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Prithviraj Kapoor: Pioneer of Indian theatre, cinema

Dimpal Bajwa | New Delhi | Updated :

He can easily be termed as the central pillar which Bollywood stands on today. Prithviraj Kapoor set a sturdy base for the famous Kapoor clan in the Indian cinema industry. He started as a stage artist and did innovative things to promote theatre in the country. He was also the founder of Prithvi Theatre.

Here we take a look back at his great contributions to the Indian cinema.

Born in a Punjabi Hindu family in 1906, Prithviraj’s father served in the police. He started acting in plays at the age of 22 and later moved to Bombay. Having a keen interest in acting, Prithviraj wanted to pursue his career in Bollywood. Although, he did only a limited movies, but he built a strong base for his family.

After getting married to Ramsarni Mehra at the age of 17, Prithviraj had sons Raj Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor and Shashi Kapoor, who joined him in acting at a young age.

Prithviraj featured in several silent movies and was cast in a supporting role in the first talkie movie Alam Ara. He was known for his versatility on stage, but his work in films was also appreciated by fans to a great extent.

Prithviraj Kapoor
Prithviraj Kapoor (Photo Credits: Facebook)

Prithvi Theatre

As Prithviraj started his career as a theatre artist, his keen interest in the field made him build a theatre company, which was known by the name “Prithvi Theatre”. It was one of its kinds travelling theatre. Artistes would travel the country in groups, performing their acts in front of audience of various cultures, creeds and also the British.

The theatre lasted for almost 16 years and staged some 2,662 plays in this time span. Prithviraj played the protagonist in all his plays. His eldest son, Raj Kapoor ventured into production and started making films.

After the British Raj ended, Prithviraj realised that it was difficult for the travelling theatre to flourish for long. Most theatre artistes forayed into films and 1950 marked as the wrap-up year for the theatre. The travel costs, props and costume expenses could not be met with the returns they got by selling tickets.

After that he started taking up films from directors and producers, including his own sons.

Prithviraj Kapoor
Prithviraj Kapoor (Photo Credits: Facebook)

Family tree

Prithviraj was born in 1906 in Samundri of Punjab Province in British India; which is now in Pakistan. He got married to Ramsarni Mehra (who was 14 then) in 1923. The couple gave birth to noted Bollywood actor and filmmaker Raj Kapoor the following year. Prithviraj moved to Mumbai in 1927, and his wife joined him three years later. The couple then became parents to two sons, Shammi Kapoor, Shashi Kapoor and was also blessed with a daughter Urmila Sial.

Raj Kapoor, eldest among the trio, was married to Krishna Malhotra and the couple became parents to three sons and two daughters. Randhir Kapoor is Raj Kapoor’s eldest son who was married to Babita. Eldest daughter Ritu Nanda is married to Rajan Nanda, Rishi Kapoor to Neetu Singh, Rima Kapoor Jain to Manoj Jain and Rajiv Kapoor was their youngest son.

Shammi Kapoor was married twice. His first wife Geeta Bali passed away at 1965 and the couple had a son Aditya Raj Kapoor. Later, in 1969, he got married to Neela Devi Gohil.

The youngest of all, Shashi Kapoor married English actor Jennifer Kendal in 1958 and the couple had three children Kunal Kapoor, Karan Kapoor and Sanjana Kapoor. Jennifer breathed her last in 1984.

The fourth generation of the clan includes Randhir Kapoor’s daughters Kareena Kapoor and Karishma Kapoor. Kareena has been married to Saif Ali Khan and the couple became parents to a baby boy in December 2016. Karishma is a mother of two kids.

Rishi Kapoor’s son Ranbir is one of the most sought-after actors in the Bollywood and their daughter Riddhima Kapoor Sahani refrained from entering the industry, and is happily married and has a daughter.

Rima Jain is the mother to Armaan Jain, who made his debut with Lekar Hum Deewana Dil. Armaan’s brother Aadar Jain is yet to enter Bollywood.

Prithviraj Kapoor
Prithviraj Kapoor (Photo Credits: Facebook)

Bollywood career

Prithviraj was a renowned theatre actor before stepping into Bollywood. He was a known face in silent movies, as he was seen in Do Dhari Talwar, Cinema Girl and Prince Vijaykumar. Later, he starred in the first talkie film Alam Ara. His role of Akbar in Mughal-e-Azam (1960) is one of the most memorable performances ever. He was also a part of 1971 release Kal Aaj Aur Kal, in which he shared screen space with Raj Kapoor and grandson Randhir Kapoor.

Regional Cinema

Prithviraj Kapoor became famous in Punjabi cinema after he was seen in movies like Nanak Nam Jahaz Hai (1969), Nanak Dukhiya Sub Sansar (1970) and Mele Mittran De (1972).

The actor also has a Kannada movie titled Sakshatkara (1971) to his credit.