Raaj Kumar was considered neither dashing nor conventionally handsome. Yet he achieved legendary status because of his striking presence and unique style of dialogue delivery.
Off-screen, he was considered a style icon for his pipe and polish. However, he was also known to be eccentric, who never minced words.
Raj Kapoor was the multi-talented filmmaker-actor, who had turned director at 24 and had made some of the Hindi film screen’s most emotional entertainers.
Both were men of stature in the industry, admired for their work and their power. However, both were also painfully human, as their public altercation proved…
The year was 1969. Both actors were at the wedding party of the actor known for playing villain, Prem Chopra. Chopra’s bride Uma was the younger sister of Raj Kapoor’s wife, Krishna Kapoor.
The tension was already simmering between Raj and Raaj. It had its roots in the fact that Raj Kapoor had offered Raaj Kumar a role in his epic-in-the-making, Mera Naam Joker. Raaj had been offered the role of a musician in this film about a clown who must make his audience laugh, despite his own personal sorrows.
However, Raaj had bluntly refused the offer. His rationale – and it is one he always stuck to – was that he wouldn’t play second fiddle in a multi-starrer. Mera Naam Joker, besides starring Raj Kapoor in the lead, also featured Dharmendra and Manoj Kumar in cameos. To be just another name in this already-crowded star-cast was obviously not to Raaj’s liking and he declined.
The star reportedly let it be known that he, Raaj Kumar, could not be equalled with actors like Dharmendra and Manoj Kumar. “If I have to be in the film, then only Raj Kapoor and Raaj Kumar will be there,” he is supposed to have said. Raj Kapoor went on to cast another actor in the part. However, this slight was not forgotten…
At Prem Chopra’s wedding, after the spirits had loosened tongues and brought down facades, the two actors got embroiled in an argument. From jokingly trading jibes, the fight soon escalated beyond expectation. It ended with Raj Kapoor angrily telling Raaj, “You are a bloody murderer!” Now that was a barb meant to hurt, and there can be no doubt that it did. After all, Raaj Kumar had been a police officer before he entered films and he had also been involved in a case of alleged murder.
However, Raaj Kumar took the slur in his stride, and instead coolly bit back, “I might be a killer, but I never went to you for a favour. It is you who had come to me!” The actor always maintained, “Never in my life have I submitted to anyone… I never never went to anyone and asked him for work. And always, from my first film onwards, I got my price.”
His reply supposedly doused Raj Kapoor’s anger instantly. What possible reply could a man come up with after that?!
And today if Prem Chopra’s wedding is remembered decades later, it is largely because of the clash of these greats!