By Nita Deshmukh. Posted on April 27, 2016
Hailed as ‘the greatest showman of Indian Cinema’, Raj Kapoor is a name that needs no introduction. Born in Peshawar as Ranbir Raj Kapoor, he started his career by acting in stage plays with his father Prithvi Raj Kapoor and eventually went on to act in films that marked the start of a long and illustrious journey.
Considered one of the most influential filmmakers and actors of Indian cinema, Raj Kapoor had several awards and accomplishments to his credit. This includes three National Film Awards, two nominations for Cannes Palme d'Or for Awaara (1951) and Boot Polish (1954), while his production Jagte Raho (1956) won the Crystal Globe award at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.
Raj Kapoor was later bestowed with the Padma Bhushan in 1971 and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1987 by the Government of India. His performance in Awaara was ranked as one of the top ten greatest performances of all time by Time magazine. Not that it needs an international agency to validate his impact on our cinema.
A filmmaker known for making films that were entertaining yet raised awareness about social issues and served as food for thought, his impact is all pervasive & continues to this day.
We came across an interesting documentary on the filmmaker that captures the man, his collaborators and close confidantes at work.
Raj Kapoor's directorial debut Aag was a brooding melodrama which featured him with Nargis and gave us one of the most memorable on-screen pairings of Indian cinema. His second directorial venture Barsaat was another phenomenal success that weaved separate yet engaging tales of love and loyalty. The romantic realm and deep emotions of the film were wonderfully captured by legendary cinematographer Jal Mistry.
The filmmaker’s early talent was evident in the wonderful dream sequence in Awaara, a sequence that was imitated in several Indian films of that era.
Over the years', he developed a Charlie Chaplinesque, common man image for himself, with affectations that trapped him forever as an actor. A bumbling comic with a tragic overtone, an honest man who would become a crook owing to circumstances, it remains the popular image of Raj Kapoor in public memory to this day.
Sangam was a departure from the black & white films of RK studios and Raj Kapoor fully explored the colour medium that was a new thing back then. Though the film was flashy in its treatment, it did not lose the core essence of its premise.
With increasing popularity and success, Raj Kapoor could finally helm the project that matched his dreams and ambitions, his dream project, Mera Naam Joker. Full of autobiographical overtones, the film took 6 years to complete & was his most expensive project till date.
The movie however, turned out to be a commercial disaster and never again did he star in a film of his own. Raj Kapoor’s casting sense was also impeccable and this flair of casting the right actor for the right role always benefited him immensely.
Raj Kapoor forged several memorable collaborations with artists & technicians and worked with the same set of people in most of his films. Most of his screenplays were co-written by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas, and Shankar Jaikishan composed music for most of his films. But it is with the legendary singer Mukesh, that Raj Kapoor is most associated with.
The documentary also has rare footage of Raj Kapoor’s visit to Russia where the filmmaker was greeted by a zealous crowd and explains his popularity among Russian audiences. Raj Kapoor's love for cinema transcended cultural barriers and national boundaries, helping audiences around the world connect with him and his films.
It is not surprising that Raj Kapoor and his films continue to inspire film buffs and filmmakers even today. For those of you, who haven't yet watched his films yet, then we hope this documentary would entice you to dig into his vast filmography.