Posted Wed, December 14, 2011 6:15pm IST

On this very day 87 yeas ago, Indian cinema’s greatest showman was born – Ranbir Raj Kapoor. We take a look at his life and times

On December 14, 1924, Ranbir Raj Kapoor was born to Prithviraj Kapoor and Ramsarni Devi in Peshawar. Since his father was already popular in theatre and films, Raj Kapoor debuted with Inquilab (1935) at the age of 11. But he got his big break 12 years later in the movie Neel Kamal (1947) where he starred opposite Madhubala. By the time he turned 24, he had established his own banner – RK Films. The first movie under this banner was Aag. Raj is remembered as the ‘Charlie Chaplin of Indian cinema’ because he often portrayed a tramp-like figure in his movies.

He had a great sense of what really worked at the box office and was one of the pioneers who believed in the potential of the revenue that the Indian film industry could generate. Many of his movies had a patriotic theme – Aag, Shree 420, Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai are some of them. Raj introduced female actors like Nimmi, Dimple Kapadia, Nargis and Mandakini, as well as launched his sons, Raj, Rishi and Randhir. He introduced music directors Shankar-Jaikishan who remained his favourite till the time Jaikishen passed away. Raj set a trend in Bollywood with milestone movies such as Awara, Shree 420, Sangam and Teesri Kasam. His film Mera Naam Joker in 1972 was not received well, and so in the latter half of the ’70s and early ’80s, the actor-filmmaker started producing and directing movies such as Satyam Shivam Sundaram, Prem Rog and Ram Teri Ganga Maili which revolved around female protagonists. For his contributions to the Indian film industry, the Government of India awarded him with the Padma Bhushan in 1971 and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1987. He was also named as ‘Showman of the Millennium’ by Star Screen Awards in 2002. The Showman might not be physically present amongst us now, but his legacy will always remind us of this great personality. Cheers to Raj Kapoor!