Wife: Ramsarni Kapoor
Age: 65 Years
Hometown: Samundri, Punjab, British India
Some Lesser Known Facts About Prithviraj Kapoor
- Prithviraj Kapoor was an Indian actor and filmmaker. He is considered one of the founding figures of Hindi cinema. He was one of the founding members of the Indian People’s Theatre Association. In 1944, Prithviraj Kapoor founded the Prithvi Theatres in Bombay. These Prithvi Theatres’ was famous as a travelling theatre company in Bombay. The Kapoor family in the Hindi films began with him and the youngest generation of the Kapoor family is still active in Bollywood. In 1951, in the film ‘Awara,’ his father, Basheshwar Nath Kapoor, played a short role in the movie. In 1969, he was honoured with the Padma Bhushan award by the Government of India, and in 1971, he was felicitated with the Dadasaheb Phalke award for his immense contribution to Indian cinema.
- Prithviraj Kapoor was born and brought up in a Punjabi Hindu Khatri family in Lyallpur, Punjab Province. He lived in the extended family of his grandparents. Later, the British government transferred his father to Peshawar in the North-West Frontier Province. Thereafter, his father called his entire family to shift to Peshawar with him. He was the elder brother of Bollywood actor Trilok Kapoor. Surinder Kapoor, the cousin of Prithviraj Kapoor, is the father of famous Bollywood actors and producers Anil Kapoor, Boney Kapoor, and Sanjay Kapoor. According to Anil Kapoor, he lived in Prithviraj Kapoor’s garage for a few years when he shifted to Mumbai with his family as he had no place to stay. Later, Anil Kapoor moved to a chawl in Mumbai and lived in a rented room for a long time.
- Prithviraj Kapor’s father, Basheshwarnath Kapoor, had three sons from his first marriage with Vaishno Devi, and two of his sons died young. Later, Basheshwarnath married again and had four sons named Trilok, Amar, Ram, Vishi, and three daughters named Kailash, Prem, and Shanta.
- Prithviraj Kapoor began his acting career when he was a teenager. He started his acting career by performing in the theatres of Lyallpur and Peshawar. Prithviraj Kapoor shifted to Bombay city in 1928 after taking some money on credit from his aunt. Soon after reaching Bombay, Prithviraj Kapoor started working with the Imperial Film Company, and the company provided him some Hindi movies with minor roles. Prithviraj Kapoor marked his acting debut in 1928 in the film Be Dhari Talwar as an extra. In 1929, Prithviraj Kapoor appeared in the film Cinema Girl as a lead actor. Thereafter, he appeared in 9 silent Hindi films including Be Dhari Talwar, Cinema Girl, Sher-e-Arab, and Prince Vijaykumar. In 1931, he appeared in India’s first talkie film, Alam Ara as a supporting actor. In 1937, he appeared in the film Vidyapati. In 1941, he appeared in Sohrab Modi’s Sikandar as Alexander the Great, and his performance in the film was much appreciated. Soon he became a part of the grant Anderson theatre company, which was an English thetical company; however, this company was established in Bombay for only a year. With the passage of time, Prithviraj Kapoor developed the reputation of a very fine and versatile actor by simultaneously performing both on stage and on screen.
- In 1944, Prithviraj Kapoor started his own theatre group called Prithvi Theatres. By 1946, his eldest son, Raj Kapoor started producing several successful Hindi films. Meanwhile, Prithviraj Kapoor started performing in many theatre plays based on the Indian independence movement and the quit India movement, which highly influenced and inspired the young people of India to participate in India’s struggle for freedom. After 16 years of its existence, the ‘Prithvi Theaters’ staged over 2662 performances in which he appeared as the lead actor in every show. In 1947, the theatre play ‘Pathan’ became so popular that it was staged repeatedly nearly 600 times in Mumbai. During the 1950s, the era of travelling theatre was replaced by the Hindi cinema. Gradually, the cinema became a feasible and less costly way for the theatre group people. They started shifting towards the cinema as the financial return through the ticket sales rapidly started diminishing, and the earnings were not enough to support the efforts of the theatre groups. Several fine actors, producers, directors, and technicians of Prithviraj theatres started moving to the Indian cinema. His own sons also chose the same path. When Prithviraj Kapoor was in his 50s, he stopped appearing in the theatre plays and activities, and occasionally started appearing in the Hindi films, which were sometimes offered to him by his own sons. In 1951, he appeared in the film Awara, which was directed by his own son Raj Kapoor. Later, his son Shashi Kapoor and his wife Jennifer Kendal merged Prithviraj Kapoor’s theatre with the Indian Shakespeare theatre company named “Shakespeareana.” This company was inaugurated on 5th November 1978 in Mumbai.
- The Government of India issued a special ₹2 postage stamp in 1996 during the Golden Jubilee year of Prithviraj Theaters. This postage stamp featured the picture of Prithviraj Kapoor along with the logo of his theatre with the dates 1945 to 1995.
- On 3 May 2013, the India Post and the Government of India issued another postage stamp on the occasion of 100 years of the Indian cinema. This postage stamp also featured an image of Prithviraj Kapoor.
- In 1960, Prithviraj Kapoor appeared as the Mughal emperor Akbar in the film Mughal-e-Azam in which he gave the most memorable performance of his career.
- In 1963, Prithviraj Kapoor appeared in the film Harishchandra Taramati as a lead character. In 1971, Prithviraj Kapoor appeared as a grandfather in the film Kal Aaj Aur Kal with his son Raj Kapoor and grandson Randhir Kapoor. In 1969, he appeared in various religious Punjabi films including Nanak Nam Jahaz Hai, Nanak Dukhiya Sub Sansar (1970), and Mele Mittran De (1972). In 1971, Prithviraj Kapoor made his debut in the Kannada movie Sakshatkara, which was directed by Kannada director Puttanna Kanagal.
- Prithviraj Kapoor was 17 years old when he got married to Ramsarni Mehra, who was then 15 years old. This was an arranged marriage in his own community. Their marriage took place in a very conventional Indian way. Reportedly, they entered into a wedding ceremony, which had been held a few years back do this, and the real wedding ceremony was called the ‘Gauna’ ceremony, which was organised to indicate that now Ramsarni had reached the age of 15 and became old enough to leave the house off her parents. Later, Jugal Kishore Mehra, the brother of Ramsarni joined the Hindi cinema. On 14 December 1924, the couple gave birth to their first child Raj Kapoor, who was born in Peshawar in the North-West Frontier Province. Prithviraj Kapoor was 18 years old when he became a father. In 1927, Prithviraj Kapoor moved to Bombay city in the Bombay Presidency, and by the time, he was the father of three children. After three years, in 1930, Ramsarni also shifted to Bombay. In 1930, when his wife was pregnant for the fourth time, the two of his sons died within a gap of one week. Devinder whom they called Devi died of double pneumonia and their other child Ravinder whom they called Binder or Bindie dies by unknowingly swallowing the rat-poison pills that were scattered in their garden. Later, his wife give birth to three more children named Shamsher Raj or Shammi Kapoor, Balbir Raj or Shashi Kapoor, and a daughter named Urmila Sial. Shashi Kapoor and Shammi Kapoor became well-known actors and filmmakers in Indian cinema.
- Prithviraj Kapoor was nominated as the Rajya Sabha Member for eight years from 3 April 1952 to 2 April 1960. He was honoured with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship in 1950. The Government of India awarded him the Padma Bhushan in 1969.
- After taking superannuation from the Hindi film industry, Prithviraj Kapoor settled near Juhu Beach in West Bombay in a cottage called Prithvi Jhonpra. After the death of Prithviraj Kapoor, his son Shashi Kapoor bought this cottage, which was later transformed by him into a small experimental theatre known as Prithvi Theatre.
- On 29th May 1972, Prithviraj Kapoor died of cancer. After fifteen days of his death, his wife also died of cancer. Later, a memorial of Prithviraj Kapoor was established by his family members at their farmhouse named “Rajbaugh.” This farmhouse is situated on the banks of the Mula-Mutha River in Loni Kalbhor village of Pune in Maharashtra. On this farm, Prithviraj Kapoor shot many of his films such as Satyam Shivam Sundaram, Mera Naam Joker, Bobby, and Prem Rog. After the death of Prithviraj Kapoor, his bungalow inside the farm was preserved. In this bungalow, the popular song “Hum Tum Ek Kamre Mein Band Ho” was shot by Prithviraj Kapoor for the film Bobby in 1973.
- In 1972, after his death, Prithviraj Kapoor was awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for the year 1971 following which he became the third recipient of this award, which is the highest accolade in Indian cinema.
- Prithviraj Kapoor was well versed in Punjabi, Hindi and Hindko languages.
- His father, Baseshwarnath, was a sub-inspector in the British police. When Baseshwarnath was posted in Peshawar, he enrolled Prithviraj Kapoor at the Edwards College, Peshawar, Pakistan to receive his higher education. Later, Prithviraj joined one year program in law to become a lawyer but soon quit his studies to join theatre.
- In a conversation with a media house, Shammi Kapoor once recalled that his father, Prithviraj Kapoor, always got into the skin of the character while shooting a film, and he used to rely completely on the script and the director. Shammi Kapoor explained one incident from the film Mughal-e-Azam when Prithviraj Kapoor got blisters while shooting barefoot on the hot sand. He recalled,
In the war scenes, he uncomplainingly wore the real iron armour that was so heavy. During the sequence when Akbar walks to Ajmer Sharif to pray for a son, my father actually walked barefoot in the desert sun, and his soles were full of blisters.”
Shammi Kapoor further added that an ‘anger scene’ in Mughal-e-Azam during the song ‘Jab Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya’ was shot by Prithviraj Kapoor without glycerine. Shammi said,
During Madhubala’s defiant song Jab Pyaar Kiya, the emperor’s eyes turn red with rage. My father did that sequence without glycerine. I recall Asif saab telling him to take his time and watched my father grow into that mood and his eyes turning red.”
- Urmila Siyal Kapoor, the daughter of Prithviraj Kapoor, was married at an early age to Charanjit Sial, a coal mine owner from Nagpur. Urmila has three daughters named Anuradha Sial, Priti Sial, and Namita Sial, and a son named Jatin Sial.
- A rare interaction with Prithviraj Kapoor on All India Radio.