indian cinema heritage foundation


  • Born: 1931 (Peshawar)
  • Died: 13 February 2008 (Mumbai)
  • Primary Cinema: Hindi
  • First film: Vachan (1955)
  • Children: Yuvraj Nath Malhotra, Rakhee Nath Malhotra

Rajendranath’s iconic appearance in his loose half pants, a hat, and a silly expression as Popatlal in Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai (1961) stayed in public memory for so long that he became known as Popatlal to all and sundry. 
Rajendranath was born in Peshawar in 1931. Prior to independence, his father was a police officer in Rewa in present-day Madhya Pradesh, and retired as an Inspector General of the Police. Rajendranath had a large family, with seven brothers and four sisters. His sister Krishna was married to Raj Kapoor, and following this alliance, Rajendranath and his brothers decided to try their luck in the film industry as well. 
Of them, Prem Nath was the first to reach Mumbai. Soon, he had established a career for himself as a film actor and asked his brother to move to the city as well. Once there, Rajendranath became associated with Prithvi Theatre, and started making the rounds looking for work as an actor. His first appearance on screen was in a small role in the film Vachan (1955). He continued to act in some other minor roles, including one in Gulam Begum Badshah (1956), gradually gaining in confidence. He also played the role of a supporting actor in the Prem Nath starrer Prisoner of Golconda (1954), but this film proved to be a flop. 
While working in Mumbai, he met the director I.S. Johar by chance. Johar cast him in his feature Hum Sab Chor Hain (1959), in a comic role. Rajendranath’s performance in this role proved to be greatly popular. Impressed by his abilities, I.S. Johar once again cast him in Miss India (1957), starring Nargis and Pradeep Kumar. Subsequently, H.S. Rawail selected him to play a role in the comedy film Shararat (1959). The audience loved him in both these roles. 
On the path to success already, Rajendranath got a big break in Dil Deke Dekho (1959). After this, offers started rolling in more frequently. It was the role of Popatlal in Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai, however, that stuck to him the longest. The reach of this character was so wide that Rajendra started receiving offers to perform in stage shows as the character. Rajendra created his own routine for these shows, performing in turns as a comedian and as a mimic, and the show even toured to great acclaim in Europe and America. 
In 1969, Rajendranath married Gulshan Kriplani. In the meantime, there was no dearth of work for him, and he remained extremely busy until he met with an unfortunate car accident. After his treatment and recovery, he decided to make a film in 1974. He started work on the film Great Crasher with Randhir Kapoor and Neetu Singh in the lead roles, but was overtaken by debt soon after and could not take the project to completion. 
Following the failure of this endeavor, Rajendra decided to start acting in films again. He played important roles in Raj Kapoor’s Biwi O Biwi (1981) and Prem Rog (1982).  By this time, however, the film industry had undergone a lot of changes. In the nineties, Rajendra appeared in his last few film roles in Kajol’s debut Bekhudi (1992) and Sauda (1995). In the last phase of his acting career, he transitioned to a different medium, working in the Hindi television serial Hum Paanch. Rajendranath breathed his last in Mumbai on 13 February 2008. 

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