I throughly enjoyed Awara, but in a very different way than the other Raj Kapoor classic I watched last week, Shree 420. Both were excellent films. Both showcased Raj Kapoor in two distinct ways, as the actor as well as the director. And both were, in my humble opinion, worthy of the classic status they hold.
However, while Raj Kapoor won my heart in Shree 420, he broke it in Awara.
I'm not saying that's a bad thing. I may have even liked the overall story a tad better than Shree 420 (If you've read that post, you know I love that film very much, but this story had more romance and family drama, which genre-wise is more my thing). Any film that is about a child separated from his/her parent touches me on a personal level (see my Laawaris post), and Awara presented this situation in a very tangled web of misunderstanding, pride, and hurt.
While this may sound a bit depressing--and it was, at times--the film still had Nargis. Her character, Rita, was like ribbons of sunshine amongst the negativity. While it was Raj Kapoor who stood out to me in Shree 420, it was Nargis who shone here. She had an amazing grace and beauty about her that reminded me of the Hollywood starlets in the same era (I'm not implying that Hollywood actors are superior, but since I've only seen a few Bollywood oldies, and grew up in awe of the old Hollywood classics,that's really all I know to compare this to).
Because Awara cast Raj Kapoor in a different, darker shade than his golden-hearted character in Shree 420, I was able to appreciate the actor's versatility (can't wait to see what else he's done!). Still, I wasn't sure how I felt about this Raj, as he did some things in the film that were questionable.
For those of you who have seen Awara, you probably know I'm mostly talking about the slap.
Yes, Raj Kapoor slaps Nargis in this film. Actually, it was three slaps, sandwiched between a chokehold and a shove to the ground. Now I read in more than one place that it was written in as a symbolism of Raj's frustration at his own iniquities when held up to the goodness of Rita--and has probably been accepted as a necessary part of the story for ages (Correct me if I'm wrong, those of you who grew up loving this film). I'm even confident RK didn't include it to promote domestic violence, but to convey an intense amount of emotion. Still, it was a bit difficult for me to swallow. Did it affect my ability to enjoy the movie? Not necessarily, because I didn't want to overanalyze it. But I just had to mention it now.
But aside from all of that, Awara wowed me like no other with the incredible imagination of Raj Kapoor, particularly in the song "Gyar Aaya Mera Pardesi". For those of you that haven't seen the film, it's possible you may have heard of this one. It's a dream sequence that starts with beautiful picturizations of what appears to be "heaven"...Then, suddenly, as you're basking in the rays of Nargis's beauty and Lata's floating vocal(sounds much smoother than it does today), you're whisked to a "hellish" place and even confronted by a towering villian. Both "heaven" and "hell" even have their own statues of what one can assume is a godly/demonic figure. It's the ultimate contrast of good and evil. Here's a sneak peek:
It was cool that Raj Kapoor was able to cast his real life father and brother in this film. I felt it really added a personal touch to the story, especially in the father/son scenes. And cute little Shashi Kapoor gave a darling performance as the young Raj. He and his costar were equally amazing(I couldn't find this little girl's name, but she was adorable as the young Rita). These two were a delight to watch onscreen, especially after the thick drama that unfolded in the beginning.
If you couldn't tell, I'm really enjoying my journey through the mind of the "Master Showman", Raj Kapoor. I feel like watching these older films has opened a whole new door to something I already love-Indian cinema. I promise to branch out and continue through the different eras and genres, and I'm so lucky to have my readers to do it with me! Your comments and thoughts have been great--keep them coming! It truly makes it so much more rewarding to have someone to share these beautiful films with :).
Text © Nida Nazir Bitten By Bollywood