Jairaj – Profile
P. Jairaj spent 70 years in the film industry during which he played various roles – from a body-double stuntman to the macho hero, from mythological God to social drama leads and from filmmaker to the custodian of the film industry’s welfare through various associations – and endeared himself to everybody. P. Jairaj joined the industry at the tender age of 19 and lived a full life till the age of 91. He is survived by four daughters and two sons. His second daughter, Deepa Shahi and her son Rajan, a popular tele-serial maker (of Jaisi Jaissi Koi Nahin, Kareena Kareena, Reth and Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai fame) go into a rewind mode. “Papa was a totally family-oriented person. He would be up at the crack of dawn by 5 am and by 9 pm the lights would be out! He wasn’t a strict father though, he liked to educate us through books, “ recalls Deepa. He amassed a huge library of books on every subject under the sun which he eventually donated to various libraries in Mumbai, Kolkata and to his friends and relatives. “I got the historical section with books on architechture,” elaborates Deepa while her son inherited books on filmmaking and artistic performances.
The Silent Era
With sound came songs and Jairaj was handicapped by the fact that he was no singer, but he managed to stay in the reckoning by starring in action films. With the introduction of playback singing, he forged forth with films like Rifle Girl, Bhabhi, Panna and Mahasagar No Moti – which were all hits.
1950s and early ’60s was Jairaj’s golden era as an actor as he essayed a variety of roles of hero, villain and even comedian. He was, however, celebrated for his wide range of historical roles, playing Chandrashekhar Azad, Amar Singh Rathore, Prithviraj Chauhan, Rana Pratap, Shaheed Bhagat Singh and Tipu Sultan. “Papa was a natural rider and that helped,” opines Deepa.
First Kissing Star, First Superman
“Although Papa was famous for his parties, he was never involved in any scandal. All his heroines regarded him as their close friend. I remember, Nargis had knitted him a sweater monogrammed with his initials!” Deepa reminisces fondly.
Jairaj started accepting character roles from mid-’Sixties. His roles in Insaniyat, Baharon Ke Sapne, Neel Kamal, Raaste Aur Manzil are memorable. Also his most cameos in Don, Masoom and Khoon Bhari Maang are known to viewers today. Jairaj had also acted in three international films, the Russian co-production with K.A.Abbas Pardesi, MGM’s Maya and 20th Century Fox’s Nine Hours To Rama. The last film was based on Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination and was banned in India!.
A Tragic Screen Romance
He also directed films like Mala, Mohar and Rajghar. He also directed two television serials -Tana-Bana and Katha Sagar.
He was close friends with the Kapoors. “So much so that both our families would go on vacations together,” Deepa recalls happily how Prithviraj and his sons were like their extended family.
Prithviraj Kapoor and P. Jairaj were the founder members of the Cine Artistes’ Association in 1939. In 1981, most deservingly, Jairaj was honoured with the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke award for his outstanding contribution to Indian cinema. Interestingly, Jairaj starred in Gujarati and Marathi films but never in Telugu, which was his mother tongue.
Prithviraj’s father had arranged his marriage to a Punjabi girl from Delhi and the two were blessed with six children. Of his two sons Dileep Raj even starred in K. A. Abbas’ Seheer Aur Sapna and was then hailed as the ‘next Raj Kapoor’. “But he couldn’t sustain his success. He now writes films and serials, while Jai Tilak, our second brother, became an engineer and he’s settled in Chicago. All of us four sisters were married out of Mumbai and out of the film industry,” updates Deepa.
Rajan, his grandson, is the sole torchbearer of Jairaj’s showbiz legacy. “Nanaji advised me to build goodwill in the industry. Name and fame will come and go, only your goodwill see you through, he said. That’s the most valued mantra for me,” admits his grandson gratefully.
P. Jairaj passed away on August 11, 2000 at the ripe age of 91, leaving behind a rich legacy.