When you write Prithviraj Kapoor on Google’s Search engine, you will get as many as 1.36 lakh entries and, when you type out this name on Yahoo’s Search engine you will get almost 3 lakh entries. This is the stuff legends are made of. Indeed, Shri Prithvi Raj Kapoor was a legend in his life time and will forever remain so.
He was born on 3rd November, 1906 at Samundri Lyallpur, Faislabad, now in Pakistan. His father, Dewan Basheswarnath Kapoor was Sub-Inspector of Police. Prithvi Raj Kapoor was very much attached to his grand father, Dewan Keshavmal. While in Police, his father was posted in Peshawar. Prithvi Raj Kapoor was educated in Edward College, the renowned college of Peshawar. He not only passed his graduation (BA), but was also educated in law – a feat few could match among the descendants of Kapoors. The credit goes to Professor Jai Dayal, a faculty Member of the college to polish the acting skills of Prithvi Raj Kapoor. As was customary during those days, Prithvi Raj Kapoor all of 18 years was married to a 15-year old Ramsarni Rama Mehra.
After borrowing money from his aunt, Prithvi Raj Kapoor ventured to Bombay in 1928. He acted as extra in his first film but was in lead role in his very third film – ‘Cinema Girl’ in 1929. In all, he acted in 9 silent films. Few know that he acted in ‘Alam Ara’, the first talkie film of India in 1931. His performance in ‘Vidyapati’ – 1937 was much appreciated. His best known performance was as Alexander the Great in Sohrab Modi’s ‘Sikandar’ – 1941. Few would know that he acted in a Kannada film Sakshatkara in 1971 and that Prithviraj Kapoor’s father Dewan Bashswarnath Kapoor too did a cameo in ‘Awara’. He had joined English theatrical Company ‘J. Grant Anderson’. Later, he established Prithvi theatre in 1944. He was the first man to use the concept of Modern Professional urban theatre in Hindustan. Till now, the theatre was essentially either folk or Parsi. In a span of 16 years, Prithvi theatre, under Prithvi Raj Kapoor did 2662 shows and, yes, Prithvi Raj Kapoor was the lead actor in all of them.
He was awarded Sangeet Natak Akademy Fellowship in 1954. Government of India conferred upon him Padma Bhushan in 1969. He was awarded Dadasaheb Phalke award in 1971. If one is asked what is common between Dr. Zakir Hussain and Shri Prithvi Raj Kapoor, one will find it difficult to answer, off hand. The fact is both were Members of First Rajya Sabha of independent India in the years 1952-60. In 1995 Government of India commemorated 50 years of Prithvi Theatre by releasing a stamp in his honor and, yes, stamp bears his portrait, no name for who is there, who cannot recognize this doyen of film industry.
In all, he worked in plays and films with unmatched dedication. He succumbed to cancer on 29th May, 1972; followed closely by his wife, who died on June, 14, 1972.
Actors may come, Actors may go, but the legends are for ever and the Kapoor clan will continue to enthrall both the classes and the masses through celluloid for several centuries to come.