One of the most influential actors and directors of Indian films, Raj Kapoor had a master's touch for successfully incorporating music into his movies. Utilizing the talents of playback singer Mukesh, Kapoor combined the musical traditions of India with Western influences. Kapoor's song "Mera Joota Hai Japani" remains an unofficial anthem of India and continues to be sung as far away as the former Soviet Union.
The son of a top-ranked actor Prithviraj Kapoor, Kapoor grew up surrounded by Indian film. After failing his secondary exams, he began his career as assistant to such leading Indian directors as Kidar Sharma, Amiya Chakravarty, and Sushil Majumdar at the Bombay Talkies Studio. Making his film debut at the age of 11, Kapoor acted and sang in many plays at the Prithvi Theater. In 1948, he opened his own studio, RK Films, directing, producing, and acting in the studio's first movie, Aag (Fire). The film marked the first time he worked with actress Nargis. For the next decade, they continued to work together and enjoyed a much-publicized romantic involvement. When they broke up and Nargis married Sunil Dutt, Kapoor went through a long period of heartbreak. Although he was subsequently involved with actresses Vyjayanthimala and Lata Mangeshkar, and fathered a son, he never married. Kapoor starred in numerous box office hits including Barsaat in 1949, Shree 420 in 1955, and Sangam, his first in color, in 1964. His string of successes came to an abrupt end, however, when his 1970 movie, Mera Naam Joker, a three-hour-long social comedy that had taken nine years to film, was a commercial flop. Although he continued to act in his films, Mera Naam Joker was his last outing in a leading role. Beginning with his 1973 film Bobby, a tale of teenage love, Kapoor's movies reflected sexually explicit views. His final film, Ram Teri Ganga Maili, was released in 1985. ~ Craig Harris