Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Shree 420

If you can't resist a face like this, Shree 420 is for you.



He sings. He laughs like a child. His shoes are so worn they can practically talk. He can't afford to pay for his date's chai. But he cleans up quite nicely. He is Ranbir Raj.

I stumbled across Shree 420 while browsing through some of the Hindi classics online. I'd been meaning to branch out and delve into some of the Bollywood oldies from the 50s, 60s and 70s, because I'd heard so many good things about them from the other bloggers, and the Raj Kapoor classics were on sale. So I decided to start there, and purchased Shree 420, Awara, Satyam Shivam Sundaram, Sangam, and Bobby. The other night I figured what the hey, let's start with Shree 420.

As soon as the first song began I knew I was in for a treat. You gotta love these lyrics:


For those of you who know Raj Kapoor, you're probably well aware of his characterization as the "Tramp with a Heart of Gold". For those of you that are not, you must check this film out, as I'm guessing it's one of Raj's most popular roles (I'm only assuming this from what I've read online, as I haven't seen any of his other work yet). He was just as cute as a button! His childlike sweetness and vulnerabilty got me all mushy inside. With a Chaplin-esque outfit and the most pathetic looking pair of kicks I've seen in awhile, Raj lit up the screen as a young man entering Bombay with nothing but his degree, which he carried proudly in his pocket, no less.


Raj's character had such an innocence that most of the time I just wanted to hug him! The man even carried around a medal he had won for honesty. I'm not kidding. And, being the jolly little guy that he was, getting used to the hustle and bustle of the big city was an adjustment. Check out the look on his face when he first arrives in Bombay and discovers people aren't always so friendly:


He also had an interesting way with women. Look at how he laughs like a schoolboy when Nargis (making her entrance into the film) slips on a banana peel:



Smooth, Raj, smooth. You sure know how to woo your women.

The film (which I just discovered got it's name from section 420 of India's penal code--an understandable reference once you see the movie), is about Raj's journey into "the real world" and the consequences of what happens when one is forced to compromise their values and honesty in order to survive (an irony since Raj started the film carrying that medal of honesty award I mentioned above). The film also goes into Raj's clown persona as a mask he wore in order to see the crazy world from a clearer perspective. I'm not sure if this was a deeper message than I took it to be, and maybe I'm overthinking this, but there were times when this was mentioned that made me wonder how "naive" Raj really was. Was that the impression the director wanted me to have? I couldn't tell. And I'm also aware that some of the issues the film touches on probably resonates with those who are more familiar with India's economic standings, particularly at this point in time. Be that as it may, I was struck by how similar Raj's situation was to the middle class American of today.

Shree 420, despite it's sociological undertone, was also a very fun ride. The songs were catchy and sweethearts Raj and Vidya gave me a delightful intro to the famed Raj/Nargis pairing (and, more importantly, to the two as respected Bollywood legends in their own right). (***Spoilers ahead in the next couple of paragraphs**) I liked that the movie ended on an optimistic note--Raj returned to the simplicities of life he began with, proving it is possible not to lose yourself in the trials you may face. (Also, Raj Kapoor looks quite dashing in a suit--see below photo).



Shree 420 also gave me the opprotunity to meet Nargis, the Bollywood star I'd heard about but had never seen onscreen up until now. It's easy to see why she was so popular--her smile was very warm and friendly, almost having a calming effect on me. Yes, Raj was getting too cozy with the bad guys, but seeing Nargis' sweet face reassured me that everything was going to be just fine. Even when Raj dissed her at the party (Something I would have had a really hard time forgiving on a date), I still knew all would end well. How could anybody hurt Nargis?


The songs of the film were a delight to watch. In "Pyar Hua Iqrar Hua", Raj and Nargis reveal their feelings for one another under an umbrella, the rain pouring, an iron fence in the background. We even get a glimpse of the raindrops dancing! In "Mud Mud Ke Na Dekh", I got the impression that Raj Kapoor liked eye candy...and I do too! Here's a glimpse...







Sorry for the picture overload, but it was just so pretty...

As you can see, I really enjoyed this experience. I'll definitely be following up with the posts for the rest of the movies soon. In the meantime, I'll be singing "Mere Joota Hai Japani" as I bartend this weekend. I'm sure patrons at the club I work at will appreciate that. Either that or I'll get jumped in the parking lot.

20 comments:

Jocelyn Carpreau,  June 10, 2008 at 4:58 AM  

Hey, Nida. You're coming from the same place I am. I've read lots about Raj Kapoor and Nargis but never actually seen one of their films. So this blog has really whetted my appetite. I shall re-read it in the light of future viewing. I like your writing style. Keep on with it!

ajnabi June 10, 2008 at 1:39 PM  

Ooh, I love Nargis but I haven't seen this. I'm gonna check it out. (And I hope your workplace has cameras in the parking lot, for your sake. ;-) Personally if I were your customer you'd be making great tips with Hindi entertainment though.)

Nida June 10, 2008 at 7:32 PM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nida June 10, 2008 at 7:35 PM  

Jocelyn,

Thank you for introducing yourself! And thank you for your encouraging comment! :) Definitely recommend this one as an intro--I just watched Awara and enjoyed that, too...but in a completely different way...and I saw Raj and Nargis in very different roles than I did here(which was a good thing, because it shows they were versatile). Anyways, I'll be posting on that one soon, but I am really glad I saw both instead of just this one!

Let me know how you like it!

Nida June 10, 2008 at 7:39 PM  

Ajnabi,

Wish you were my customer...it would be nice to see a fellow Bolly-lover in the crowd! This club plays Latin and hip hop music, which I also enjoy, but it can be a rough crowd--not exactly the Happyland of Bollywood.:) But for a nursing student it works!

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat June 11, 2008 at 11:18 AM  

Lovely post Nida! "Mud Mud ke na dekh" remains my fav song- I agree: so pretty! and Nadira is just soo oomphy and vampy and fab here- delightful :)

Nida June 11, 2008 at 6:27 PM  

Shweta,

Thank you!

I too loved Nadira in this role. I wanted to say more about her but couldn't find a spot where it would flow right...and couldn't find the words to bring justice to her in this "oomphy and vampy and fab" role as you put it--You said it perfectly, though!

I guess the best way to describe what want to say is that I loved to hate her like I did Nigar Sultana in Mughal-E-Azam...she was so vixen-ish and conniving. Two very different characters, but both top notch villan portrayls!

Anonymous,  June 16, 2008 at 8:20 PM  

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yves June 21, 2008 at 4:47 PM  

Hi Nida,
I love this movie, and what it says, and I've read so much about it that I could perhaps tell myself now: "Ah, another review of Shree 420". But in fact I enjoyed every second of your great appreciation of it! It's like listening to someone praise the person you love.
Yes, that film, those scenes are immortal, aren't they?
BTW, do you agree that Raj Kapoor looks like Errol Flynn at times?
cheers
yves

Richard S. June 21, 2008 at 8:10 PM  

Hi. As you might or might not know, I was bitten by that same Shree 420 bug at the end of April. I was thinking of forwarding a link, but you'll just have to check out my blog in general if you're curious (and haven't been there yet), because I've posted 5 or 6 posts referring to this movie in some way during the past two months. (Since then, I've also written about other Raj Kapoor films - Raj Kapoor with Nargis (of course), and Raj Kapoor with Padmini. I like Nargis a lot and think she was perfect for Raj Kapoor, but I'm nuts about Padmini!)

I haven't been stopping at your blog as often as I should, but now that I've seen your Shree 420 post, you're definitely going into my blogroll.

Sameera June 22, 2008 at 6:04 AM  

This movie is great to watch and a master piece of all time.

Nida June 23, 2008 at 7:26 PM  

Yves,

I knew he reminded me of someone! Yes, Raj definitely looks like Errol Flynn, especially in that shot I have up with him in the suit!

I'm glad you liked the post so much, and thank you for the lovely compliment that it stood out to you amongst the many!:)

Nida June 23, 2008 at 7:32 PM  

Richard,

Thanks for the add on!

I had never seen your blog before...until now. And it looks awesome! I've added you as well. :)

I've never seen anything with Padmini in it, but you've got me really intrigued (and that's a cool pic of her on your blog banner)! I'll have to add your recos off your blog to my list of films to watch...

Sanket Vyas June 24, 2008 at 10:13 PM  

Ahh, Nida - I knew ye back when your Clustrmap was in the single digits and thanks to informative yet entertaining posts like this one it grows by leaps & bounds :)

Raj/Nargis were the Amitabh/Rekha or the SRK/Kajol of their day and their stars shone so much brighter when they shared the screen together. RK was a master craftsman and due to his 'everyman' personna he was beloved not just in India but of all places in Russia. Just last year my dad went to India and flew Aeroflot (connects in Moscow) and during his layover met many a Russian who reminisced & sang songs for him from RK's films including this one...

Nida June 27, 2008 at 9:10 AM  

Hi Sanket! Your comment brings a tear to my eye!:)Thank you so much--I couldn't have done it without the helpful links from pages like yours!

That's amazing how Raj Kapoor was such a universal performer, and that the response in Russia would still be so warm after all these years. The minute I saw him onscreen here, I knew I was going to love him. Now I am beginning to understand how and why the Kapoors are who they are in Bollywood (My only experience proir to this with the clan was a few Kareena flicks and some small supporting roles from Rishi).

Bollywood Stars August 29, 2009 at 10:02 AM  

Every Thing Is Best,

Nothing To Do So.

Thanks.

Bollywood Stars August 29, 2009 at 10:05 AM  

Every Thing Is Good,

Nothing To Do So.

Thanks.

Sharmi Ghosh Dastidar September 1, 2010 at 11:40 AM  

Hi Nida,
I've just finished watching this film for the nth time now and will be soon writing a review of it on my blog
www.oldfilmsgoingthreadbare.blogspot.com
I love old films and have been sharing my experience with likeminded movielovers for some time now.
It would be great if you come and read some of my posts. Take care :)

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