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‘Acting is not for you’—how Rajendra Kumar braved rejection to become Bollywood’s Jubilee King

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IIt was half past midnight, and young Rajendra Kumar quietly slipped back to his house after reading it. Lord Purcell, a 1938 film starring Baby Noor Jehan. The lights went out, and he was sure his late-night shenanigans went unnoticed. Staying under the sheets, grandpa’s voice sounded from a distance: “I’ve been waiting for you.”

Kumar’s grandfather, Chajuram Tuli, yelled at his grandson who ran to the movies. “Instead of focusing on your studies, you’re chanting ‘movie, movie!’ day after day! I warn you now: reform yourself, or one day you’ll be a movie theater!”

His words will become a prophecy, Seema Sonik Alimchand in Jubilee Kumar: The life and times of a superstar.

Kumar earned the nickname “Jubilee King” or “Jubilee Kumar” after six straight box office hits, all of which ran in theaters for more than 25 weeks.

However, the Padma award-winning actor’s journey as a producer offers veterans Rajesh Khanna and Randhir Kapoor their train (1970) and Javani Dewani (1972), starting with a huge struggle. From sleeping on the pavement to taking odd jobs for lyricist Rajinder Krishan, Kumar’s first day in Mumbai was full of hardships—a far cry from the dreamy and luxurious life he lived before 1947.

humble beginnings

Born on July 20, 1927, into a wealthy business family in Sialkot, present-day Pakistan, Kumar’s love of cinema began at an early age. But the show wasn’t in the life that was enacted for him – his intention was to take over his family business. However, this never happened.

In 1947, when Kumar was a sophomore in college, Patit forced his family to flee Sialkot. Rajendra Kumar and his family left their palatial ancestral home in Pakistan and moved to what is today India, living in a shared residence in Subzi Mandi, Delhi. But Kumar couldn’t settle for the status quo, and moved to Mumbai in 1949 to pursue his celluloid dreams.

Kumar, who starred in several 1960s Jubilee blockbusters such as Dear Ekmandir (1963), Ayee Milan Ki Bela (1964), Azu (1965) and Shangyan (1964), began his career as an assistant director. Kumar was assisting filmmaker Harnam Singh Rawail when he was asked to make a cameo Batanga (1949), and his current duties.But it wasn’t until 1950 that filmmaker Chandulal Shah landed him a role in Dilip Kumar and Nargis-starrer ground, as an auxiliary action. Kumar took full advantage of the opportunity.

However, despite Kumar’s stellar performance, his professional acquaintances only discouraged him, while Ravel actively discouraged him from pursuing an acting career. “You do get a break, but acting isn’t for you…focus on the job at hand,” he said, according to an excerpt from Seema Sonik Alimchand Jubilee Kumar: The life and times of a superstar.


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rise to glory

Kumar was determined to become an actor, and his persistence paid off.he starred in the movie Vaschen (1955), which became his first Jubilee.Obviously, there is no turning back from here – Kumar continues to play various roles, such as in Goonj Uthi Shehnai (1959), a young poet Azu (1965) and so on.

Kumar’s most notable performance comes from Sadana Just Mehboob (1963), he was praised for his portrayal of Anwar and for capturing the essence of Lucknow’s Navabi etiquette. Interestingly, this adventure is by HS Rawail, who never thought Kumar would be an actor.


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Generosity comes first

Kumar is also known for his generosity and kind demeanor. He reportedly believed his beautiful sea-facing house brought him good luck. But the actor willingly sold it to Rajesh Khanna in 1969, also believing the house would help him secure the same legacy as “Jubilee Kumar”. Buying a house did benefit Khana – who went on to become one of Bollywood’s biggest stars.

It wasn’t just Khanna that Kumar helped. In fact, he was known for his generosity to Bollywood newcomers and helped superstars like Dharmendra and Feroze Khan early on.

But Bollywood could never return that kindness — especially when Kumar’s career began to stall in the 1970s. All he could do was play some roles in Punjabi movies, and by the 80s his proposals dried up.

Yet despite his brokenness and helplessness, Kumar never succumbed to negativity, choosing instead to count his blessings. “Maybe I should call it quits. I’m calm,” he once told his family. Instead, he focused on building a successful film career for his son actor Kumar Gaurav, starring in films until 1998, when he died of cardiac arrest in his sleep in 1999.

(Edited by Zoya Barth)





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