Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Shree 420 (1955)

There are few on screen pairings in Bollywood that are worthy of the label 'legendary' but Raj Kapoor & Nargis would be found at the top of any such list. They had chemistry that had never before seen on the Indian screen and it was no secret that their love affair extended outside of the movies as well. They were soulmates in every sense of the word but alas their love story (on and off screen) ended when she finally left him to make her swan song 'Mother India' where she met her future husband to be ~ Sunil Dutt. To those who think these old timers don't mean much in today's filmi world the following facts may be of interest to you. For the modern day Bollywood fan Nargis is the real life mother of Sanjay Dutt. As far as Raj Kapoor is concerned you know him as Shashi's brother, Rishi's father and the grandfather of both Kareena & Karishma. And his grandson (Nikhil Nanda) is married to none other than the former Shweta Bachchan (yes, Big B's daughter).

'Shree 420' was a worldwide hit at it's release and still retains it's place as one of the greatest Indian films of all time. The 420 in the title refers to the section of the Indian Penal Code that deals with fraud - it also is the code in certain circles for a particular kind of um, cigarette;) Coincidence? I think not. The movie follows Raj's popular everyman character (loosely based on Charlie Chaplin's 'Little Tramp') journey through all the good & bad that the world has to offer. It weaves a story that in the end, shows the audience that true love is the one priceless treasure in life. For a more in depth review please visit our friend Carla's wonderful website dedicated to all things Bollywood, Filmigeek.

The songs for today are like all songs from Raj Kapoor movies - evergreen classics that still resonate as strongly today as they did fifty years ago. Incidentally this movie was a particular triumph for the singer Manna Dey. Mukesh (the voice of Raj Kapoor for his other movies) was testing the acting waters and available for only one song. Ichak Dana is such a sweet tune and memorable for the wonderful interplay between our two stars as well as the (surprisingly) good drawing skills of Nargis. Pyar Hua is simply one of the greatest love songs in Bollywood history and the passion between the two leads while under an umbrella in a downpour is mesmerizing, watch it here. Sham Gayi Raat is one of my favorite Lata songs penned in classic Shankar Jaikishen style with lilting music and capturing Lata's voice beautifully. Ramaiya Vastavaiya is truly special and for me was the emotional centerpiece of the movie. It starts out with great joy, becomes wistful towards the middle, proceeds to break your heart before leaving you with hope at the end. It would be almost cliche to say if it wasn't true - but they simply don't make movies like this anymore - 'Shree 420'.


yves said...

Hello Doc,
Yes, Pyaar Hua is indeed "one of the greatest songs" ever heard in Bolywood, and not only because of its musicality, but because it also connects with the pathos of Raj's story and Vidya's love, two wills united against humanity's temptation to slide downwards, and resisting that fall.

Sanket Vyas said...

Completely echo your sentiments. It sends chills down me when what I see on the screen matches the song, music, lyrics and singers so perfectly. That song is definitely one where that happens.