Bollywood-ish

Friday, 23 March 2012

Awaara

Directed by: Raj Kapoor
Starring: Raj Kapoor, Nargis, Prithviraj Kapoor, Shashi Kapoor, Leela Chitnis
Released: 1951
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing


Sometimes you see sparks of brilliance in a starting artist. They obviously need more time to grow and polish their skill. But that was not really the case of Raj Kapoor. Awaara was his third directorial venture after movies Barsaat and Aag, but instead of sparks of brilliance it completely shines with it from beginning to end. A very talented actor, he was no less amazing behind the camera. With Awaara he not only entered film history, but also proved that if you have capable performers and are able to give everything a form, you do not need a complicated story that would take you on a roller-coaster ride with various unexpected twists or sudden changes of heart. All you need is talent and will. And a lot of belief in what you are doing. Awaara stands as a testament to that.

A story told in a retrospective is, as I have already mentioned, very simple. It tells us about a young aspiring man ruined by life circumstances, but remaining pure in heart, and finally redeeming himself – a pattern very popular through all the decades and witnessed in countless movies from Ganga Jumna to Khalnayak and many, many more.
Mein toh asli khalnayak hoon in this story.
Once young and just married judge Raghunath takes his wife for what is supposed to be a romantic trip into the country. However as soon as they get comfortable in the house she is kidnapped by a goon Jagga. You see, Jagga was not always a goon. But Raghunath, whose greatest belief in life is that „good people are born to good parent and criminals can only conceive more criminals“, convicted him for a crime he did not commit simply because Jagga´s forefather had been bandits, sending him thus to jail. When he is released, Jagga, filled with a huge desire for a revenge, indeed becomes a goon. His plans to ruin the judge by kidnapping and raping his wife are only half-finished. Because Mrs. Judge has recently become pregnant and Jagga immediately comes up with a much better scheme of how to destroy the judge´s happiness and show him that his belief nature always tops nurture just may not be right.

When after several days judge gets his wife back, he is relieved and overjoyed. But as soon as her belly starts to grow so do his doubts and insecurities. While she is looking forward to the baby, he is becoming more and more scared she may have been unfaithful to him, until finally she throws her out of the house right at the moment she goes into a labour. And so his son is born on a dirty street, destined not to know his father (because his saintly mother with no self-respect really never tells him anything about him except praising him) and fight hunger in poverty.
Suffering from sock-ophobia.
Skip ahead a few years and Raj, as the kid is named, is a school-boy. His best friend is rich and carefree girl Rita, but their friendship makes an abrupt end as the girl moves into another city. Raj is at the same time forced to leave school and after his attempts at finding a job fail, Jagga makes an entry into the story again, manipulating the fate of the child according to his wishes and turning him into a thief. Up until he grows up and meets his lost friend Rita (who has grown up to be a lawyer), he never really questions the way he is walking on. 
"There´s new McDonalds across the street!"
 But together with flames of love Raj is soon consumed by flames of guilt and bad conscience. Both are captured gorgeous through several scenes I can imagine must have seem quite daring at the time (bathing together in a pond, changing clothes, singing about making love...) and of course through songs. The iconic Ghar Aaya Mera Pardesi taking place in a dream and showing us both heaven, where innocent and pure Rita of high principles waits for her lover impatiently, and hell, from where is Raj trying to free himself in a desperate attempt to reach the skies. I hope nobody will ever try to re-release Awaara in colour, because the black and white give this particular song a beautiful fantasy quality. All in all the cinematography of the movie seems completely modern. Often the movies technically do not stand the test of time, but Awaara does – another proof of the timelessness of the movie.

Heaven... a classical dance...
Hell.... techno party!
Waiting has never looked more beautiful...
"Swich off that techno please...."
What makes it a pure classic is also a complex painting of all the feelings that can ever enter one´s heart. From vulnerability, love, hate, guilt to anger, revenge, passion, sacrifice and devotion. And all protagonists are perfectly perfect in capturing all those emotions. As someone who has a thing for family ties and clans I was excited to realize Awaara is among other things also a stage for a big family meeting of the Kapoors (although back then they were not yet considered the reigning filmy clan). Prithviraj Kapoor in the role of a judge nurturing his prejudice, is as imposing as he seemed to me in Mughal-E-Azam, only more human and bit less dignified. Shashi Kapoor as a schoolboy Raj, was a delight for my heart. You see, Shashi-ji is a huge crush of mine, and to watch him being adorable and good at such a young age just made my fangirl heart proud.
When huge crushes were little....
The stars of Awaara however (and understandably so) are the leading pair. It was my first encounter with Raj Kapoor the Actor. I had heard a lot about him being great, but was a bit wary since if anything I am a source of unpopular opinions, but all my fears were put to rest in the very first scene itself and I can finally add my voice to his praise. Excellent - that and nothing else can be said about him. He has a certain tragic to him, even when acting joyful. Some curious sadness is his main feature. And all his beautiful effort is met with even more success when he shares the screen with Nargis, who was just absolutely charming, enacting her role with admirable ease. I also need to say that I was initially a bit let down with her looks, that did not fit my idea of „beauty“, but more I watch her, the more I am in love with her face, with her clear profile and bright eyes, expressiveness and purity you feel from her. 
Jodi of dreams....

The gorgeous, gorgeous Nargis...
That much said Awaara did not touch the most inner me, although I cannot really explain why, because it doesn´t lack anything. I did have issues with the character of Raj´s mother, who was just too humble to make her any good. There is a limit to what a woman can take before she should stand up for her own image, even in a world as strongly dominated by men as India fifty years ago, but instead of being all tears over her faithful love to a man who not only disrespected her, but threw her out of his house while she was in labour and never tried to find out what happened to her, I was actually somehow disgusted. When your guy doesn´t deserve your devotion, he just doesn´t, and he can be a hundred times your husband. Not saying she should have hated on him, but the amount of love she still had for him and holding absolutely not even a slightest grudge against him whatsoever was just ridiculous.

Although I personally loved Shree 420, that has not only similar casting but also a similar theme, more, Awaara still remains a must-see. 
Hats off to you sir. Am a fan.

2 comments:

  1. Hello, I just stopped to send kind regards from Brazil.
    Geraldo

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    1. Thank you from the Czech republic!

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