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Prithviraj Kapoor Raj Kapoor Father

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Date of Birth
3 November 1906, Peshawar, British India. [now in Pakistan]

Date of Death
29 May 1972, (cancer)

Birth Name
Prithvinat Kapoor

Rama Kapoor (1923 - 29 May 1972) (his death) 4 children

Son of Dewan Basheswarnath Kapoor. Father of Raj Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor and Shashi Kapoor. Grandfather of Randhir Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor, Rajiv Kapoor, Karan Kapoor, Kunal Kapoor and Sanjana Kapoor. Great-grandfather of Karisma Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor

Considered the most handsome Indian actor of Pre-Independence India and the founder of India's first film family, the Kapoors.

Born in Peshawar in a middle-class landlord family. His father was a police officer. He enrolled at Edward College, Peshawar after finishing his schooling at Lyallpur and Lahore. He was married at 18 and did a year of law after graduation but interrupted his law studies to pursue his dreams of acting.

Was posthumously awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for his contribution to Indian Cinema.

In 1944, he invested in and set up Prithvi Theatre. He was the first to use the concept of modern, professional urban theater in Hindustani. In over 16 years of its existence under Prithviraj Kapoor, the theater did some 2,662 shows, with Prithviraj starring as the lead actor in every single show.

Acted in India's first ever talkie Alam Ara (1931), although not in the lead role, which was given instead to Master Vithal.
Prithviraj did his B.A. from Edward college, Peshawar, a feat that few of his descendants were destined to match. He also studied law as a graduate student for one year, but his heart was in the theatre. In 1928, with the help of a loan from his aunt, Prithviraj moved to the city of Bombay (present-day Mumbai) which is the switch of the Hindi film industry.

He acted as an extra in his first film role, though he grew up to get a lead role for his third Cinema Girl in 1929 [8]. After featuring in nine silent films [9], Kapoor did a supporting role in India's first film talkie, Alam Ara (1931). His performance in Vidyapati (1937) was much appreciated. His best-known performance is perhaps as Alexander the Great in Sohrab Modi’s Sikander (1941). He also joined the only English theatrical company called 'J. Grant Anderson' which remained in India for a year [8]. Through all these years Prithviraj remained devoted to the theatre and performed on stage regularly. He developed a reputation as a fine actor on both stage and screen.

By 1944, Prithviraj had the wherewithal and standing to found his own theatre group, its premiere performance was, Kalidasa's "Shakuntala" in 1944. His eldest son, Raj Kapoor, had already struck out on his own; the films he produced had been successful and this was also an enabling factor. Prithviraj invested in and founded Prithvi Theatre, a travelling troupe which staged memorable productions across India. In over 16 years of existence, the theater staged some 2,662 shows. Prithviraj starred as the lead actor in every single show.[10]

Commemorative stamp celebrating 50 years of Prithvi Theatre, 1945-1995By the late 1950s, it was clear that the era of the travelling theatre was past; that art-form had been irreversibly supplanted by the cinema. No longer was it financially feasible for a troupe of up to 80 people (as Prithvi theatre was) to travel the country for four to six months at a time with their tons of stage props and equipment, living in hotels where possible and at campsites otherwise. The financial returns, through ticket sales and the rapidly diminishing largesse of patrons from the erstwhile princely class of India, was just not adequate to support such an effort. Many of the fine actors and technicians that Prithvi Theatres nurtured had found their way to the movies. Indeed, this was the case with all of Prithviraj's own sons. As Prithviraj progressed into his 50's, he gradually ceased theatre activities and accepted occasional offers from film-makers, including his own sons. Later, under his son, Shashi Kapoor, and his wife Jennifer Kendal, it merged with the Indian Shakespeare theatre company, "Shakespeareana", and the company got a permanent home, with the inauguration of the "Prithvi Theatre" in Mumbai November 5, 1978 [11].

In 1995, the 'Golden Jubilee year' of the founding of Prithvi Theatre, India Post, issued a special two Rupee, 'commemorative' postage stamp in New Delhi [12], it featured the logo of Prithvi Theatre 1945-1995, and an image its founder 'Prithviraj Kapoor', without the name, as just his face seemed enough, being the legend that he had become in his lifetime and beyond in Hindi theatre [13]. The first day cover, (stamped 15-1-95) showed a illustration of performance of travelling theatre in progress, on a stage that seem fit for a travelling theatre, as Prithvi theatre was for sixteen, till 1960 [11].

His notable filmography of this period includes Mughal E Azam (1960) where he gave his most memorable performance as the Mughal emperor Akbar, Harishchandra Taramati (1963) where he played the lead role and unforgettable performances as Porus in Sikandar-e-Azam (1965) and the stentorian grandfather in Kal Aaj Aur Kal (1971) where he appeared with his son and grandson Randhir Kapoor.

Kapoor starred in the legendary religious Punjabi film Nanak Naam Jahaz Hai (1969), a film so revered in Punjab that there were lines many kilometers long to purchase tickets.

He also starred in the Punjabi films Nanak Dukhiya Sub Sansar (1970) and Mele Mittran De (1972).

In 1954, he was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship, and in 1969, the Padma Bhushan by the government of India. He remained Nominated Rajya Sabha Member for eight years [9].

After his death in 1972, he was posthumously awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for the year 1971. He was the third recipient of that award, the highest accolade in Indian cinema.

As was customary in that era, Prithviraj married at a young age. At age 18, Prithviraj married the 15-year-old Ramsarni Mehra, in a match that was arranged by their families. Their eldest child, Raj Kapoor, was born in December 1924. By the time Prithviraj moved to Bombay in 1928, the couple were the parents of three children. In 1930, Ramsarni joined Prithviraj in Bombay. The following year, while she was pregnant for the fourth time, the couple suffered the tragic loss of two of their three children in the space of one week.[14] One of their children, Devi, died of double pneumonia while the other child, Nandi, died of poisoning in a freak incident when he swallowed some rat-poison pills strewn in the garden.

The couple went on to have four children further. All three of their surviving sons, Raj Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor and Shashi Kapoor, were to become famous actors and film-makers in their own right. They also had one daughter, Urmila.

After his retirement, Prithviraj settled in Bombay, in a cottage near Juhu beach. The property was later to be converted into a small, experimental theatre, the Prithvi Theatre. Both Prithviraj and Ramsarni suffered from cancer in their declining years and died within a fortnight of each other. Prithviraj died on May 29, 1972 and was followed by his wife of 48 years on June 14th the same year.


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