P. L. Raj, born as Devraj Peter Lewis, was an acclaimed Indian choreographer
who worked primarily for Bollywood
films. In the period of 1960 and 70s he was the leading choreographer of Hindi film industry and played an important role in popularizing the cabaret and fast paced dancing styles. He was best known for his works with famed actors like Shammi Kapoor
, Helen and Amitabh Bachchan
and choreographing popular dance sequences in Bollywood flicks like Don, Sholay
, Intaquam, Teesri Manzil and Junglee. Apart form Bollywood he had also worked as a choreographer in regional film industries including Bengali
and Punjabi cinemas
Early Life of P. L. Raj
P. L. Raj was born on 10th August 1934 in Coimbatore
, Tamil Nadu
. He grew up in the city of Hyderabad
but ran away to Mumbai
at the age of 10. He was born with name Devraj Peter Lewis but after entering the film industry he changed it to P. L. Raj. He received his dance training from Surya Kumar and Krishan Kumar, the dancing duo who used to train actors in Mumbai. They themselves were trained by Azoorie, a well known dancer of Hindi film industry in the early era.
Career of P. L. Raj
P. L. Raj started his dancing career in the early 1950s in Bollywood. The phase was marked by the fading out of slow dance sequences and emergence of fast paced rhythms in Hindi cinema. Western dance also gained prominence in Indian cinema
during this period.
He stepped in the industry as a background dancer but later got involved in assisting choreographer Krishna Kumar in the films. He had also learnt dance from Krishna Kumar earlier. P. L. Raj got his first independent project in the year 1959 with the movie Love Marriage starring Mala Sinha
and Dev Anand
. Subsequently he worked as a choreographer in various other films like Gumnaam, Saagar, Intaquam, Sholay, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, Sargam
, Ek Duje Ke Liye, Shagird and many more. Some of the famous dance sequences choreographed by P. L. Raj include "Aaja Aaja Mein Hoon Pyar Tera", "Deewana Mujhsa Nahin", "Dafliwale Dafli Baja" and "Salaam-e-Ishq". In 1960s and 70s he was accredited as the most successful choreographer of Bollywood.
P. L. Raj also owned the credit of making cabaret a prominent part of Hindi films. The famous Bollywood actress and dancer Helen gained huge popularity in this genre through the choreography of P. L. Raj. He choreographed popular dance numbers like "O Haseena Zulfonwali" (Teesri Manzil), "Aa Jaane Jaan" (Intaquam) and "Yeh Mera Dil" (Don) featuring Helen. In the Bollywood blockbuster film Sholay, he crafted dance for songs like "Mehbooba O Mehbooba" starring Helen and "Yeh Dosti Hum Nahin" featuring Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra
. In the latter he included a number of tricky bike movements too. In the hit songs "Khaike Pan Banaraswala" from Don and "Jahan Teri Yeh Nazar Hai" from Kaalia he choreographed Amitabh Bachchan and established his signature moves. Apart form these, he had also worked in regional film industries of India as a successful choreographer. In the year 2001 P. L. Raj was honoured with Dadasaheb Phalke
Award for technical excellence.
Personal Life of P. L. Raj
P. L. Raj was married to Devyani and had a son named Leslie and two daughters named Eliz and Greta. His son Leslie Lewis is a famed music composer and is a member of Colonial Cousins a musical duo.
Death of P. L. Raj
P. L. Raj died at the age of 67 due to cardiac arrest on 9th July 2002 at his home in Mahim, Mumbai. On his death condolence was expressed by the Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India