Wednesday, July 9, 2008


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


ajnabi July 10, 2008 at 7:05 AM  

I love this movie. Love it. Nargis is one of my all-time favorites and I'll watch just about anything she's in, but I have a huge soft spot for this entire film. And you're right, Shashi and the little girl are soooo cute.

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat July 10, 2008 at 8:21 AM  

Nargis was fabulous in this movie- and since I dont like Raj Kapoor, I watched this for her amazing self. You may also want to chekc out "Barsaat" (1949) with her and Raj in it- she is sublime there!
also, that lil girl was Baby Zubeida- who only seems to have done a few movies during the early 50s.

Nida July 10, 2008 at 8:34 AM  


Nargis is amazing. Even as I was rewatching some of the scenes while snapping photos for this post, I was again struck by her onscreen presence. And this film was definitely one I will watch again and again!

Nida July 10, 2008 at 8:38 AM  


Thanks for the recommendation--After this and Shree 420, I've become certain that I will eventually watch all of the Raj/Nargis films. But now Barsaat will be the first one!

And thank you for the info on Baby Zubeida :) She was just so entertaining, wasn't she?

As for Raj Kapoor, do you dislike him as an actor, a person, or a director (Or all of the above)? Just curious! I adored him in Shree 420 but didn't warm to him the same in this one. However, as an actor I thought he did a great job in both films. It would be interesting to hear your take on him, though!

Sanket Vyas July 10, 2008 at 2:22 PM  

Another gem of of a review on a gem of a movie - movies like this personify what it means for a film & soundtrack to be given an 'evergreen' status. The songs are just as beautiful today as they were 50 years ago and Nargis just proves herself once again as one of India's greatest actresses. There are many who come down on both sides of liking/hating Raj Kapoor but it's hard to argue that the man knew how to make amazing movies.

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat July 11, 2008 at 8:59 AM  

I actually really like Raj as a person- I've seen many interviews and documentaries about him, and he was definitely a true visionary. I admire his strength and his stature.

However, I dont like the fact that he focuses so completely on himself in his movies- it kills the story for me a little bit. Plus, his heroes are always so full of self-pity and so innnocent, that I cant swallow it- if it was in 1-2 movies I'd call it an exception, but that's the case for all of them.

So sorry for the long tirade; you know, I will try watching his movies again- maybe its time to give them another chance.

Nida July 11, 2008 at 11:46 AM  

Well thank you!:) I can see how one would refer to this as an "evergreen" film. I kept thinking while watching it, especially in the dream sequence, how it was still able to amaze someone(me) after all these years. Not many films are able to do that with their music and picturizations.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts on RK! I haven't seen enough of his films to agree/disagree but I can kind of see the pity party theme going on in this film. Perhaps that was the reason why I couldn't fully warm to this Raj--that and the slap.

Would love to hear if your opinion changes after watching them again!

Anonymous,  July 13, 2008 at 7:00 PM  

Check out the films with Vyjayanthimala in it, like Sangam (1964) - I've searched high and low for a good review on the epic, Amrapali (1966, available from Shemaroo) with no luck, so I hope you could be the first to review it!

Nida July 14, 2008 at 9:19 PM  


Sangam is next on my Raj Kapoor list! :) I own it, just haven't watched it yet...(I'll be writing the post on the just-watched Satyam Shivam Sundaram in the next few days).

As for Amrapali, I've never heard of it but will keep my eye out for it! It would be very cool to be the first to write about something! ;)

yves July 24, 2008 at 2:03 PM  

Hi Nida,
Nice review! I think what you have read about the slap episode is probably the best interpretation, but to say the truth, I was a little put off by it too. I didn't think it was quite needed. We understand Raj's frustrations well enough without it.
I can see you were also interested in the dream sequence: if you want, I'd really like to have your comments about what I wrote about it!

Nida July 24, 2008 at 6:02 PM  


I'll have to go and check it out! I really couldn't believe my eyes when I saw it--it was so over the top, yet worked...and didn't come across as cheesy at all, even with the "villian" at the end!

And you've summed up what I think I was feeling most about the slap--I get why it was there, but they could have done without it and been just as effective.

RajKapoorfan October 5, 2009 at 4:00 PM  

I love this movie.

You kind right about the slap. I think that he woes can forget about the slap. but this kind weird part because first he slap her and when she ask him to slap her again He say that to slap her it like slap his self. weird part if You think that why you dont stop your self in the first time. this kind weird. but kind sweet part when he hug her after the slap part. I think I will need to check the movie again to know more about at.

Astri March 24, 2011 at 12:04 PM  

What a great site to send my students and friends to, to read thoughtful commentary on Awaara... great stills, too.
BUT - I have been searching in vain for a still of Nargis as lawyer, representing Raj - at the beginning and end of the film -- and can't find it! Considering the empowered role she plays, in fact, and how it foreshadows (and is paid homage to) in Chopra's VEER ZAARA, 53 years later, I'd love to have a still of this. Any suggestions?

(Astri Wright, Prof of South and Southeast Asian Art History, Univ of Victoria, BC, Canada)

Rebecca April 1, 2011 at 4:28 PM  

This was a wonderful review of a wonderful movie. I just finished watching Awara for the first time and was quite amazed by it.

I felt like part of the issue with Raj is that he is not very good at controlling his temper. He has anger issues--he lashes out at Rita, but he also lashes out, or comes close to lashing out several other times in the movie, with other people. I think this is meant to show the extent to which he has been corrupted by his environment.

Though the other side of his anger is that it is precisely in his anger that he looks and feels the most like his father in this movie.

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