Starring Raj Kapoor, Nargis, Prithviraj Kapoor, K.N. Singh, Leela Chitnis

India was only in its fourth year of Independence when Raj Kapoor decided to offer his fans “Awaara”. It may not qualify as an epic but it was a landmark movie for its story and the treatment of the subject. It drove home the essence of a meaningful script's contribution towards adding quality to the movie. It was an era when appealing music was considered an essential part of movie-making. With a sprinkling of flawless performers, this movie was a neat package that stood out for its entertainment and a social message that holds true even today. The wide gap between poverty and opulence is depicted in a telling manner.

The story revolves around Raj (Raj Kapoor), who languishes in a slum with his mother after being estranged from his father (Prithviraj Kapoor), a wealthy judge, who ousts his wife from the house on suspicion of infidelity.

A young Raj (played by Shashi Kapoor) is thrown out of school (for having taken up the job of boot polish) and is separated from friend Rita. Forced to steal and cheat, Raj grows into a petty criminal, thanks to Jagga (K. N. Singh), a dacoit who has a score to settle with the judge.

Fate brings Raj into contact with Rita (Nargis) and his father. Circumstances lead Raj to kill Jagga and the case ends up in the court of his father where Rita defends him. Raj loses his mother (Leela Chitnis), rediscovers his father and the story concludes with a three-year sentence for him.

Fight for legitimacy

The protagonist of the movie is locked in a fight to win legitimacy. He explodes when the society treats him like a vagabond.

In a memorable scene, he subjects Rita to ridicule and uses physical force in a rage that captures Raj's character aptly. That he has suffered is too obvious but nothing would prevent him from salvaging his lost pride.

The story does not set the screen on fire. The narration is simple but taut. Each character has a significant role to perform but Raj and Rita provide a cosmetic touch to roles that needed acting skills of a higher class.

Nargis dons a one-piece swim suit, considered quite daring almost six decades ago.

Cinema was evolving in the 1940s and this movie, made in 1951, set the trend for some romantic stories in times where Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand came to dominate the film industry with their exemplary work. Raj Kapoor tied up with Khwaja Ahmad Abbas to produce and direct this movie. It remains a significant work from the production house of RK Films but way below some of the best in the Indian cinema's history.

Raj Kapoor was only 27 when he made this movie. And 22-year-old Nargis is ravishing in a role that went well with her image.

Music has always remained an integral part of Raj Kapoor's films and here the pair of Shankar-Jaikishen gives finefare fare. The initial part is marked by two eminently forgettable songs by Mohammad Rafi with Prem Nath featuring in one of them; it was a most insignificant screen presence for Prem Nath. The screen lights up with “Ek Do Teen Aaja Mausam Hai Rangeen” by Shamshad Begum and then Lata Mangeshkar joins with “Jab Se Balam Ghar Aaye”.

Music carries the momentum forward in this slow paced movie.

“Dum Bhar Jo Udhar Munh Phere” is easily one of the most stunningly shot songs ever. A dream sequence (“Ghar Aaya Mera Pardesi”) is followed by “Aa Jao Tadapte Hain Armaan”, “Ek Bewafa Se Pyaar Kiya”and “Hum Tujhse Mohabbat Karke Sanam”…Music is what you remember most from “Awaara”; and of course, the beautiful Nargis.

She carries the movie on her shoulders even though Raj Kapoor is the central character.