It’s foolish to introduce Raj Kapoor, if you are an Indian or Russian. Ranbirraj Kapoor was legendary, in true sense. If anybody introduced the so called Indian Cinema (Bollywood) to the world, it was him. Born to Prithviraj Kapoor and Rama Kapoor on December 14, 1924 in Peshawar (now in Pakistan), he had all the skills of film making inherited through genes. He was not interested in studies and knew from the very beginning that he is born to do something extra-ordinary.
Raj Kapoor is appreciated both by film critics and ordinary film fans. Film historians and movie buffs speak of him as the "Charlie Chaplin of Indian cinema”, since he often portrayed a tramp-like figure, who, despite adversity, was still cheerful and honest. His fame spread world-wide. He was adored by audiences in large parts of Africa, the Middle East, the former Soviet Union, China, and Southeast Asia; his movies were global commercial successes.
I can go on and on talking about the filmmaker. But, the best way to really get to know Raj Kapoor is to see his films. Here is of what I consider his greatest films with a brief summary of their fascinating plots. He made (and acted in) so many movies, in so many moods – that it is difficult to really name the very best!
Awara (1952): A story much deeper than it appears to be. When judge Prithviraj Kapoor pronounces dacoit Jaggu guilty merely on the grounds that “his father was a thief, so he too automatically must be a thief”, the dacoit swears revenge. Jaggu kidnaps the judge’s son (Raj Kapoor) and trains him to be a criminal. Raj, the awara (loafer) grows up and falls in love with lawyer Nargis. A crime he commits, lands him in the court where his father is the judge.
Shri 420 (l954): Tramp Raju whistles through his travails, with his theme song "Mera Joota hai Japani" (which became a giant hit in India and Russia – and remains till date, Raj’s signature tune). He falls in love with a simple schoolteacher (Nargis). But, he meets Maya (Nadira) who entices him with the bright lights of the city. Which side will win – high morals or his baser desires?
Anari (1959): Simpleton Raj shares a mother-son relationship with his landlady, Mrs. D’Souza (Lalita Pawar). He falls in love with Nutan, who hides from him the fact that she is the daughter of his boss. Her father’s factory is manufacturing spurious medicines. When one of the bogus drugs claims Mrs. D’Souza’s life, Raj sets out to expose his boss – but the cunning boss frames Raj instead!
Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hain (1961): Simpleton Raju stumbles on the hideout of a gang of dacoits and tries to reform then by love and reason. He made this movie after his split with Nargis (she was his love interest for a long time) and it became vital to show the world (and her) that he could still make great movies without her!
Mera Naam Joker (1970): This one broke the showman’s heart – this autobiographical musical melodrama that did not click with the public but acclaimed heavily by critics. The songs "Aye bhai jara dekh ke chalo", "Jeena yahan marna yahan" and "Kehta hai joker saara zamaana" have become immortal favourites.
Kal Aaj Aur Kal (1971): The film stars Prithviraj Kapoor, Raj Kapoor and his son Randhir Kapoor and describes the relationship between three generations. The so called “Generation Gap” is exhibited in its basic and classical form.
There are many films which could not make to this list because I did not get the chance to watch them. But believe me, some of them are real classics and were the examples of the true genius of Raj Kapoor. Please comment on the post if you think any film is left which deserves to be in the list. The consideration is for only those films on which Kapoor Saab acted (not the ones he merely produced or directed).