Rajkumar (1964)

My blog has featured Shammi Kapoor now and then – with reviews of some of his films, in my list of classic Hindi cinema’s handsomest men (which he topped, by a very long margin), and in various lists of songs.

Yesterday morning, when I woke up and logged on to the Internet, the first news headline I saw was that Shammi Kapoor had passed away. I have never been so affected by the passing away of one of the many stars of the past who have died in the recent past… but the news of Shammi Kapoor’s death brought tears to my eyes. I have a lump in my throat even as I type this.

I had not really intended to write this review now. I am in the midst of a blog project in which each post links to the previous and the next posts in some way or the other. But I could not ignore the passing of my favourite actor. I would never forgive myself for that. So, while this post does have a connection to the last (Humayun was a ‘raja-rani’ – ‘king-and-queen’ – film; so is Rajkumar), it is, first and foremost, a tribute to the brightest, most joyous and most entertaining star of the 60s. A sun that will never set.

Rajkumar is one of Shammi Kapoor’s classic films. It was released in 1964, the same year as another of Shammi Kapoor’s big hits, Kashmir ki Kali – and like the latter, it went on to be a very popular film, with Shammi his suave, irresistibly handsome self, paired opposite a lovely heroine, in a picturesque setting, with an entertaining storyline and a fabulous collection of songs. You couldn’t ask for a better package.

Here, Shammi plays Bhanu Pratap Singh, the elder son of the Maharaja (Prithviraj Kapoor) of a princely state. Bhanu Pratap has been studying abroad for the past ten years, and is only now returning. The maharaja is excited at the thought of finally seeing Bhanu again and cannot wait to announce that Bhanu will now be the Crown Prince.
Bhanu’s own mother has been dead many years now, and Maharani Kalavati (Manorama), the maharaja’s second wife, is nervous that Bhanu will balk at the idea of a step-mother.

… but that’s only for the benefit of the maharaja. The fact of the matter is that Kalavati wants the throne for her little son Chandrabhanu (?), and if Bhanu is declared the Crown Prince, that hope will go kaput. So Kalavati has been conspiring with her evil brother Narpat Singh (Pran), who also happens to be the senapati of the state. Narpat Singh, in private, assures his sister that the reception committee going to receive the prince as he arrives will make sure he gets an ‘appropriate’ reception.
We know what that means.

Fortunately for our hero, though, his old dai-ma (wet nurse), Padma (Achla Sachdev) has been keeping her eyes open and her ear to the ground. She knows what Kalavati and Narpat have been up to, but since she can’t tell the maharaja – it’ll break his heart – she has, instead, sent her son Kapil (Rajendranath) abroad, to warn Bhanu of what’s brewing here. Bhanu and Kapil have decided to put on an act: Bhanu will be the frivolous, stupid, insensitive prince while Kapil will be his equally idiotic professor friend.

Forewarned is forearmed, and that too literally – so the newly arrived prince’s hidden armour (under his tunic) saves him from the bullet of one of Narpat’s hidden snipers…

…while Bhanu’s act soon convinces all and sundry that this ‘foreign-returned’ prince is totally unfit to rule. His favourite pet and friend seems to be a flea he carries around in a tiny plastic case; he is brash and lacks decorum; and he has no respect for the traditions of the land. He even makes what amounts to a pass at Princess Sangeeta (Sadhana), the daughter of the local tribal chieftain, when he meets her outside the tribal temple on the way to the palace.

The only ones in the know are Kapil and Kapil’s mother, Padma. Padma is looking out for Bhanu; she even shows him a hidden passage that leads from his chambers into the countryside.
As for the others, it’s a different story. The most upset and disappointed of the lot is Bhanu’s own father, the maharaja, who realises that his son has come back a fop and a fribble, totally unfit to rule.
And when Bhanu, unable to bear his father’s misery any longer, tries to talk to him, Kalavati and Narpat Singh immediately turn up, preventing a private conversation.

The evil brother and his ambitious but stupid sister aren’t going to let go so easily, either. After all, Narpat Singh’s actual goal is the throne for himself. So he’s now plotting with Bhimasaran (Om Prakash), a man who wants to be chieftain of Sangeeta’s tribe. Narpat Singh’s plot is convoluted, but the main goals are to kill off the maharaja and Bhanu (so that Narpat can then grab the throne); kill off Sangeeta’s father (so that Bhimasaran can be chieftain of the tribe); and marry Sangeeta (she is, after all, quite an eyeful).

They soon go into action. The maharaja is persuaded – mostly by the wise old diwan (Shivraj) to declare Bhanu the Crown Prince (“he will grow wiser and more circumspect if he is given responsibility”). To celebrate this occasion and offer thanks, Kalavati takes Bhanu off to a tiny private Kali temple. All very well – until Kalavati pretends to fall apart, telling Bhanu that she’s the daughter of a courtesan, not worthy to be queen, terrified of losing her beloved husband if he so much as gets a whiff of this terrible secret, blah blah… Bhanu ends up having to promise that he’ll never divulge the secret to anyone, and (how did this happen?) that he won’t even say that he was with Kalavati all this time.

Meanwhile, Sangeeta’s father receives visitors: a detachment of soldiers arrives at his hut. They say they’re Bhanu’s men, and have been sent to fetch Sangeeta, since the prince would like to have her company at the palace for the night. The chieftain is, of course, outraged and very insulted.
Even as he’s bellowing at the soldiers to go back to the palace, Narpat Singh, from the cover of the night and the surrounding forest, shoots the chieftain.

Poor Sangeeta comes running out to find her father dead. Bhimasaran, who had been (by design, though Sangeeta doesn’t know that) with her father at the time, tells her that Bhanu is the one who killed the chief. Our firebrand heroine, after a little mourning, takes her father’s corpse to the court, demanding justice.

The maharaja is shaken by Sangeeta’s accusation. Bhanu is summoned, and though he pleads not guilty, cannot account for where he was when Sangeeta’s father was killed (remember his vow to Kalavati? Now Bhanu realises she’s in on the plot too). So the maharaja is forced to confine Bhanu to his chambers in the palace, while the case is investigated.

…but with Kapil and Padma’s help, Bhanu manages to escape. He runs off into the countryside, intent on finding evidence of Narpat’s duplicity.
Thus, when Sangeeta arrives at court, again demanding justice, the maharaja is forced to admit that his prisoner’s fled. And Sangeeta, breathing fire all the while, pledges that she will not rest until she has personally killed her father’s assassin – whom, of course, she believes to be Bhanu.

Shortly after, a sweet, funny and very likeable stranger named Bhagatram, whom she had recently saved from drowning, crosses paths with Sangeeta. It’s a matter of a few meetings (he rescues her, once after she falls off a horse, and once from a lecherous Narpat), and Sangeeta is head over heels in love with Bhagatram.

Will she ever realise that the man she loves more than life is the very man she has vowed to kill? (Well, she will realise, of course, but how soon? And under what circumstances?)

What I didn’t like about this film:

The somewhat gaudy, rather tasteless look of some of it. The costumes, for example, often look as if they were rented from a local nautanki theatre, and one without the benefit of a qualified costume designer too. And the choreography in some places – for instance, by the extras in Naach re mann badkamma, or when Sangeeta arrives at the palace when Bhanu’s being made Crown Prince – looks more like vigorous calisthenics than dancing.

What I liked about it:

…which can be forgiven for the fact that it’s compensated by a fast-paced and entertaining story (even if it has holes in the plot), some inspired music by Shankar-Jaikishan, and a gorgeous Sadhana.

– And Shammi Kapoor.

He is Shammi here, the perfect entertainer. He is comical, emotional, utterly and irresistibly romantic. He rides hell-for-leather through the countryside and swings a sword expertly as he dodges assassins. He masquerades in many costumes and crazy disguises, as an Arab, a pandit, a sadhu. He is the uselessly foppish, Westernised Prince Bhanu Pratap. He is the real Bhanu, courageous and intelligent and capable, the man Padma dotes on and Kapil admires. He is the ‘bade bhaiya’ (elder brother) whom the innocent Chandrabhanu soon recognises as a loving and gentle man, a far cry from the madcap everybody believes him to be. And he is Bhagatram, the handsome, brave and mysterious stranger Sangeeta falls in love with.

Rajkumar may not be a great film, but it’s a fine example of why I adore Shammi Kapoor so much, and always will. There is no other actor who could entertain me this way, who could turn a grey day into a sunny one by just one cheery song, one melting look from those wonderful eyes, one smile from the screen…

Goodnight, sweet prince; and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

62 thoughts on “Rajkumar (1964)

  1. There is a lump in my throat now Madhulika… Especially after seeing the last screen cap and reading that last line, bidding our sweet prince good night…


    • Yes, though it does look somewhat garish in parts, Rajkumar is an enjoyable film, and Shammi Kapoor is in his element. Watch it.

      I guess my distress over his death is in large part to the fact that Shammi Kapoor is the one film star whose films I have always turned to for happiness. While I may watch a Pyaasa or a Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam to admire the art and technique and sheer skill of cinema… there are times when all I want to do is sit back and relax, smile and be happy. And no other actor can be depended upon to always manage that.


        • Same here. I don’t like that one either. Or Preet na jaane reet – but that was probably more because I like Praveen Choudhary much more than B Saroja Devi (whom I didn’t like at all!).

          Perhaps I should reword that last sentence in my earlier comment to: “And no other actor could be depended upon, in his heyday, to usually manage that.”
          (After all, one has to take in account pre-Tumsa Nahin Dekha films like Shama Parwana or Rail ka Dibba too!)


  2. The last time I saw Shammi, it was the death anniversary (July 31, 2011) of Rafi. He was telling a story how he heard the sad news about his voice of the movies he acted in. Two days before death anniversary of Elvis and 15 days after Rafi’s. What an irony!
    My heartfelt condolences over the passing away of the RAAJ KUMAR or PRINCE of the heart of million, may God rest his soul in peace and paradise.Om Shanti.


    • Ironic, indeed. Anu Warrier (see her comment below) had posted a couple of Shammi Kapoor posts on her blog – some of the best songs Rafi sang for him, reviews of some of his best films, and so on – just a couple of days before Shammi passed away. And I had been working on a special ‘Shammi Kapoor Week, to be hosted much later… he will be sorely missed by all of us who loved and admired him so much.


  3. Madhu, excellent post, as always. I agree with you about not being this affected by other stars’ deaths – And even as I was typing my post, I was wondering what you would post. I couldn’t imagine you not doing so. And to come here and read this… I have tears in my eyes, and a lump in my throat again.

    There never was and will be a star like him again.


    • True, Anu. There never will be a star like him again. Others – major stars, both Indian and American, have passed away during the last one year (Elizabeth Taylor, Tony Curtis and Nalini Jaywant, to name just three, from the actors I <i<really like) – but while I might have felt sad for them, it was just a passing sorrow that they were no more. It’s been over two days since Shammi Kapoor died, and I still haven’t got over it. :-(


  4. Lump in my throat too, Madhu. It’s been 36 hours now since I heard the news and I’m very far from getting over it. I’ve never felt this way about the passing of any other actor. To me, Shammi was much more than just an actor, he symbolised everything that was good about this world. Whenever I wanted to get into a cheerful mood, all I’d do is randomly pick up a song of his. Just the sight of him would cheer me up!

    Have been singing his songs all day yesterday and today (in my besuraa voice – luckily there’s nobody to listen to me ;-)). Watching his songs on youtube right now.

    Nice review, btw. Like you say, Rajkumar had its holes but it is still a good timepass movie. And the songs are gorgeous. I just love “dilruba” and “is rang badalti duniya mein”. And “aaja aayi bahaar dil hai” is sweet too.


    • You know, Raja, my sister keeps a stack of CDs in her car because she loves listening to music. She has a large collection – new films, old films, Western, Indian, her children’s favourite songs… the one CD that badly needs to be thrown out because it’s been played so often it’s all warped by now, is the Best of Shammi Kapoor one. :-)

      The newspapers here have all been going on about how he was the ‘original rebel’, and about his ‘eternal youthfulness’ and all that, but I think a lot of Shammi Kapoor’s likableness stemmed from his complete and utter joie de vivre. He embodied aliveness.


  5. I’m still getting teary over it all myself :( Lovely review of a fun film—my favorite thing about it is the chemistry between Shammi and Rajendranath. They always had it, but I think it’s top-notch in this one. Some of their scenes together I have to see two or three times before I can stop laughing and move on :)


    • Yes, the chemistry between the two of them is fantastic here – and I like the fact that the comic subplot (the Tuntun-Rajendranath-Om Prakash bit) is tiny enough to not eat into the time Rajendranath and Shammi Kapoor get to be together. They’re utterly goofy. :-)

      I watched Prince again last night, and they’re good together there too.


  6. Same here Madhu, never cried for any other actor, no other actor’s death has affected me the way Shammi Kapoor’s did, When I first heard the news yesterday, I thought I must be dreaming. I kept wishing the whole day that it was all just a bad dream :-(
    I was out the whole day, so couldn’t follow the programs on tv. But when I read almost every article available on the net on him in the night, I just couldn’t help crying.
    He was always more than just an actor. Like everybody here, he always cheered me up with just his presence on screen. He was a real entertainer, who carried every role of his with great style. And just one look from him (though it was just onscreen), one song of his always made my day.
    I had seen Rajkumar long ago, during my school days, not one of my favourite Shammi Kapoor movies, but thoroughly entertaining. And when a movie had Shammi Kapoor, Sadhna, Prithviraj Kapoor, Rajendranath, Pran and such lovely songs (Is rang badalti duniya mein being my favourite), it couldn’t be anything but a great fun.
    I had seen Basant few weeks ago and it’s review’s been pending, but I somehow couldn’t bring myself to write about it today. I still have a lump in my throat.
    The last screencap is worth dying for, a real prince charming! On a second thought, he looks like he’s somewhere in space, looking upon all of us.
    Like the line from Anand goes – “Anand mara nahin hai, Anand marte nahin hai”, Shammi Kapoor will live forever in our hearts.


    • That last screen cap, by the way, is from a little before Is rang badalti duniya mein starts. He spends the night sitting on a rock in the cave, watching her as she sleeps on a rock in the middle of a pond. Night has fallen, so it’s pretty dark around, but you can see his face smiling at her as she drifts off to sleep.

      I love that allusion to that line from Anand. Yes, that’s how we should think of Shammi Kapoor too. He lives on in his films. Forever.


      • Yes, Karthik, I’ve seen Dulha-Dulhan. Whereas a lot of Hindi films start off being good but end up being silly, I found this one to be the opposite – I didn’t much care for it in the beginning (somehow Raj Kapoor’s act as Kallu qawwal got on my nerves! – but the second half was sweet and romantic. The male version of Humne tujhko pyaar kiya hai kitna, with him singing it to an audience – and his own wife sitting in front, completely oblivious that she is married to him – is very tender and lovely.

        P.S. Thank you for the link! I’ve come across the site before, but now I’ve finally bookmarked it. :-)


  7. The tears I was blinking away, or swallowing, spilled over on reading the last line.
    One can take comfort from the fact that we will always have his wonderfully entertaining films and your review reminds us of it.
    His pairing with Sadhana in Rajkumar was great. I love the song and the scenes of ‘is rang badalti duniya mein’. The lyrics and Shammi’s expression make it all so romantic.
    I wish they had acted together in more films.


  8. Hello,

    Came here through Anu’s blog – she made a reference to your post. And I can see Anu was right – this indeed is a wonderful review! Rajkumar is not one of my favourite Shammi Kapoor films, for exactly the reasons you mentioned, but I loved the songs, and I loved the Shammi-Sadhana pairing. And I am a perfect sucker for the raja-rani movies. Also, I will watch anything with Shammi Kapoor in it, so… :)

    I am glad DVDs come with sub-titles though the quality is abysmal; else it would have been difficult for me to enjoy these films. I usually go by Anu’s recommendations; now, I can see that I have one more site to guide me.


    • Thank you for dropping by at my blog, Tina, and for leaving that encouraging comment! I’m glad you liked my review. Yes, Rajkumar isn’t one of my favourite Shammi Kapoor films (for that, I’d nominate Professor – I love that film), but it’s entertaining enough, the songs are especially good, and the Sadhana-Shammi Kapoor pairing is lovely, both to look at and in the chemistry they generate. Enough reason to overlook the film’s other flaws!


  9. All, try googling for “dustedoff” and watch the first result that comes back. Difficult to say whether google rocks or DO!
    Well done Madhu!! :-)


  10. Rajkumar is a fitting tribute movie for Shammi – after all he is the Rajkumar of our hearts. As you said, it may not be a great movie but it has all the ingredients of the quintessential Shammi experience – a beautiful heroine, lovely songs, zany plot and above all, Shammi having the time of his life. It’ll be a while before the tears recede…


    • True, Shalini. It’ll certainly be a while before the tears recede. They started again this morning when I saw Amul Butter’s latest ad – it’s a tribute to Shammi Kapoor. I’ll scan it and upload it as soon as I can, but it did make the morning go suddenly a lot duller.


    • That seems to echo a sweet tribute I noticed Hrithik Roshan had given Shammi Kapoor (I’m paraphrasing, here): “One shouldn’t say, ‘Rest in Peace’ for Shammi Kapoor; one should say, ‘Dance in Heaven'”.


  11. Thanks for the blog. It’s so entertaining. I need to watch it again.

    I remember watching Rajkumar on DD as a kid. Loved the songs especially ‘Is rang badalti duniya mein’ which I think is the most romantic song ever, closely followed by ‘Ehsan tera hoga mujh par’. Sadhana looked beautiful, graceful and regal in the film. Shammi was his usual free-spirited entertaining self. But what I remember most was the Shammi-Rajendranath double act, especially the scene where they are rescued from drowning and the wedding scene where they are disguised as priests. Sadhana, Shammi and Rajendranath have been favorites ever since.


    • Thank you for commenting, Anoushka! I saw Rajkumar on DD as a kid, the first time too. I was a lot less discerning (finicky?!) back then, and remember liking everything about it. I still haven’t changed my opinion about Shammi Kapoor, Sadhana and the songs – love them, still, and always will! And yes, I like that wedding scene with Shammi and Rajendranath masquerading as pandits. Heh. :-) They also have another good scene together near the end, where they pretend that there’s a ‘naag devta’ who knows everything – in an attempt to trick the Om Prakash character into a confession.


  12. His demise is indeed a great loss, but I guess everyone has to movie on… I have just seen many of his songs, and those are enough to make out that he was a supremely talented actor who gave the craft his all- as far as his movies are concerned- I don’t really recall seeing any of his lead roles (of course have seen many of his later subsequent supporting role performances that continued till his old age)…
    Thanks for this review- will try to catch Rajkumar too… though the first one in the list would be Teesri Manzil…


    • Besides Teesri Manzil (which is probably his most popular film), I would suggest Dil Deke Dekho, China Town, Junglee and Professor – all very entertaining, with fantastic music, good plots (even though they may seem farfetched at times – but then that’s nothing new in Hindi cinema!), and Shammi Kapoor at his best. Enjoy!

      P.S. I like that typo you made: “Everyone has to movie on…” cute, when you’re referring to a much-loved actor!


      • It was a genuine typo :) I noticed it once you pointed out- but ya as you say it works here…

        Thanks for the suggestions, would try to catch all of them soon…

        Have heard about another film of his being very good- ‘Singapore’, have you seen it?


        • I wouldn’t classify Singapore as very good. It’s all right. Shammi Kapoor looks wonderful (he was at his peak: this was 1960, well before he started putting on weight), and if you like Padmini (I don’t care for her much), then you’ll be happy – I guess. Unfortunately, the plot is very convoluted and there are lots of holes in it. I’d rented the DVD, but having seen it, returned it and never actually bought the DVD for myself. Not good enough.


      • That is something very sweet about Amul, I think – they always honour major film stars in their own way. Even if it’s a tiny little ad tucked away in one corner of the newspaper. Though Shammi Kapoor is so popular and was so towering a personality that most newspapers have been publishing articles about him every other day for the past week.


  13. I was not very active on the net for obvious reasons, thanks for your kind words. Dad did not get the opportunity of working with Raj Kapoor and Shammi Kapoor, I was disapointed that he missed working with Shammi Kapoor.


    • Shilpi, once again: my profoundest condolences. I feel so bad that two of my friends have lost very dear ones over the course of this year.

      In fact, when I was looking through the photos you’d uploaded, it did strike me that I’ve never seen your father in any films with Shammi Kapoor. I do remember him appear in cameos in films with some of the Shammi Kapoor wannabes – for instance, your father acted as a doctor in Love in Tokyo – but never with Shammi Kapoor himself. That would have been an interesting experience, I’m sure. I would’ve loved to have known what your father would have thought of working alongside the ‘rajkumar’!


  14. Madhu – on Shammi Kapoor’s official site there is a quote that Mohammed Rafi made about Shammi Kapoor – “If Shammi Kapoor had been born as a leaf, that leaf would fall off dancing.” I found it rather endearing. Just thought I’d share…


    • Oh, that is lovely, Anu. Such a truly sweet quote, and so appropriate.

      P.S. I’d gone to a mall today, ostensibly to shop for groceries and a birthday gift for my father – ended up in a music store, and bought Vallah Kya Baat Hai (I’ve seen it before, but couldn’t stop myself from buying it!) Shammi in his prime is hard to resist.


      • My God! A Shammi Kapoor film that I haven’t seen! I have to put it on my shopping list for next year :( That’s a long wait. Happy Birthday to your father.

        And Shilpi, please accept my condolences too.


        • You should, should watch it – it’s been a long time since I saw it, but I remember Shammi looking absolutely awesome in it. :-) Thank you for your wishes for my father – his birthday’s in mid-September, but since my husband and I will be going off on holiday for about 10 days before then, we thought it best to go gift-shopping right now!


    • That is exactly the reason why I love the movies of Shammi Kapoor. I mentioned recently that while I’d watch a Guru Dutt film, or a Bimal Roy one (as examples) if I wanted a thought-provoking film, there are times when all one has the energy or the need for, is a Shammi Kapoor film. Pure joy.


      • I really love the pair – Shammiji & dearest sadhna.I miss them immensely And the song aaja aai bahar changes my mood instantly. Seems it was shot in heaven ! I am too eager to know where it was shot. pl let me know.


          • I think it was shot on a lake near Ooty. Quite a tricky bit of picturisation, all those flower bedecked coracles & Sadhana & the female extras perched dangerously on the edge of a slippery waterfall ! How did she manage the cue words to lip-synch to ? The roar of the waterfall must have drowned out the sound of the song. While I do agree with you that most of the other characters’ costumes were gaudy I liked Shammi Kapoor’s & Sadhana’s costumes , hers were mostly light pastels. One song I especially like in this is the bold “Dilruba, dil pe tu”. Sadhana ties up Shammi and then releases him , he drags her away and they disappear off screen , then there’s there’s the sound of him whipping her while she gasps softly & the song begins, I guess it was extremely erotic for those days, one of the earliest examples of S & M (Sado-masochism) in Hindi cinema. Sadhana said , in an interview, that she watched this movie with her in-laws & she didn’t know where to look when this song came on ! Incidentally, is it my imagination or did Lata & Asha make their voices softer while singing for Sadhana to match her speaking voice ? It seems evident in “Aaja ayee bahaar” (eppecially the “Aaja” ), and in “Dilruba, dil pe tu”, and “Chehre pe khushi” in “Waqt”.


            • Yes, I like Dilruba dil pe tu very much, too. Surprisingly bold for that time. I can well understand that Sadhana might’ve been embarrassed to watch it along with her in-laws.

              “Incidentally, is it my imagination or did Lata & Asha make their voices softer while singing for Sadhana to match her speaking voice ?

              I think it’s your imagination. ;-) There are plenty of other songs – sung for actresses as diverse as Waheeda Rehman, Mala Sinha, Asha Parekh and Meena Kumari – that I can think of which have that same softness. I think it’s more a question of the music and tone of a particular song than the actress it’s been sung for.


  15. ‘have seen the movie twice in cinema hall,there is a song,is rang badalti dunia me….mai kaise khuda hafiz keh du….bhagwan ki niyat theek nahi.And the hall erupted into clapping,i was astounded at the wisdom of Lucknow’s so called peasantry(it was 80s and the cinema halls were ramshacle 3rd graders)reminding me of,Leslie Charteris’ hero ‘the saint’.Man was given legs to walk the earth;and therefore,out of the divine cussedness of his inheritance,he chooses his heroes from the men who trespass into the element for which they were not intended and fly superlatively well.in the same way man was also given moral limitations by his ancestors after god almighty;and therefore he reserves his deepest and most secret admiration for those who defy those limitations,for Shammi kapoors.


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