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June 2002



  Honoured at Cannes

Raj Kapoor - The Legend


GlobalomNet Media Service

This year, the Cannes festival authorities decided to honor the late doyen of the Hindi film industry, Raj Kapoor. This was perhaps be the first time that Cannes honoured a dead filmmaker. A tribute-cum-retrospective of Raj Kapoor’s films was organised, an important part of the Cannes Film Festival this year.

Three of Kapoor’s most famous films, Aag (1948), Barsaat (1949) and Awaara (1951) were included in the retrospective

The idea to hold a tribute-cum-retrospective of Kapoor was first discussed during the visit of Indian Information and Broadcasting Minister Sushma Swaraj to France last year.

The late Raj Kapoor, named as ‘Showman of the Century’ by the arts body Punjabi Kala Sangam, had something for everyone. No one went away unhappy from an RK Film. He brought the common man to the silver screen, and turned him to an uncommon success. People liked him because they could identify with the characters in his film.

Be it acting, or direction, or music, Raj Kapoor's movies excel in everything. Each film was a landmark.

The Kapoor family


Ranbir Raj Kapoor, the eldest son of Prithviraj Kapoor, the head of India's greatest and largest film family, was born in Peshawar in 1924.


When he was very young Raj Kapoor had a small cupboard which he always kept locked. One day when Shammi Kapoor opened it, and was subsequently severely reprimanded for it, he found a mammoth collection of magazines, articles and pictures, most of them related to films. There were pictures of people, places, houses, sets and many other memorabilia. Raj Kapoor, it transpired, had begun equipping himself for a film career from an early age.


As a child, Raj was affectionately called Chisto, Gora or Lashkaree. Even in school Raj Kapoor was more interested in extra-curricular activities like debates and acting. Since childhood Raj was interested in filmmaking but in those days there were no film schools where one could study. So Raj dropped out of school.


He started work as general factotum for Bombay Talkies before moving on to assist Kidar Sharma. Here he was made to sweep floors and be the clapper boy but Sharma noticed the young man's determination to make it. Sharma gave him his break a lead actor in 1947 with Neel Kamal opposite Madhubala.


Did you know?

Raj Kapoor's first film role was at the age of seven in Inquilab,

produced in 1935 by Debaki Bose. 


The following year at the age of 23, Raj Kapoor made his directorial debut with Aag, the first film under the RK banner. Aag was an interesting film in that it challenged traditionally established conventions of sympathetic characters and straightforward storytelling. It was also the first of his many films with Nargis, the two of them going on to become the leading pair of Hindi Films. Aag was also the first of many of Raj's films to explore duality - Aag looked at Physical beauty v/s Inner beauty (a theme revisited in Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978)), Barsaat (1949) looked at Love v/s Lust, Mera Naam Joker (1970) at Public life v/s Private life etc.


Mehboob's Andaaz (1949) made Raj a top star and in the same year it was the passionate romance Barsaat which really reckoned Raj Kapoor as a director of much merit.


Barsaat, a runaway hit, also brought to the limelight new music directors Shankar - Jaikishen, lyricists Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri and the actress Nimmi. The raw passion between Raj Kapoor and Nargis in Barsaat shot with a beautiful almost poetic use of light and shade drove audiences wild. The music of the film was hummed across the nation and along with Andaaz and Mahal that year, the songs were instrumental in Lata Mangeshkar's climb to the top as a playback singer. In fact Raj Kapoor's musical sense and feel for rhythm and involvement in music sittings have ensured the highest quality of music in his films.


The fifties saw Raj Kapoor's greatest work as a Producer-Director besides establishing himself as one of India's biggest ever film stars along with Dev Anand and Dilip Kumar - the Trimurthi!


Awaara (1951), the tale of a vagabond was perhaps his greatest triumph and was released in Russia as Bradyaga to unprecedented success. It's dream sequence with huge statues set amongst the clouds to the strains of Nargis dancing to Ghar Aaya Mera Pardesi stands out even today!


With Awaara, Raj Kapoor created the Chaplinisque tramp, an allegory for the innocent state of mind of the post Independent Indian. This image was used once again in Shree 420 (1955) tracing the corruption of an innocent soul who comes to the city to make his living.In fact. many of Raj's other films look at the naïve simple hero used by a cruel and corrupt society like Anadi (1959).


After his break up with Nargis (their last film together was Chori Chori (1956) though she did do a cameo in Jaagte Raho (1956)), while Raj Kapoor continued to explore social issues - Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai (1960) or complex human relationships - Sangam (1964) there is a marked difference in his treatment of the heroine who became a sex object with a high accent on her physical attributes!


Reverting back to the Chaplinisque image, Kapoor made his magnum opus Mera Naam Joker (1970) about a clown who laughs on the outside and cries within and though absolutely brilliant in parts (particularly the first chapter of the adolescent hero discovering love and sex) the film, a highly self indulgent exercise flopped miserably at the box office shattering him.


Raj bounced back with Bobby(1973) a teenage romance of young lovers fighting parental opposition that is aped by Hindi cinema till today.


Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978) examining Physical Beauty v/s Inner Beauty was a misfire but Prem Rog (1982) based on widow re-marriage and his swan song Ram Teri Ganga Maili (1985) about innocence being sullied were critical and commercial successes. In the latter the female protagonist is a metaphor for India - once pure but now sullied by dirt and corruption.


Raj Kapoor was one of the best known film personality in the world. Most of his films like Awara were shown in many foreign countries also and his reputation as an actor reached unprecedented heights.


He made films to introduce his sons to the industry. For Randhir Kapoor, it was Kal Aaj Aur Kal, for Rishi it was Bobby and Rajiv Kapoor was launched in Ram Teri Ganga Maili. This was the last movie which Raj Kapoor directed.


At the time of his death Raj Kapoor was making Heena, a love story breaking the barriers of the Indo-Pak border, which was subsequently completed by his eldest son Randhir. His sons, all primarily actors, have tried to keep the RK Banner alive albeit with mixed results. Which just goes on to prove - Raj Kapoor was one and one of a kind.


Raj Kapoor was awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for his contribution to Indian Cinema in 1988.


Raj Kapoor is many things to many people: producer, director, actor, editor, musician, story- teller, a man of many moods, an acknowledged patriarch of India's film making industry. There will be endless debates about his exact contribution to the art of cinema, but few can deny that he was the greatest entertainer known to Indian films - the great showman.


Check out  Raj Kapoor Biography, Filmography and Photo Gallery


(Photos:  Information: various sources)