The Kapoor family dynasty: An A-Z
By Asjad Nazir
THE Kapoor family is now into its fourth generation of entertaining Bollywood audiences. The torch was lit by pioneer Prithviraj Kapoor in the silent era and is still burning brightly thanks to popular actor Ranbir Kapoor.
The dynasty has included A-list stars, pathbreaking moments, unforgettable films, them introducing us to other big stars, and more.
Eastern Eye went back in time to present an all-you-need-to-know A-to-Z about the dynamic Kapoor dynasty.
A is for Alcohol: The male Kapoor family members have been notorious for their love of alcohol. When Ranbir Kapoor became the first leading man from the family in the fourth generation he vowed to be teetotal, but that has now changed and he admitted to having a drinking problem. Alcohol addiction was thought to have led to the breakdown of Randhir Kapoor’s marriage, health problems in other family members and plenty of negative stories connected to heavy drinking.
B is for Bobby: The biggest hit of 1973, Bobby was a major game-changer because it was the first Bollywood film to connect with the youth in a major way. Apart from resurrecting the RK Films banner after big budget flop Mera Naam Joker (1970), it also turned Rishi Kapoor into a star and influenced many other movies that followed.
C is for Child stars: A number of the family members made their first appearances on
the big screen as child actors before they became movie stars. They included Raj Kapoor, Shashi Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor and Randhir Kapoor. Karisma Kapoor was just 16 when she made her debut as a leading lady in Prem Qaidi (1991).
D is for Discoveries: There have been a massive number of Bollywood luminaries who have got the big break or had a major turning point thanks to the Kapoor family. These include leading ladies Dimple Kapadia, Asha Parekh, Ameeta, Saira Banu, Nargis, Madhubala, Zeba Bhaktiyar and Mandakini. Singer Lata Mangeshkar, music directors Shankar Jaikishan, actor Prem Nath and legendary lyricist Shailendra also owe a big thanks to the Kapoor family.
E is for Extended family: A number of high-profile stars have wed into the Kapoor family or are related via marriage. They have included big-name actors and actresses like Prem Nath, Babita, Saif Ali Khan (above), Geeta Bali, Jennifer Kendall and Neetu Singh.
F is for Fourth: The Kapoor family is now well into its fourth generation, which kick-started with Karisma Kapoor and then continued with Kareena Kapoor Khan. Ranbir Kapoor is now leading the way for his family in Indian cinema. The in-demand actor has a number of high-profile projects on the way and has also turned down some Hollywood films to concentrate on Bollywood.
G is for Gradual decline: Legendary film banner RK Films was founded by Raj Kapoor in 1948 and produced its first blockbuster Barsaat in 1949. The production house carried on delivering super-hit films until Ram Teri Ganga Maili in 1985 (see O). After the death of the studio’s driving force Raj Kapoor (see R) in 1988, the studio went into steady decline. It now hasn’t produced a movie since 1999 flop Aa Ab Laut Chalen. There have been talks to resurrect the iconic banner, but nothing has materialised so far.
H is for Honours: With major movie stars spread across four generations, the family has collectively scooped countless honours. The most notable of these have been Prithviraj Kapoor, Raj Kapoor and Shashi Kapoor, who have all won India’s highest cinematic honour the Dadasaheb Phalke Award.
I is for international: Apart from being globally famous, the early members of the Kapoor family, in particular Raj Kapoor, helped take Bollywood international with recordbreaking films like Awara (1951). In fact, Raj Kapoor is still revered today in countries including Russia over 60 years after his films released there. Shashi Kapoor was one of the first Bollywood stars to act in the west and delivered winning performances in films including The Householder (1963).
J is for Jennifer Kendall: The Kendall family toured India with their theatre company and that is how actress Jennifer met her husband Shashi Kapoor. The two of them defied convention, got married and had children. She carved a successful career in India and helped build the Prithvi Theatre (see T).
K is for Karisma Kapoor: The female members of the Kapoor clan weren’t allowed to enter cinema for many decades. It all changed when Karisma Kapoor went against the family ways to carve out an acting career. She was quickly followed by her younger sister Kareena Kapoor Khan (see Q), who rose through the ranks to become the queen of Bollywood at the height of her fame.
L is for Lyallpur: The roots of the Kapoor clan can be traced back to Lyallpur, which is now called Faisalabad. That is where Prithviraj Kapoor (see P) was born. He abandoned a career in law, took a loan and moved with his young family to Mumbai to pursue acting.
M is for Multi-talented: A lot of the family have attempted multiple cinematic disciplines, but the most talented was Raj Kapoor (see R). He was an actor, director, producer, editor and musician. He also built the legendary RK Studios. Shashi, Shammi, Randhir, Rishi and Rajiv Kapoor all attempted directing too.
N is for Nargis: The legendary actress helped to build the Kapoor empire by starring in the RK Films production houses’ early super-hit movies. She also had a legendary affair with Raj Kapoor.
O is for One-hit wonder: Not all of the Kapoor family were super-successful though. The only hit of Rajiv Kapoor’s career was blockbuster Ram Teri Ganga Maili, which was the biggest grossing film of 1985. After that his career went into free-fall and included a failed attempt at directing.
P is for Prithviraj Kapoor: The patriarch of the Kapoor clan founded the acting dynasty, which is now in its fourth generation. He started acting in the silent era and enjoyed a career that lasted over 40 years, which included a number of Bollywood blockbusters as a lead and supporting actor. He played a supporting role in India’s first talkie Alam Ara (1931) and founded the legendary Prithvi Theatre company in 1942 (see T), which gave a springboard to several actors.
Q is for Queen: The most successful female from the family has been Kareena Kapoor Khan, who rose through the ranks to become the queen of Bollywood and an icon.
R is for Raj Kapoor: The greatest star from the Kapoor family modelled himself on Charlie Chaplin and became an icon who is still revered today. But he was so much more than a shining movie star and is regarded as one of India’s all-time greatest filmmakers. He gave a big break to a number of stars, built a studio when he was still only in his 20s, and tackled taboo subjects that expanded the horizons of Indian cinema.
S is for Scandals: Whether it was getting into trouble for drunken behaviour, affairs, high profile break-ups, fights and warring with costars the Kapoor clan has been involved in a fair share of scandals, which have generated many headlines over the years.
T is for Theatre: Most of the first three generation of the Kapoor family got their grounding at the famous Prithvi Theatre, which was founded by Prithviraj Kapoor in 1942. His company became a travelling troupe with 150 members, which staged over 2,600 productions across India. Prithviraj Kapoor passed away before realising his dream of having a permanent place for the theatre. Shashi Kapoor and his wife Jennifer decided to make Prithviraj’s dream a reality by buying the land he had reserved in Mumbai and building the theatre, which opened in 1978. Prithvi Theatre continues to flourish today with over 500 shows a year.
U is for Unsuccessful: Perhaps the most unsuccessful members of the Kapoor family were Shashi Kapoor’s sons Kunal and Karan, who had very limited success as actors despite having superstar parents. Both quit their careers early and found success in other fields.
V is for Vyjanthimala: The legendary actress denied having an affair with married actor Raj Kapoor, but Rishi Kapoor had a different story to tell. He revealed the affair did take place and things got so bad that his mother moved out with the kids when she found out. This is one of many skeletons that have remained in the Kapoor closet.
W is for West: Today many Bollywood actors are starring in Hollywood productions, but the
first major Indian movie star to venture west in a big way was Shashi Kapoor. Shashi starred in a number of English language films, including ones with production company Merchant Ivory. This inspired other Bollywood actors to follow suit in subsequent years.
X is for X-rated: The Kapoor family has been at the receiving end of a number of X-rated incidents in the past. This includes Raj Kapoor getting daring scenes past Indian censors, which featured the wet sari scene exposing Mandakini’s breasts in Ram Teri Ganga Maili.
Meanwhile Shashi Kapoor appeared in some daring sex scenes with Simi Garewal in English language film Siddhartha (1972). Kareena Kapoor was caught in an alleged MMS scandal where she was allegedly seen having a very intimate kiss with then-boyfriend Shahid Kapoor.
Y is for Yahoo: The actor who introduced rock ’n’ roll to Bollywood and gave it a western edge was Shammi Kapoor. The Indian answer to Elvis Presley shook the foundations of Bollywood with his energy-filled presence on screen and trademark ‘yahoo’ catchphrase.
Z is for Zeenat Aman: The actress delivered a game-changing performance in the Raj Kapoor-directed Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978) opposite Shashi Kapoor. The actress starred in a number of films with other Kapoor members and played the lead in Shammi Kapoor’s directorial debut Manoranjan (1974).