How Did Rajendra Kumar Become Jubilee Kumar?


Rajendra Kumar was one of the most successful Bollywood stars in the ’60s.
Rajendra Kumar was one of the most successful Bollywood stars in the ’60s.

How Did Rajendra Kumar Become Jubilee Kumar?

When Raj Kapoor was making his Sangam, he could only see Dilip Kumar as Gopal, the anguished third angle of his romantic opus. He had worked with Dilip in Mehboob Khan‘s Andaz, another triangular romance just a few years ago, and was aware of his acting calibre. Besides, inclusion of Dilip could make the film an enviable prospect at the box office. But when the brooding genius couldn’t be a part of the film, the director had to look for replacement. It was then that he found his Gopal in a rising star named Rajendra Kumar.

Rajendra, who was anyway on a winning spree at the box office, gave an emotionally restrained performance in the film. So much so that Sangam went on to be become one of the biggest successes of Raj Kapoor’s oeuvre, and another addition to Rajendra Kumar’s volley of non-stop hits.
A poster of <i>Sangam.</i>
A poster of Sangam.
Between 1959 and 1966, Rajendra Kumar had such a Midas touch that almost any film he touched turned box office gold, and especially from 1963 to 1966, when he was unbeatable with 100 per cent box office success.  


Rajendra Kumar with Sunil Dutt and Nargis in <i>Mother India.</i>
Rajendra Kumar with Sunil Dutt and Nargis in Mother India.

Dilip Kumar, whom the audience loved and the critics admired, was a method actor, and he took special care in choosing his films. And so several producers despite wanting Dilip in their films, had to come away empty handed when their films couldn’t match the emotional heft the tragedy king was looking for.

Rajendra, who played the virtuous son of Nargis in Mehboob Khan’s renaissance film, Mother India, and was slowly tiptoeing his way to stardom, became the next best option for the industry that wanted a reasonably priced star with the same ability to move the viewers.

In no time, his passionate charm made romance easily available, not to mention his glycerine induced screen presence that made the audience go through a quick bite of catharsis. With his knack of choosing the right kind of projects, he delivered back to back hits, and was crowned Jubilee Kumar, a hat tip to the fact that his multiple films completed more than 25 weeks at a stretch.  


Rajendra Kumar in <i>Kanoon.</i>
Rajendra Kumar in Kanoon.

Born as RK Tulli in Sialkot, Rajendra had seen a lot of hardships due to Partition before making it big in Bombay. He was slowly making his space in the industry when he was told about a bungalow at Carter Road. He wanted a lavish house for his family for he always desired to get back to the glory of the ancestral house he had left behind in Pakistan. He sought the bungalow but didn’t have enough money. Rescue arrived in the form of B R Chopra, who gave him an advance payment for his role in the courtroom thriller Kanoon (first Hindi songless talkie) along with two more films.

A still from <i>Mere Mehboob</i>, another huge hit.&nbsp;
A still from Mere Mehboob, another huge hit. 

Despite warnings from people that it was a haunted a house, he bought the bungalow immediately, named it Dimple, performed the customary pooja and moved in. It was during his stay here that he experienced the phase of being Jubilee Kumar.

Rajendra Kumar was also a man of sound investment sense, and rapidly became one of the richest men in the industry. Even when his flurry of hits came to a sudden halt, the realisation of descent dawned upon him quickly. He moved to supporting roles with quiet grace.

Meanwhile, he sold his bungalow to a newcomer named Rajesh Khanna. Rajesh firmly believed that if he managed to buy the house, Jubilee Kumar’s success would rub on him too. It’s perhaps ironic that Rajesh with his twinkling eyes and the tilt of his head actually repeated the same success, albeit on a grander scale, delivering 15 solo hits without a pause, and became the first superstar of Hindi cinema. Rajesh took away the audience that made Rajendra a star, and thus establishing the fickle nature of fame.

(The writer is a journalist, a screenwriter and content developer who believes in the insanity of words, in print or otherwise. His Twitter handle is: @RanjibMazumder)

(This story is from The Quint’s archives and was first published on 20 July 2015. It is now being republished to mark Rajendra Kumar’s death anniversary.)

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