The RK Centenary:
Ten Essential Films To Understand The Cinema Of Raj Kapoor
1. NEEL KAMAL (1947)
Though he did bit roles in a few films like Bombay Talkies’ Hamari Baat (1943) and Bhalji Pendhartkar’s Valmiki (1946), Raj Kapoor’s launch happened opposite Madhubala in Kedar Sharma’s Neel Kamal. He also assisted Sharma on the film as an assistant director.
2. ANDAZ (1949)
The only film to feature Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar, with Nargis completing the triangle, Mehboob Khan’s Andaz was a monster hit at the box-office. Well etched out roles, dependable direction, good music and modern aesthetics made the film a trend setter of its time. Raj Kapoor’s performance in this Mehboob Khan classic is considered one of his career best acts.
3. BARSAAT (1949)
Followed by the success of Andaz, Raj Kapoor delivered the year’s biggest hit with Barsaat, his home production which he also directed. The film’s music (Shankar-Jaikishan in top-form) became a rage with the fans ensuring a repeat value for the box-office. A Raj Kapoor – Nargis sequence from the film was transformed into the RK Films iconic logo.
4. AWARA (1951)
The first writer-filmmaker collaboration between Khwaja Ahmed Abbas and Raj Kapoor was the hugely successful Awara. The success of the film was so big that it transcended boundaries to reign supreme in the Soviet Union, Asia, East Africa and the Middle-East besides leaving an impact in many countries and their film festivals. It was nominated at the Cannes Film Festival, 1953 and was included among the 100 Greatest Films by Time magazine in 2012.
5. SHRI 420 (1955)
This Raj Kapoor-Nargis classic scripted by Khwaja Ahmed Abbas was another social that questioned class disparity among other burning issues weaved in an engaging narrative. Emerging as the year’s biggest success, the film also gained popularity abroad and was given a certificate of Merit at the National Film Awards. Raj Kapoor’s character was an extension of his Chaplinesque take of Awara, as a misunderstood tramp with a golden heart. The song ‘Mera joota hai Japaani..’ got global popularity.
This Hrishikesh Mukherjee classic had all elements of filmmaking in great synergy as it emerged not just as a timeless classic but also the biggest hit of 1959. Arguably Anari remains one of Raj Kapoor’s finest performances as an actor. The film’s success was of course aided by a brilliant music soundtrack of seven musical gems by Shankar Jaikishan, especially the title track and the melodious Mukesh Lata duet ‘Dil ki nazar se..’.
7. SANGAM (1964)
Raj Kapoor’s Sangam, the first color film of RK Films, was a taut romantic drama with spectacularly filmed foreign locations. Rajendra Kumar and Vyjayantimala played pivotal roles in this hugely successful film (the top hit of 1964) with great music by Shankar-Jaikishan. It won four Filmfare awards out of an impressive eleven nominations.
8. TEESRI KASAM (1966)
Based on the acclaimed literary classic Maare Gaye Gulfam, a Hindi story by Phaneshwarnath Renu, Basu Bhattacharya’s Teesri Kasam had Waheeda Rehman playing a village Nautanki troupe nautch-girl opposite a rustic bullock cart driver played by Raj Kapoor. Raj Kapoor’s brilliant performance, Bhattacharya’s virtuoso direction, Shankar-Jaikishan’s lilting music and Subrata Mitra’s intelligent cinematography elevate this classic to a cult status. The film was produced by Raj Kapoor’s favorite lyricist Shailendra. It won the National Award for Best film.
9. MERA NAAM JOKER (1970)
Longest, personal and the most ambitious film of Raj Kapoor, Mera Naam Joker was scripted by Khwaja Ahmed Abbas – a saga of romance and heartbreaks in the life of a circus clown. Partly shot in Moscow with some of the key characters being essayed by Russian artistes, Mera Naam Joker failed at the box office despite winning critical acclaim and finding a niche for itself with a loyal fan following since decades. It is also considered as Kapoor’s finest work as a director.
10. SATYAM SHIVAM SUNDARAM (1978)
Satyam Shivam Sundaram, written by Jainendra Jain, delved into the conflict of physical and spiritual love, with the Raj Kapoor leitmotif of the woman in white in its most potent form. Zeenat Aman immortalized herself with this path breaking role opposite Shashi Kapoor. Laxmikant Pyarelal composed a memorable soundtrack for the film which includes the last song of Mukesh for RK Films. The issue of partial nudity was set aside by the censor board by assigning a U certificate.