1959), where he played a
grey character wooed by Kum Kum.
In an age when
actors would go to lengths to play the lead, Kumar chose roles
according to the quality of his character.
In a later
interview, he said, “I’ve never done roles I disliked. Every
role that I’ve performed has been my choice. I only select what
Raaj Kumar and Meena Kumari in Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai
For a while, Ujala
established his position in Hindi cinema.
He ranked below the
trinity of Dev Anand-Dilip Kumar-Raj Kapoor, but was far more
stylish to be put down as a character actor in the Balraj Sahni
and Shararat (1959), his first two ventures with Meena Kumari,
gave no indication that the pair would go on to make memorable
In the early 1960s,
Raaj Kumar made a popular pair with Meena Kumari (Dil Apna Aur
Preet Parayi, Dil Ek Mandir, Kaajal).
In Sridhar’s Dil Ek
Mandir (1963), Raaj Kumar played the role of a cancer patient
for which he won the Filmfare Award in the Best supporting actor
Raaj Kumar had to
wait for B R Chopra’s Waqt (1965), to join the topmost echelon
In this multi-starrer
directed by Yash Chopra, Sunil Dutt and Raaj Kumar vied for
Sunil won Sadhana’s
love, but Raaj Kumar got the limelight with his dialogue
people still remember the lines ‘Jaani, ye chaaku hai, bacchon
ke khelne ki cheez nahi’.
established Kumar’s screen presence.
Sunil Dutt clashed
with Raaj Kumar once again in another B R Chopra film, Humraaz.
Dutt had an
audience-friendly role as the bachelor who offers to marry the
frail widow, Vimi.
But Raaj Kumar stole
the show as Vimi’s husband mistakenly presumed to be dead.
This despite the
fact that for a sizeable portion of the film, all one saw of
Raaj Kumar was his shoes!
Next, he stole the
thunder from Manoj Kumar in the popular song, Tujhko pukare mera
pyaar in Neel Kamal.
Raaj Kumar, Sunil Dutt and Sadhana in the movie Waqt (1965).
character had some parallels with Humraaz.
Playing a tortured
spirit pining for his love Waheeda Rehman (reincarnated and
married to Manoj Kumar), Raaj Kumar was theatricality
classify as hero or strong character actor in many 1960s’ films,
Raaj Kumar enjoyed a romantic renaissance on screen in his third
decade in films in the seventies.
He married Jennifer,
an Anglo-Indian, whom he met on a flight where she was the air
hostess. She later changed her name to Gayatri as per Hindu
A year after Heer
Ranjha, Pakeezah and Lal Patthar were released within weeks of
designed as Kamal Amrohi’s paean to Meena Kumari.
Still, he made his
mark in the wish-fulfillment scene when he takes Meena Kumari
before his infuriated father while the rest of the family quake
in their shoes.
While Raaj Kumar was
a natural at his craft, it was his life outside the craft that
Well-read, a florid
orator, and a gentleman, Raaj Kumar was often known for his
spontaneous, eccentric behaviour.
As the actor himself
said in a Stardust magazine interview in 1972, “I believe in
things I do, I do things I believe in.”
captured the confidence and measure of the man. A legendary wit.
Scripts in Bollywood,
India’s film capital city of Bombay, were specially written for
him, while his reclusive and eccentricity created an aura of
mystery, making him even more enigmatic and sought after.
Bollywood stars, Kumar kept mostly to himself and a small group
of loyal friends and little, if anything, of his personal life
was featured in glitzy film magazines.
Most of what did
appear was either conjecture or had to be withdrawn.
A scene which is both deeply romantic and accurately
captures the manners and sensibilities of the era with Raaj
Kumar and Meena Kumari in the film Pakeezah.
successful and rich he was considered an eccentric in Bollywood
because he drove the same ancient Plymouth car for 40 years and
retained the same driver, hairdresser and tailor for an equal
A keen Urdu poet,
Kumar was a witty conversationalist and a moderately good
An actor par
excellence, Raaj has been stereotyped to memory as an actor who
hammed it up in larger than life characters.
But his roles reveal
an eclectic mix of craft and style in a personality that is
increasingly rare in a publicity hounded industry.
In Lal Patthar, he
played the bordering-on-insanity zamindar (land lord) who,
instigated by his jealous mistress (Hema Malini), suspects his
wife’s (Rakhee’s) fidelity.
Possibly his best
performance, Raaj Kumar played his character with a hint of
He admitted later that some of his character’s eccentric traits
were similar to his own.
His eccentricities are part of film lore now.
He wore bright brocade outfits at public gatherings.
His fashion remains a topic of great mirth for the internet
From purple velvet
suits to collar bands, the actor sported a wide variety of
styles that can only be defined as unique.
However, he could
say, as the designer Coco Chanel did, ‘I don’t do fashion, I am
everyone as Jaani (beloved); refused Zanjeer because he did not
like the director Prakash Mehra’s face; suggested a career in
films to “the attractive lady” Zeenat Aman when she was at the
peak of her career.
In the late 1970s
and 1980s, Raaj Kumar’s assignments dwindled.
Coastweek -- Raaj
Kumar and Dilip Kumar together in 1991 with Saudagar.
Known for his
choosiness, he consented to do only those films offering him the
He worked with new
directors like Esmayeel Shroff (Bulandi, Police Public) and
Mehul Kumar (Marte Dum Tak, Tirangaa), showcasing his flair for
Mehra’s last-ditch effort to work with Raaj Kumar resulted in
two resounding flops: Muqaddar Ka Badshah (1987) and Mohabbat Ke
Subhash Ghai then
braved bringing ageing lions Raaj Kumar and Dilip Kumar together
in Saudagar and the crowds roared in approval.
However, it is
well-known that during the shooting of the film the tow actors
never talked to each other except for their scenes.
From his screen
debut in Rangili in 1952 to his last film God & Gun in 1995, he
played memorable characters in 60-odd films.
A throat disease
reduced Raaj Kumar’s voice to a whisper.
Just when rumours
flew that the illness was fatal, Raaj Kumar’s golden voice was
consigned to silence on 3 July 1996 after a tiring battle with
Even in his last days, he remained as he was.
Resolute and adamant.
Subhash Ghai paid the ailing actor a visit, Raaj Kumar is said
to have remarked, “Raaj Kumar ko bimaari hogi toh badi hogi na,
koi zukaam se thodi na marega Raaj Kumar. [Even Raaj Kumar’s
sickness has to be grand; he isn’t one to die of a common
Raaj Kumar may not
have always played the romantic lead, but he was that rare star
who was a draw right to the end.