Jeetendra turns 80: Milestones of a legend

Jeetendra turned 80 years young on April 7. Photo: Rajiv Vijayakar 

At the RRR success party, Tusshar Kapoor told me, “Dad hates being reminded of his age. For him, age is just a number!” And true enough, Jeetendra looks like a sprightly 60-plus at 80, which he turned on April 7.

It’s been a long haul since 1959 to 2022 (64 years of working in cinema) besides being, effectively, the head honcho behind the affairs and projects of his daughter, Ekta R. Kapoor’s brainchild, Balaji Telefilms and ALT Balaji.

Here are the prime milestones of his legend, real name Ravi Kapoor. Initially dismissed as a non-actor, through subsequent images as a “Jumping Jack” and a “Madras (Chennai)-based Hindi film specialist”, Jeetendra showed his sheer lasting power with his last success as a leading man coming in the 1990s, 36 years after his debut as a hero!

Navrang: Jeetendra’s father, Amarnath Kapoor, supplied artificial jewelry to films. Jeetendra was the delivery boy after school. One day, he expressed the wish to watch a film shoot and his father requested the great filmmaker V.Shantaram to allow his son to do so. Shantaram was strict about visitors, so he suggested that Jeetendra do bit roles so that he could come on the sets! And so Jeetendra was cast as one of the many princes in the song sequence Tu chhupi hai kahaan in Navrang (released in 1959). He later did a cameo in Shantaram’s next, Sehra (1963).

Geet Gaaya Pattharon Ne: When his father’s business ran into trouble, Jeetendra, a born businessman, sensed that films could be a good, zero-investment profession! Shantaram cast him in the lead opposite his star daughter Rajashree in Geet Gaya Pattharon Ne from among six boys. The 1964 film was a silver jubilee hit, running for 25 weeks in the movie halls.

Gunahon Ka Devta: After this, Jeetendra signed films with big names like Mohan Kumar, Mohan Segal (with both of whom he did films later) and Pannalal Maheshwari, but they never took off. Devi Sharma, a big-name filmmaker, wanted to make a small movie with him, but Jeetendra thought that it would harm his career. So he suggested a top set-up to him with Rajashree and Shankar-Jaikishan. Jeetendra was to be paid Rs 55,000.

But as Rajashree’s manager was stuck on her price of Rs 350,000, and S-J on Rs 325,000, the actor quietly told his production controller, Baldev Pushkarna (with whom he was to work later as a producer), to pay them that difference from his own remuneration. Jeetendra thus did the film only for Rs. 5000, but it did reasonably well.

Farz: Then Farz came to him after many top heroes rejected the Bond-like drama. Jeetendra needed the money for his sister’s marriage and the film needed just a 35-day start-to-finish schedule in Chennai. He began his relationship with the city as well as with composers Laxmikant-Pyarelal who went on to do over 70 films with him till Paappi Devataa in 1996. With Babita, he formed his first popular pair. Singer Mohammed Rafi, L-P and Jeetendra became a hit quartet. The music and the film proved super-hits and Jeetendra became known as the Jumping Jack, who dressed in all-white!

Jeene Ki Raah: This 1969 film signaled the beginning of another great association—with L.V. Prasad, whom he considered like a second father. The film had him in a sober role of a middle-class young man who, though married, has to pretend he is a bachelor to get a job.

Jigri Dost: This 1969 film from the makers of Farz saw Jeetendra cast in his first dual role of many later. His leading ladies were Mumtaz (with whom he established a popular pair after their first flop together in Shantaram’s 1967 Boond Jo Ban Gaye Moti) and Komal (whose real name was Poonam Chandiramani, now known as Shatrughan Sinha’s wife). In the same year, he also had hits like Waris and Badi Didi, and also starred in Anmol Moti, a flop movie that was known as India’s “first underwater film”—that is, with underwater photography.

Waris: This 1969 hit was his first of many films with Hema Malini, whom he almost married later in 1973. But Hema and he continued to be friends and do films all the way to Dil Aashna Hai (1992), which she produced and directed without starring in it. Neetu Singh acted in this movie as child actor Baby Sonia, and Jeetendra went on to do many films with her too as a heroine from 1977.

Humjoli: Jeetendra launched his home banner, Tirupati Pictures, with this 1970 masala entertainer in which Mehmood played a triple role.

Khilona: Released in the same year, this film was a whopper hit and had Jeetendra in his first special appearance. He did many more such roles, including cameos, later.

Caravan: This mammoth 1971 hit was his first collaboration with Nasir Husain, the master formula filmmaker who presented a rural entertainer for the first time. Kishore Kumar sang for the first time for Jeetendra.

Parichay: Director Gulzar gave Jeetendra a change of image as a sober and bespectacled teacher in this 1972 “rehash” of the Hollywood classic The Sound of Music.

Roop Tera Mastana: This 1972 flop was his first in many dual roles as father and son. As father, it was also his first of several old man roles. Coincidentally, it was his favotite composers Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s 100th film and the actor called the music “brilliant”.

Anokhi AdaThis 1973 film was his first hit with Rekha, with whom he did more films than with anyone else, including big hits like Judaai, Maang Bharo Sajana and Ek Hi Bhool. They had first co-starred in the 1972 flop, Ek Bechara.

Bidaai: This October 18, 1974 release was his big hit after a dull phase. Produced and directed by L.V. Prasad again, it was a significant movie as Jeetendra had promised fiancé and long-term girlfriend Shobha Sippy that he would marry her the same day if it proved a hit. And he did that, and on that very day, also signed five films!

Nagin: This 1976 hit was Jeetendra’s first multi-starrer and marked the beginning of another hit pair:Jeetendra with Reena Roy (with whom he had already done the average Jaise Ko Taisa in 1973). The film had seven heroes and seven heroines, but Jeetendra played the nagin Reena Roy’s lover as an icchadaari naag (a serpent who can take human form at will).

The year 1975: This was a milestone year as on Karva Chauth that year, Jeetendra had a miraculous escape from death when he did not board a Chennai flight at wife Shobha’s insistence and it crashed. Jeetendra narrated this story on the Kapil Sharma’s show.

Dharam-Veer: Jeetendra came in as a substitute for Shashi Kapoor in this 1977 Manmohan Desai blockbuster. The film also starred Dharmendra, Zeenat Aman and, in a first of many films, Neetu Singh. It was originally planned in 70mm.

Aasha: The 1980 film remains among the actor’s highest grossers. It is noteworthy also for the fact that Hrithik Roshan made his debut as a child actor and danced in the hit song, Jaane hum sadak ke logon par with him. Jeetendra had a record six hits that year!

Deedaar-E-Yaar: Jeetendra’s most expensive home production put him financially back in a big way in 1982, though by then he was known to be one of the industry’s best brains in finance and one of the richest actors.

Himmatwala & Mawwali: Both these 1983 films again rejuvenated Jeetendra’s career along with another modest success from the same banner in Chennai (Padmalaya Studios)—Justice Chowdhury. This phase helped kick-start a long association with Sridevi and Jaya Prada (who had co-starred twice with him earlier). For a while, he also had a good innings with composer Bappi Lahiri.

Khudgarz: Produced and directed by Jeetendra’s close friend Rakesh Roshan as his directorial debut, this was the actor’s last hit with Shatrughan Sinha, with whom he had worked successfully in many films earlier. It was inspired by the Hollywood play Becket.

The year 1994: His ambitious daughter, Ekta R. Kapoor, launched her production outfit, Balaji Telefilms, in the basement garage of Jeetendra’s Juhu bungalow, with only a table and a fan, to make TV serials. Jeetendra remains its chairman to date.

Kuchh To Hai: Jeetendra featured in a cameo as real son Tusshar’s reel father in this 2003 film that marked the debut of whizkid director Anurag Basu and was produced by Shobha Kapoor, the actor’s wife, and Ekta R. Kapoor, his daughter. As of now, this is his latest big-screen appearance.

Apharan 2: In 2022, at almost 80, Jeetendra made his web debut as Codex, an arch villain, in this ALT Balaji web series.







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