indian cinema heritage foundation

"Meri Lottery Lag Jaane Waali Hai" : Rajendra Nath

13 Apr, 2020 | Beete Hue Din by Shishir Krishna Sharma
Rajendra Nath. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

With the rise of Mehmood in 1960’s all the comedy actors of that era including Johnny Walker steadily started losing their sheen.  But Rajendra Nath was an exception who started his career almost at the same time as Mehmood’s and successfully gained new heights. Mehmood's stardom had no effect on Rajendra Nath’s career as he had built a unique image for himself. 

It took me a very long time to reach Rajendra Nath ji for my column Kya Bhooloon Kya Yaad Karoon in the Hindi weekly paper Sahara Samay. He was not in touch with the Cine & T.V. Artiste’s Association (CINTAA) since the last few years. CINTAA had his Colaba address in its record but he didn’t reside in that address anymore. After lots of efforts somebody told me that actor Birbal must have an idea about Rajendra Nath ji’s whereabouts as they are close friends. Thus I successfully reached Rajendra Nath ji through Birbal ji. He now lived in the Orchid Building on 10th Road at Khar (West).
 

Rajendra Nath. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
Mehmood's stardom had no effect on Rajendra Nath’s career as he had built a unique image for himself. 
Rajendra Nath Malhotra’s family was originally from Peshawar. His father was a higher cadre police officer during British Raj who spent most of his service time in different Indian states. Rajendra Nath Malhotra was born on 8th June 1931 in the town of Tikamgarh in Madhya Prant (now Madhya Pradesh). He completed his schooling in Rewa. Congress leader Arjun Singh was Rajendra Nath’s classmate and close friend. Prithviraj Kapoor was closely related to the Malhotra family and the bond got stronger after Rajendra Nath’s elder sister got married to Raj Kapoor. Rajendra Nath’s younger sister is married to actor Prem Chopra.
 
"My elder brother Prem Nath was working in the films in Mumbai. After I completed my schooling he asked me to shift to Mumbai. I came here in 1947 and joined Prithviraj Kapoor's theatre company Prithvi Theatre. I acted in Prithvi Theatre’s plays Deewar, Pathan, Shakuntala and Ahuti."
Rajendra Nath said, “My elder brother Prem Nath was working in the films in Mumbai. After I completed my schooling he asked me to shift to Mumbai. I came here in 1947 and joined Prithviraj Kapoor's theatre company Prithvi Theatre. I acted in Prithvi Theatre’s plays Deewar, Pathan, Shakuntala and Ahuti. My association with Prithvi Theatre lasted for 10 years where I befriended the likes of Shammi Kapoor, Shashi Kapoor, Sajjan, Shankar and Jaikishan”.
 
Shagufa (1953). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
He was spending a carefree life under the patronage of his elder brother. He was not at all serious towards his career. Prem Nath was not happy with his carelessness. He was so angry that he ordered Rajendra Nath to leave his home one day.
According to Rajendra Nath, apart from stage plays he also did small roles in films. Those roles would be so small that no one could take notice of Rajendra Nath’s on screen presence. He was spending a carefree life under the patronage of his elder brother. He was not at all serious towards his career. Prem Nath was not happy with his carelessness. He was so angry that he ordered Rajendra Nath to leave his home one day.
 
Dil Deke Dekho (1959). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

Rajendra Nath said, “It was a big shock to me. Though bhaisaheb allowed me to live in another house of his yet the problem was how to fulfill other basic needs. Today’s well known producer Yash Johar also lived with me in the same house and we both were struggling to make it big in life. I had an old model scooter but often we didn’t have money for the petrol. For food we were dependent upon friends and the acquaintances but how long could we survive like this? Constrainedly I had to be serious towards my career. Today I strongly feel that whatever Prem Nath ji did was for my well being only”.  
 
Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai (1961). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
He never looked back after Dil Deke Dekho. His comic performance in 1961’s film Jab Pyar Kisi Se Hota Hai made him popular as Popatlal in every household.
The first little bit significant role which Rajendra Nath got was in the film Shagoofa, a 1953 release. This movie was produced by Prem Nath under his own banner P.N.Films. Prem Nath produced another movie Golcunda Ka Qaidi in the year 1954 in which he gave Rajendra Nath the role of the side hero. But both the films flopped. Rajendra Nath got recognition in a small comic role in the movie Hum Sab Chor Hain which released in the year 1956. The movie Shararat which released in 1959 made this recognition stronger and in the same year Dil Deke Dekho’s grand success made him a star comedian. He never looked back after Dil Deke Dekho. His comic performance in 1961’s film Jab Pyar Kisi Se Hota Hai made him popular as Popatlal in every household.
 
Aan Milo Sajna (1970). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

Rajendra Naths career was on the peak for next 12 years. He worked with almost all big producer-directors during that period and gave many hits like Usne Kaha Tha (1960), Prem Patra (1962), Mujhe Jeene Do ((1963), Tere Ghar Ke Saamne (1963), Ye Raaste Hain Pyar Ke (1963), Mere Sanam (1965), Aaye Din Bahaar Ke (1965), Hare Kanch Ki Chooriyan (1967), An Evening in Paris (1967), Aaya Sawan Jhoom Ke (1969), Prince (1969), Aan Milo Sajna (1970), Aap Aaye Bahaar Aayee (1971), Dharkan (1972), Mela, (1971) and Ek Baar Mooskura Do (1972). But in the year 1969 Rajendra Nath was seriously injured in a car accident and had to spend many months in the hospital which badly affected his career. In such circumstances he decided to become a producer.
 
Rajendra Nath with Harindranath Chattopadhyay in Tere Ghar Ke Samne (1963). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

Rajendra Nath said, “In the year 1974 I started shooting my home production The Gate Crasher with Randhir Kapoor and Neetu Singh in main lead. Neither had I any experience of production nor despite having spent so many years into the films, could I learn the basic characteristics of the people associated with this industry. Whatever money people asked for during the shoot, I paid to them with open hands. As a result, the film got stalled after 10 days of shoot. Now I was under heavy debt. My struggle started afresh. Whatever small-big roles I got I did, so that I could pay to the creditors. Distributors from Delhi and U.P. compelled me to shed blood-tears. Despite knowing my circumstances they levied heavy interest and recovered every single paisa from me”.
 
Rajendra Nath as Popatlal in Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai (1961). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
Remembering his close friend Rajendra Nath, actor Birbal says, “He was a very plain hearted and an honest person. Everybody took advantage of his civility but he never hurt anybody. He took all the pains to pay his debts”.
Remembering his close friend Rajendra Nath, actor Birbal says, “He was a very plain hearted and an honest person. Everybody took advantage of his civility but he never hurt anybody. He took all the pains to pay his debts”. When asked about the name of the director of The Gate Crasher, Birbal said, “So far I remember, the movie was being directed by Sikandar Khanna”.

Rajendra Nath was fond of the honesty and good behaviour of producers from the Parsi community and South India. He said that contrary to the producers from Mumbai film industry, Parsi and South Indian producers very respectfully treated their actors and paid their remuneration well in time.

As per the data provided by Surat (Gujrat) based very senior film historian Shri Harish Raghuwanshi ji, Rajendra Nath acted in 9 movies in 1950’s, 70 in 1960’s, 67 in 1970’s, 84 in 1980’s and 23 in 1990’s thus in total 253 movies in his entire acting career. His last movie was Laash which released in the year 1998. He also acted in some of the initial episodes of Hindi serial Hum Paanch. Rajendra Nath’s eyes glittered as he remembered his old days. He said, “I shot a lot in Kashmir. Most of my movies in 1960’s were shot in Kashmir. In those days I could come home in Mumbai hardly for 3-4 days as a guest”.

Rajendra Nath’s family comprised of his wife, a son and a daughter. He had already bid adieu to the films 6 years back when we met. His son was working with the Qatar Airlines at that time and his daughter had just completed her studies. Death of his elder brother Prem Nath and younger brother - the famous villain - Narendra Nath had badly affected Rajendra Nath emotionally and physically. Looking at his silent and gloomy face, it was hard to believe that at some point of time this used to be the same Rajendra Nath whose mere entry on the big screen used to be enough for the theatre hall to burst into laughter.

Rajendra Nath died in Mumbai on 13th February 2008.
  

 

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