Raaj Kumar's 86th birth anniversary was on October 8, 2011. A tribute to the veteran Hindi actor

“Aap ke paon dekhe, bahut hasin hain, inhen zameen par mat utaryega maile ho jayenge.” Unforgettable lines uttered by Raaj Kumar in “Pakeezah”. The actor carved a secure niche for himself in Hindi films with his rhetoric and dialogue delivery in the Fifties, Sixties and the Seventies.

Born Bhusan Pundit, he was a police inspector famous for his bravery in Mumbai. But destiny had something else in store for this Kashmiri. He gave up his job for a career in films. He changed his name to Raaj Kumar and acted in romantic films such as “Rangoli” and “Nausherwan-e-Dil.” He flopped miserably as a romantic hero till Mehboob Khan exploited his talent in “Mother India”, which featured him as a farmer with grit opposite Nargis. Raaj Kumar's confidence, bold dialogue delivery and stylish walk established him as an actor of substance. He lacked the range of Ashok Kumar or Dilip Kumar. He was also not as classic as Motilal or Balraj Sahni. Yet within his limited range, he faced any leading actor with enthusiasm and gusto, overshadowing most of them. His talent came to the fore under the able direction of Mehboob Khan, Kamal Amrohi, Trilok Jetli, B. R. Chopra and Ram Maheswari. Raaj Kumar very much liked working with Nargis, Meena Kumari, Mala Sinha and Hema Malini. His memorable films include “Ujala,” “Dil Ek Mandir,” “Waqt,” “Kajal” and “Pakeezah.”

As Dilip Kumar's elder brother Ramu, the mill worker in Gemini's “Paigham,” Raaj Kumar noticed Dilip Kumar's ability to underplay and score. So whenever they faced each other, Raaj Kumar was simple, matching the thespian note by note with a low-key dialogue delivery. The result was magic on the silver screen.

In “Godan,” his performance in the scene where his treasured cow dies tugged at your heartstrings. So was the climactic scene in “Humraaz,” where he's shot down by Madan Puri — he collapses with a smile on his face, hugging baby Sarika. When asked why he never acted in comedies, his answer was, “In Hindi, comedies are tragedies. Thank God, I am not part of them.” His films of the Eighties and early Nineties lacked that magnetic appeal his earlier films held, as they portrayed him in stereotypical roles and rendered a sensitive Raaj Kumar a total misfit in the mad world of Bollywood.