Directed by Raj Kapoor
The movie is largely one long flashback on the unfortunate life of Raju, on trial for murder and attempted murder: the first of the man who trained him in a life of crime and the second for his father, who did not know he was Raju’s father. At the beginning of the flashback, the mother is kidnapped by a well-known bandit; when she is returned and her pregnancy shows up later, the father cannot get it out of his head that the bandit raped her. The father, who wants to have a successful career as a judge, disowns his wife because of the rumors she will always have hanging about her. It is painful to watch the young Raju try so earnestly to be good and study hard in order to get ahead, but circumstances lead him into the life that then leads him to his trial during which the film began. Through the movie is the theme that it isn’t true that if a man is born the son of a good man or a bad man, he will turn out good or bad, respectively, with no variation through the end of time. My preliminary opinion is that this was a commentary on the caste system, although I need to do more research to be sure. I do know the movie was quite explosive at the time of its release. Raj Kapoor, Nargis, and Prithviraj Kapoor do an amazing job of acting, of course, with Raj directing.
Song Highlights: For the first half of the movie, the songs function as a Greek chorus, with most of the lines sung by other cast members whose words comment directly on what has happened and what is about to happen to the main characters. There is a song set in a dream, which is unfortunate, since this is a Bollywood “stereotype,” and the song isn’t even that interesting (of course, that is just my opinion). Music by Shankar-Jaikishen and lyrics by Hasrat Jaipuri and Shailendra.
Tidbits: There is a reason three of the characters in the movie who are related look so convincingly related. Prithviraj, who plays the father of Raj, is Raj’s actual father, and the boy who plays the young Raj is Raj’s younger brother Sashi.
Rating: Aside from the dream sequence, which can be fast-forwarded through, the movie is highly accessible to Western audiences. Nargis hardly looks more lovely anywhere else than in this movie. She even manages to look stunning in her voluminous lawyer robes. Also—and this is so important—this is the only movie I have viewed thus far in which the subtitles have been translated with the utmost care. Most subtitles seem to have been written by people who have no interest in the film and who are only average-competent in English. The subtitles on this movie could be an Oscar-winning screenplay.
Library Collection: If your collection is intended to be historical or you are able to acquire many films, this should be included. It is smart, insightful, and shows off the acting skills of several of Bollywood’s finest.