Two movies, two milestones

July 20, 2012 12:00 am | Updated 04:51 am IST

Cinema Two memorable Bollywood hits celebrate their jubilee, ‘Awaara’ (1951) and ‘Mr India’ (1987). V. Gangadhar

In 1951, India was poor and semi-literate but a free country. In the fourth year of independence, there was hope. Indians had faith in their leaders and poverty was not something to be ashamed of, because it was associated with honesty. This milieu ignited creativity that led to films of substance and great music. Topping the list was Raj Kapoor’s ‘Awaara.’

It was Raj Kapoor’s third film under the R.K. Banner and highlighted the contrast between the rich and poor, where the penniless were lured into illegal ways to make quick money. Raj Kapoor, the hero, is one such victim but quickly learns that all that glitters is not gold.

Starring Nargis and Prithviraj Kapoor, the film was unabashedly ‘socialistic’, in which the villains were rich and the good guys poor. ‘Awaara’ was the biggest box office hit of the year Nargis and Raj Kapoor, who were lovers in real life, sizzled in the sensual scenes embellished by the music of Shankar-Jaikishan.

Touching a chord

The film clicked because it touched a chord among the people, who related to the theme of people being duped by the corrupt rich. Although in the end the hero goes to jail, he leaves the audience with the hope that he would come back and help the poor again.

The socialist theme made the film a hit in the Soviet Union and East Europe, while the West Asian countries were charmed by the music. The theme song, ‘Awaara Hoon,’ was also popular in the Soviet Union. Four generations of the Kapoor family also appeared in the film, a record in movie history.

Even after 60 years, ‘Awaara’ retains its freshness. The chemistry between the lead pair, the innovatively shot dream sequence, the magic of Shankar and Jaikishen and the theme, which is still relevant, add up to make it memorable. No wonder ‘Awaara’ was Included in Time magazine’s list of 100 all-time great films.

Another film with a socialistic theme, produced by Zia Sarhady, was ‘Hum Log’, which finished among the top 10 of the year. Made on a shoe string budget and starkly realistic, it dealt with the struggles of the working classes and had classy performances from Shyama, Sajjan and Nutan, and some lilting songs from Roshan.

Cut to 1987. Boney Kapoor’s ‘Mr India’ was not just a sci-fi but an uproarious entertainer, a fantasy enjoyed by both young and old. Talked about even after 25 years, it was the Number two grosser in 1987. Ever since H.G. Wells wrote, ‘The Invisible Man,’ it has been filmed in several nations. The foreign versions reflected the tragedy of the man who misused science, but the Indian versions (‘Mr X in Bombay’ and ‘Mr India’) relied on fantasy and comedy. Directed brilliantly by Shekhar Kapur, ‘Mr India’ (Anil Kapoor) took care of orphans, romanced a lively journalist (Sridevi) and got rid of the evil Mogambo (Amrish Puri), who was determined to fire his ‘missiles’ at India, all with the aid of a ‘formula’ that turned him invisible.

Once again the theme pitted the poor against the rich and the powerful. The film also brought together for the last time, the writing talents of Salim and Javed. Mogambo strode like a colossus and his “Mogambo Khush Hua” was the most quoted line of the year. He was not just a villain but a personification of evil, who could be created only by the human mind.

Sridevi acted and danced her way into the viewers’ hearts, but the special effects (which made one think of ‘Dr No’) paled before the comedy. The children did not overact, and Anil Kapoor made a great ‘papa’. The ingredients made a heady mixture though for once, the villain stole the show. ‘Mogambo’ pitchforked Amrish Puri to the level of a hero. Boney Kapoor and Shekhar Kapur are planning a sequel to ‘Mr India’. Our advice, “Don’t.” Nothing can come anywhere near the charm of the original. ‘Mr India’ is still a draw among viewers, whenever it is aired on TV.

The socialist theme made AWAARA a hit in the Soviet Union and East Europe.

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