Remembering Raj Kapoor

Raj Kapoor in Anari

I was sitting alone in the neighbourhood community centre’s Sauna room when a man walked in.

“Good morning, how are you.”

“Good morning. I’m fine. Thank you.”

“Are you from India?”

“Yes, I’m.”

“I’m from Russia, immigrated to Canada many years ago. I love India, especially Indian films and Hindi songs. You know what? Raj Kapoor was my favourite. I still hum one or two of his popular songs.”

The little conversation delighted me and took me back to Hindi films’ golden era when Raj Kapoor was a towering personality both as an actor and film producer.

December 14 is his birthday. He was born in 1924 in Peshawar, now Pakistan. He died on June 2, 1988.

Widely recognized as the “greatest showman” in the history of Indian cinema, he received multiple accolades and awards. He died after being bestowed with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, India’s highest film honour.

Raj Kapoor was the most popular film personality across global borders, particularly in Asia and Europe.

Under the banner of R.K.Films, he produced and acted in some of the best classics starting from Aag, then Barsaat, Awara, Shree 420, Jagte Raho, Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai, and a lot more. Time magazine ranked his performance in Awaara as one of the “Top-Ten Greatest Performances of All Time in World Cinema” in 2005.

All his films were always musical hits. It was a rewarding association of Raj Kapoor, music director duo Shanker-Jaikishan, lyrist Shailendra and playback singer Mukesh that we still enjoy the evergreen numbers. One of them, my favourites (film Shree 420), is:

“Mera joota hai Japani (My shoes are Japanese)

Ye patloon Inglistani (These trousers are English)

Sar pe lal topi Roosi (The red cap on my head is Russian)

Phir bhi dil hai Hindustani (Still, my heart is Indian).

To my joy and surprise, my Russian sauna acquaintance, after our brief conversation, started singing with his accent, “mera joota hai Japani.”

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