P. L. Raj

P. L. Raj
Born Devraj Peter Lewis
(1934-08-10)August 10, 1934
Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu
Died July 9, 2002(2002-07-09) (aged 67)
Mumbai, India
Occupation choreographer

P. L. Raj (August 10, 1934 - July 9, 2002) born "Devraj Peter Lewis" was a noted Bollywood film choreographer, who was the leading choreographer of 1960 and 70s Hindi cinema. He established face-paced dancing and cabaret-style dance numbers. He most known for his work with Helen, Shammi Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan, most notably film like Junglee (1961), Professor (1962), Teesri Manzil (1966), Intaquam (1969), Sholay (1975), and Don (1978). He choreographed over 1,000 films in Hindi as well as regional cinemas including Telugu, Bengali, Marathi and Punjabi.[1]

Early life

Raj was born on August 10, 1934 in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, and grew up in Hyderabad from where he ran away at age 10 and reached Mumbai. His birth name was Devraj Peter Lewis, which he change after he entered the film industry.[2][3]

He was trained by dancer duo, Surya Kumar and Krishan Kumar who started training actors in Mumbai, after themselves receiving training from Azoorie, a popular dancer of early cinema. Other choreographer to come out of their training were Satyanarayan, Bapriprasad and many others.[4]


Raj began his career in Bollywood in early 50s, a period when slow paced dance sequences were phasing out and fast paced rhythms were entering Hindi film music and along with it western dance moves.[4] Initially he worked as background dancer in films, and went to assisting choreographer Krishna Kumar from whom he had earlier learnt dance, most notably in songs like "Mera Naam Chin Chin Chu in Howrah Bridge (1958) picturized on Helen. However, his first break as an independent choreographer was with Dev Anand and Mala Sinha starrer Love Marriage (1959).[2] Raj also choreographed dances for various films including Junglee (1961) and Professor (1962) with Shammi Kapoor, Shagird (1967, "Bade Miya Diwane" ), Teesri Manzil (1966, "Aaja Aaja Mein Hoon Pyar Tera" and "Deewana Mujhsa Nahin"), Gumnaam (1965), Intaquam (1969), Sholay (1975), Muqaddar Ka Sikandar (1978, "Salaam-e-Ishq"), Don (1978), Sargam (1979, "Dafliwale Dafli Baja" and "Parbat Ke Us Paar"), Ek Duje Ke Liye (1981) and Saagar (1985, "Jaane Do Naa") and . He was the most successful film choreographer of 1960s and 70s Hindi cinema.[5]

His choreography played an important in made cabaret an important part in Hindi cinema, as well as making dancer-actress Helen a household name.[6] He taught Bharatnatyam and Kathak dances to Helen, and later choreographed most of famous dance numbers in films including, "O Haseena Zulfonwali" (Teesri Manzil 1966), "Mungda" (Inkaar 1978), "Aa Jaane Jaan" (Intaquam, 1969), "Mehbooba Mehbooba" (Sholay 1975), "Yeh Mera Dil" (Don 1978).[7] He also choreographed for blockbuster Sholay (1975) including songs like "Mehbooba Mehbooba" picturized on Helen, and "Yeh Dosti Hum Nahin, in which he planned several tricky bike movement involving Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra.[8] He choreographed Bachchan again in hit-song "Khaike Pan Banaraswala" in Don (1978) and "Jahan Teri Yeh Nazar Hai" in Kaalia (1981), songs which established his signature moves.[9]

He also worked in Telugu, Bengali, Marathi and Punjabi movies.[1] In all, he choreographed dance sequences in over 1,000 films.[10] Raj had won Dadasaheb Phalke award for technical excellence in 2001.[1]

Personal life

He died on July 9, 2002, due to cardiac arrest at his home in Mahim, Mumbai,[10] at age 67. He was survived by his wife, Devyani, a son Lesle and two daughters, Eliz and Greta.[2] His son Lesle Lewis is a popular composer and a member of the duo Colonial Cousins.[1] His death was condoled by the Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India at the time, Smt. Sushma Swaraj.[10]



  1. 1 2 3 4 "Famous Bollywood dance director P L Raj dies". The Times Of India. Jul 10, 2002. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
  2. 1 2 3 Hindi Cinema Year Book. Screen World Publication. 2002. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
  3. The life-story of P.L. Raj. Attendance: A Publication of the Mohan Khokar Dance Foundation. 1999. pp. 26–28. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
  4. 1 2 Gulzar; Govind Nihalani; Saibal Chatterjee (2003). Encyclopaedia Of Hindi Cinema. Popular Prakashan. p. 202. ISBN 978-81-7991-066-5. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
  5. K. Moti Gokulsing; Wimal Dissanayake (17 December 2008). Popular Culture in a Globalised India. Routledge. pp. 123–. ISBN 978-0-203-88406-5. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
  6. "Departed". Outlook magazine. 2002: 10. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
  7. Jerry Pinto (2006). Helen: The Life and Times of an H-Bomb. Penguin Books India. p. 16. ISBN 978-0-14-303124-6. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
  8. Anupama Chopra (2000). Sholay: The Making of a Classic. Penguin Books India. p. 96. ISBN 978-0-14-029970-0. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
  9. "PONYTAIL 'n' pop, but desi". The Hindu. Sep 29, 2003. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
  10. 1 2 3 "Smt. Swaraj Condoles The Death of P.L. Raj". Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Press Information Bureau. 11 July 2002. Retrieved June 29, 2013.
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