He was born in a Punjabi Hindu family in Sialkot, in the Punjab province of British India, .
Rajendra Kumar's family was based in Punjab, British India. His grandfather was a successful military contractor and his father had a textile business in Karachi, Sindh, British India. During the Partition of India, the family had to leave all the land and property behind and move to India. When they came to Bombay, Kumar decided to try his luck in the Hindi film industry. He never wanted to be a hero and took up work with director H. S. Rawail as an assistant. For nearly five years, he worked with Rawail as an assistant in films like Patanga, Sagai, Pocketmaar.
During this time he made his film debut with a small role in Kidar Sharma's 1950 film Jogan, opposite Dilip Kumar and Nargis. It was producer Devendra Goel who noticed Kumar in Jogan and gave him a break in Vachan in 1955. Kumar was paid only fifteen hundred rupees for the film; however, the film was a hit and was Kumar's first silver jubilee film and he was given a title – 'A star is Born'. He got further success with his supporting role in Mehboob Khan's blockbuster epic film Mother India in 1957 in which he played Nargis's character's son. His first major success as a romantic leading man was in Amit Saxena's musical Goonj Uthi Shehnai (1959), co-starring Ameeta.
The 1960s saw Kumar rise to stardom. There were times when he had six or seven films which had run for more than 25 weeks (known in India as a "silver jubilee film"), all running at the cinema at the same time, which rendered him the nickname "Jubilee Kumar". He starred in many box office hits including Dhool Ka Phool (1959), Dil Ek Mandir (1963), Mere Mehboob (1963), Sangam (1964), Arzoo (1965), Suraj (1966), Talash and Ganwaar (1970). He received the Filmfare Nomination for Best Actor for Dil Ek Mandir (1963), Ayee Milan Ki Bela (1964), Arzoo (1965), and as Best Supporting Actor for Sangam (1964).
From 1972 onwards, he faced competition from Rajesh Khanna and many of his films were flops. He then switched to character roles in the late 1970s and 1980s. He was offered a role in the film Saajan Bina Suhaagan opposite Nutan in 1978 which was a success. He also starred in a number of Punjabi films like Teri meri ek jindari.
In 1981 Rajendra introduced his son Kumar Gaurav in the film Love Story which he produced and also starred in. The film was declared a blockbuster. Rajendra produced several other films starring his son including Naam, which also featured his son's brother-in-law Sanjay Dutt, in leading role. He produced and acted with his son again in the 1993 film Phool. In 1995 he acted in the television serial Andaz which was his last acting role.
He married Shukla (producer/director O. P. Ralhan's sister) and had a son and two daughters. His son Kumar Gaurav also had a brief acting career.
Kumar acted with Sunil Dutt and Nargis in the film Mother India (1957) where Sunil Dutt and Rajendra Kumar played natural sons of Nargis's character. He had a special relationship with Dutt and used to actively participate in campaigning for him, whenever the latter used to contest for elections. Dutt quoted as having said that "Even though Rajendra Kumar did not win any award throughout his career, he was one of the most genuine human beings I have ever encountered. When I was struggling with the troubles related to the arrest of my son Sanjay Dutt and my house was repeatedly being searched by means of numerous police raids, Rajendra Kumar was the one who came to my rescue by staying at my house and ensuring that raids were conducted using due procedures, false evidences were not planted in the house and valuables were not stolen." Kumar was best friends with Raj Kapoor, so much so that his son Kumar Gaurav was engaged to the latter's daughter, Reema. As fate would have it, this friendship could not last long after their children broke the engagement and Kumar Gaurav got married to Sunil Dutt and Nargis's daughter Namrata.
He attained a Ph.D. and had a title of 'Doctor' prefixed to his name.
For the premier of his film Vachan, he was asked if he wanted any seats for his relatives or friends, and thinking that it would be complimentary, he answered ten. After some days when he went to get his fees from the producer's accountant, he was given a lesser amount and when he asked why he was told that the money was deducted for the seats he took for his relatives and friends. He took this lesson as a principle of production and when he produced Naam, he deducted some amount from Amrita Singh's fees for the long calls she had made from Hong Kong to India.
Known to refuse taking any medication, he succumbed to cancer on 12 July 1999, just a day after his son's 39th birthday, and just 8 days before his 70th birthday.Rajendra Kumar was honoured with the Padma Shri Award in 1969.
He was also conferred with Justice of Peace honour and served as Honorary Magistrate.
He was awarded the National Honour by late Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru simultaneously for "Kanoon" (Hindi) and "Mehndi Rang Lagyo" (Gujarati film).
He received a special Shastri National Award and was associated with several charity schemes.
Rajendra Kumar was nominated for Best Actor award three times.
Rajendra Kumar was nominated for 3 Filmfare Awards. Once as Best Supporting Actor and remaining as Best Actor. He nominated thrice as Best Actor and once as Best Supporting Actor, as shown below.Filmfare Award for Best Actor – Nominated
1964 Dil Ek Mandir – Dr. Dharmesh
1965 Ayee Milan Ki Bela – Shyam
1966 Aarzoo – Gopal/Sarju
Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actor – "Nominated"
1965 Sangam – Gopal Verma
Andaz (1995) TV series
Vansh (1995) TV series
Phool (1993) .... Dharamraaj
Insaaf Ka Khoon (1991) .... Judge Kumar
Clerk (1989) .... Rahim U. Khan
Main Tere Liye (1988) .... Shiva
Lovers (1983) .... Christian Priest
Rustom (1982) .... J. D. Mehta
Yeh Rishta Na Tootay (1981) .... Police Inspector Vijay Kumar
Saajan Ki Saheli (1981) .... Barrister Avinash Kumar
Love Story (1981) .... Vijay Mehra
Oh Bewafa (1980) .... R.K
Dhan Daulat (1980) .... Raj Saxena
Badla Aur Balidan (1980)
Bin Phere Hum Tere (1979) .... Jagdish Sharma
Saajan Bina Suhagan (1978) .... Raj Kumar
Aahuti (1978) .... CID Inspector Ram Prasad/Rocky
Sone Ka Dil Lohe Ke Haath (1978) .... Shankar
Daku Aur Mahatma (1977)
Do Sholay (1977)
Shirdi Ke Sai Baba (1977) .... Doctor (Pooja's husband)
Mazdoor Zindabaad (1976) (uncredited) .... Ram Singh
Do Jasoos (1975) .... Karamchand Jasoos
Rani Aur Lalpari (1975) .... Rani's dad
Sunehra Sansar (1975) .... Chandrashekhar
Teri Meri Ik Jindri (1975) .... Jaggar Singh Fauji
Do Sher (1974)(Punjabi Movie) .... Shera
Dukh Bhanjan Tera Naam (1974) .... Boatsman
Lalkaar (1972) .... Wing Commander Rajan Kapoor
Aan Baan (1972) .... Suraj
Gaon Hamara Shaher Tumhara (1972) .... Brij "Birju" Bhushan
Gora Aur Kala (1972) .... Karan Singh/Kali Singh (Kalua)
Tangewala (1972) .... Rai Bahadur Kishandas/Raju/Dilbahadur Khan
Aap Aye Bahaar Ayee (1971) (as Rajinder Kumar) .... Rohit Kumar Verma
Dharti (1970) .... Bharat
Ganwaar (1970) .... Gopal Rai
Geet (1970) .... Suraj 'Sarju' Kumar
Mera Naam Joker (1970) (as Rajender Kumar) .... Mahender Kumar
Anjaana (1969) .... Raju
Shatranj (1969) (as Rajinder Kumar) .... Jai/Vijay/Shinranz
Talash (1969) .... Raj Kumar 'Raju'
Jhuk Gaya Aasman (1968) (as Rajinder Kumar) .... Sanjay/Tarun Kumar 'Battu' 'Pappu' Saxena
Saathi (1968) .... Ravi
Aman (1967) .... Dr. Gautamdas
Palki (1967) .... Naseem Baig
Suraj (1966) .... Suraj Singh
Arzoo (1965) (as Rajinder Kumar) .... Gopal/Sarju
Ayee Milan Ki Bela (1964) (as Rajinder Kumar) .... Shyam
Sangam (1964) .... Magistrate Gopal Verma
Zindagi (1964) .... Rajendra "Rajan"
Akeli Mat Jaiyo (1963) (as Rajendrakumar) .... Prince Amardeep
Dil Ek Mandir (1963) .... Dr. Dharmesh
Gehra Daag (1963) .... Shanker
Hamrahi (1963) (as Rajender Kumar) .... Shekhar
Mere Mehboob (1963) .... Anwar
Aas Ka Panchhi (1961) .... Rajan 'Raju' Khanna
Dharmputra (uncredited) .... Special appearance
Amar Rahe Yeh Pyar (1961) .... Advocate Iqbal Hussain
Gharana (1961) .... Kamal
Pyaar Ka Saagar (1961) .... Kishen Chand Gupta
Sasural (1961) .... Shekhar
Zindagi Aur Khwab (1961) .... Inspector Manoj
Kanoon (1960) .... Advocate Kailash Khanna
Maa Baap (1960) .... Raj Kumar 'Raju'
Mehndi Rang Lagyo (1960) .... Anil
Patang (1960) (as Rajender Kumar) .... Dr. Rajan
Chirag Kahan Roshni Kahan (1959) .... Dr. Anand
Dhool Ka Phool (1959) (as Rajinder Kumar) .... Mahesh Kapoor
Do Behnen (1959)
Goonj Uthi Shehnai (1959) .... Kishan
Devar Bhabhi (1958)
Ghar Sansar (1958) .... Deepak
Khazanchi (1958) .... Harish Mohan
Talaaq (1958) .... Ravi Shankar Chaube
Mother India (1957) .... Ramu
Ek Jhalak (1957)
Aawaz (1956) .... Ashok
Toofan Aur Deeya (1956) .... Satish Sharma/Master-Ji
Vachan (1955) .... Kishore
Jogan (1950) .... Vijay's friend
Patanga (1949) .... Small Stage Role
DO SHER WITH DHAEMENDRA
The Jungle Book (1994) (co-executive producer) (co-producer)
Phool (1993) (producer)
Jurrat (1989) (producer)
Naam (1986) (producer)
Lovers (1983) (producer)
Love Story (1981) (producer)
The Train (1970)
Phool Aur Patthar (1966)
Love Story (1981)
Mere Mehboob (1963) (performer: "Mere Mehboob Tujhe", "Allah Bachaye", "Tere Pyar Mein Dildar", "Janeman Ek Nazar", "Yaad Mein Teri", "Tumse Izhar e Haal", "Mere Mehboob Mein Kya", "Ae Husn Zara Jaag", "Yaad Mein (revival)")
Mera Naam Joker (1970) (acknowledgment) (as Rajender Kumar)
Raj Kapoor (1987) .... Himself (during funeral)
Star (1982) .... Himself (Guest Appearance)
Shrimanji (1968) .... Himself
Kala Bazar (1960) .... Himself
Film Hi Film (1983) (uncredited)