The ‘silent history’ of Indian cinema just died yesterday. Her name is Krishna Raj Kapoor.
My father was an unabashed Raj Kapoor fan. Amongst the rare films we saw together, Mera Naam Joker was one. It bored me to death. We loved Amitabh. And Raj Kapoor was the very antithesis of what Bachchan stood for. My dad said, “You will understand and value Raj Kapoor when you will be my age. Please carry on with Amitabh until then.”
He was right.
Years later, I realized why Raj Kapoor was called the showman. He was born one. His movies, the stories, the music, the sets and the big ideas he worked on were all ahead of its time. Prem Rog, one of my favorites is about widow remarriage. He made it at a time when widows were demonized in the society. It was made for the masses, not the classes. But everyone was impacted by the message. The heroines he introduced to Bollywood and the transformation of those women from leading ladies to Bollywood icons, merely by working in his movies, was absolutely stunning.
I have seen several videos of Raj Kapoor on YouTube. His parties, his premieres, his holi get-togethers – everything was larger than life. He was a possessed man. A man who loved to eat, drink and make movies. His parties were full of who’s who in Bollywood. In all these videos, there is one lady in white moving around seamlessly without the trappings of the power, fame, and status of the celebrities around her. In many photographs, she is smiling on the sidelines. Never in the center, always on the sidelines.
That lady was Krishna Raj Kapoor. The Book of Secrets.
She must have seen it all. She lived with a husband who famously said that he falls in love with every heroine of his film. He used to say that if he can’t fall in love with her, how could he expect the audience to root for her? This was not a husband speaking, but an artist talking about how he was consumed by his art. Who would stay married with such a character? But Krishna Ji did.
How did she strike a balance between a husband and a director is a mystery only she and her closed ones will know. I am sure she must have lost her mental balance many times in her life, but history will say that she stuck on. No wonder, Krishna Ji was the inspiration to many sequences in Raj Kapoor’s films.
Many of the modern day women may call this a patriarchal farce. But it is important to understand that Krishna Ji came from an era where they were taught to respect their husband next to God. Despite this, the lady was able to manage her marriage well.
Imagine having a husband like Raj Kapoor, a father in law like Prithviraj Kapoor, brother in laws like Shashi and Shammi Kapoor and their families, sons like Rishi and Randhir Kapoor, daughter in laws like Babita and Neetu Singh and grandchildren like Ranbir and Karishma, Kareena, and son in law like Saif?? Add to that her brother Premnath, and a samadhi like Amitabh Bachchan!! It is impossible to imagine how this lady must have led her life managing such a large set of celebrities in one family. There is no parallel like her in the entire history of filmi families across the world.
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Some people love the shadows. They hate limelight. Krishna ji was probably one such lady. Maybe she liked the limelight, or maybe she didn’t. But she chose to stay away from it. I saw several photos of the holi parties on the internet, she is nowhere to be seen. Same is the case with film premieres and awards.
So where was she? Probably in the kitchen managing the food, drinks and everything else. She had no time or the inclination for featuring in front page photographs with the celebrities.
But because she focused on the house, maybe the Kapoor family did not disintegrate as many other filmi families do. Every family that stays together across generations, have one such pillar amidst them. The Kapoors were lucky to have her. How do you repay this debt? Raj Kapoor can’t repay this in seven lifetimes. He might be the showman to the world, but he stood on the foundations built and held together by his wife.
So why did I choose to write about Krishna Ji after her death?
Because there is a Krishna Ji in every family in the world. Some are recognized and many are not. In my family, there is one and I have the greatest regard for that lady. These people, men, and women, seldom get the credit for the success of those around them. But their impact is felt across generations. Kids and grandkids see them and learn from them the values of keeping a family together. 100 silver jubilee films are pittance as compared to what they have achieved. No award, including an Oscar, can match their achievements.
Because selflessness cannot be measured nor can it be valued. Only those who experience it and benefit from it understand how invaluable it is. Which is why Krishna ji would be The Book of Secrets to many in her family. They know and she knows what she has done for them.
Recently during my walks across Pali Hill, I saw the Kapoor house being dismantled. I stood there and quickly clicked a picture of the name of the bungalow. It was called Krishna Raj. How apt!
They say behind every successful man there is a woman. In the case of Krishna Ji, I can safely say that because there was a Krishna Ji, there was a Raj Kapoor. Raj Kapoor survived because of her. If not for her, there would have been no Raj Kapoor.
Which is why Krishna Raj.
Krishna Ji left this world 29 years after Raj Kapoor passed away. Raj Kapoor and his brothers must be awaiting her arrival in the heaven. Because once she lands up there, the party will be on. I am sure they won’t allow her to rest in peace 🙂
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Copyedited by Adam Rizvi