26 comments on “Raj and Padmini – A Different On-Screen Bond (my contribution to the Kapoor Khazana)

  1. What a lovely way of analysing their chemistry, I agree with your points mostly, even though I’ve only seen them in ‘Jis desh main ganga behti hai’ .Lol at Number 4, though I also think both ladies were geneticallly disposed to be slim, this is true of Nutan in Particular.

  2. I really liked their pairing in Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hain. That was a certain vulnerability in Raju and a certain fiestiness in Padmini. Totally rollicking!!

  3. Here is a song to a love story between a tamil ‘madrasi’ girl and a bengali (not punjabi like Raj) boy. Here the tamil girl tries to convince him that they can make it. Nice, light funny song

  4. Nice post about Raj and Padmini, Richard!

    Don’t agree totally with what you say, but it makes good reading. But found myself nodding to many points like different Raj phases with different heroines.

    “that the romantic and ethereal qualities of this couple prevented a certain ideological directness that the exchanges between Raj and Padmini could convey”

    Raj and Nargis were avid followers/fans of Nehru and Nehruvian socialism, which can be seen in Raj’s earlier films. I remember reading somewehre, that while they were shooting for some film, they came across nehru who was to deliver a lecture in coutnryside. Raj and Nargis, it seems, rushed there, wanting to listen to his lecture. This naturally caused a chaos, while to masses then wnated to see Raj and Nargis and not listen to Nehru.
    I don’t know how much of this story is from Bunny Rueben and how much in reality.

    And Bunny Rueben also talks about their affair somewhere where he recalls, that Padmini’s grandma/ma didn’t want to let her go to the outdoor shooting. And then one night, Padmini woke up to go to the toilet, which was in the direction of Raj’s room. And grandma wakes up and sees that Padmini is coming from the direction of Raj’s room. Grandma packs bags, takes Padmini and leaves. Now that sounds like everything and nothing. But that was Bunny’s art. Insinuating something by telling exactly the opposite.

    BTW if you want to see Raj dancing somewhat gracefully then you will have to watch this:

  5. Harvey, thanks for the info. Of course, there is a strong strain of socialism in RK’s Shree 420 and Awara. These socialist elements – or at least the anti-capitalist elements – are part of what attract me to those RK movies. (And Shree 420 is my favorite. For a while I was saying Jis Desh… was, for obvious reasons. But Shree 420 is really the best film in my mind, and actually, the very film that took my Bollywood obsessions – i.e., for the films and not just song-and-dance clips – to the point of no return. :) ) Whether or not I would agree with their putting so much faith in Nehru is another matter… But, of course, time/place/context have a lot to do with this. In any event, point is, I never said that I didn’t think Raj and even Nargis were political. (No way I would have thought that!) What I’m writing about, mainly is the character of the on-screen dynamics and relationships.

    I mentioned the issue of the off-screen relationship between Raj and Nargis only because there was such an obvious and well-known connection between that and the on-screen intensity between them. This came out of a sustained romance. I don’t know if Padmini had some kind of fling with Raj Kapoor. The only line I’ve read about their off-screen relationship in any Bollywood history was from Mihir Bose, who wrote a line simply that Padmini took care of Raj a little sometime when he was ill. And some people do read sex into everything. (And sometimes the significance of sex is highly overrated anyway, IMO.) But certainly, there was no famous sustained affair. And, as I understand, there was more such talk about Raj with Vyjayanthimala, which she denies, saying that rumors were created just to generate more publicity for Raj Kapoor. It could be. Generally, if it’s a matter of who had a fling with whom (who went for a quickie or whatever), it doesn’t matter to me :) ; it’s really the on-screen chemistry that counts. However, Raj and Nargis had a special situation.
    ———————
    P.S. Thanks for the clips, too. Tom Daniel put up a nice copy of that clip with Padmini and Kishore Kumar. (Maybe I’ll add the link later.)

    Raj Kapoor actually did some decent dancing in a few films… I think he’s pretty good in some of the clips I’ve seen from Sargam, where he’s paired up with Rehana. And he has some nice light dancing bits with Suraiya in Dastan. Maybe his dancing also looks a little better when he is not paired up with a famous, trained, top-notch classical dancer. :)
    —————–
    P.P.S. Speaking of Nehru… Here’s a nice picture of Nehru sitting with Padmini and Lalitha in 1949. :)

  6. Bollywooddeewana, thank you for the nice comments. Isn’t that dance the loveliest? It’s from Mera Naam Joker. Some people have claimed that Padmini just wasn’t as good after the ’50s or early ’60s; others say that she couldn’t look as beautiful because she’d gained too much weight. (And, btw, glad you liked the “roundness” observation. :) ) But I would say a dance like that one in “Katay na Katay” (or “Kate Na Kate”) disproves such notions. (Under one post of that dance, someone wrote a comment that Padmini looks as beautiful as she ever did. And I wrote, “I think I agree!” :) )

    By the way, when I saw that on YouTube, I had no recollection of having seen it when I originally watched Mera Naam Joker, a few years earlier. (Unfortunately, I can’t check my copy because it got kind of scratched up.) I wonder if this possibly could have been one of the scenes that was cut out during the “hack jobs.” That would be a shame!

  7. “In any event, point is, I never said that I didn’t think Raj and even Nargis were political.”

    Of course not! But I just couldn’t resist! ;-)

    “And sometimes the significance of sex is highly overrated anyway, IMO”

    I would say, mostly!
    Thanks for the Nehru pic! Wow! It speaks volumes and I don’t even understand half of it! ;-)

  8. “In any event, point is, I never said that I didn’t think Raj and even Nargis were political.”

    Ouch. Awkward sentence written in haste. But now it’s been quoted, so I can’t change it. :)

    “Do post the link to ‘main bongali chokra’!”

    Here it is:

  9. Thanks for the link, Richard!

    “Of course not! But I just couldn’t resist! ;-) ” didn#t refer to the word order. i understand very little of that, as you might have often read in my posts. What I meant was that I didn’t interpret your post as a reference to political desinterest on Raj and Nargis’ side, but still I couldn’t resist writing what I had written. ;-)

    thanks for the link of benagli chokra song! Love it. The moment I saw it on you tube I thought of you and when I came to your blog to post it, the above post was waiting as if one had ordered it!
    Love the references to her dance having created waves in Russia! have to ask a bengali friend of mine to translate what Kishore says.

  10. Good thoughts Richard.

    I’m glad that I didn’t let the very disliked chaplinesquesness of Raj Kapoor to stand in the way of liking him in some very likeable roles.
    In Jis desh mein ganga behti hai he came close, but didn’t cross the line into that disliked territiory, so I didn’t mind him there.
    Padmini was a treat. Her rounded figure somehow suited her so well.

    >Padmini and Raj could be very engaging with their political discussions.
    LOL! at the chocholist understandings of Raj Kapoor in JDMGBH.
    It never occured to me to ever think of Raj dancing, and harvey your link wasn’t convincing enough ;-) but thanks.

  11. @ pacifist: re.: “It never occured to me to ever think of Raj dancing, and harvey your link wasn’t convincing enough”

    Agree with you completely! :-)

  12. @Riaichard S
    I would refrain from commenting on Mera Naam Joker, the third part that is(!) But I share the same fascination for Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai and Shree 420. We need not comapre Raj Kapur-Padmini with Raj Kapur-Nargis – perhps that would be far-fetched, but Raj Kapur-Padmini pairing by itself in JDMGBH should be one of the landmarks in Hindi cinema. Raj Kapur was never more transparently innocent – he is frankly baffled by the ways of the dacoits and their weird philosophy of ‘socialism’. I do not agree with one comment somewhere that it is possible to view his act as a cever put-on to outsmart the dacoits.

    Padmini, though seemingly cleverer than Raj Kapur on matters between man and a woman, with her characteristic South Indian plumpness comes out essentially as an innocent girl and. as righly observed, not really belonging to the bad ways of the dacoits. That is why when every one else starts having doubts (at Raka’s prompting), about Raj Kapur’s true affiliation, Padmini remains steadfast in her trust in him. Her involuntarily excaliming ‘Oye hoye’ has been commented, but you remember when every often she leans on Raj Kapur’s dafli in the song Hum bhi hain tum nhi ho, it is almost akin to Nargis’s leaning on Raj Kapur’s violin inBarsaat.

    The Raj Kapur-Padmini chemistry, his innocence, her dancing, superb music by Sahnkar Jaikishan (this was their best score which did not fetch them Filmfare award, whereas they got (or managed to get) for some quite pedestrian scores), breathtaking landscapes, awesome picturisation of Aa ab laut chalein make it great RK film, The only weakness I can mention is its overt preachiness at places, and at least one song that I foulnd quite trite and jarring. This was Pyaar kar le nahi to phaansi chadh jayega. Well, the point was made that the children of dacoits face the spectre of hanging as their father. But is this a topic which should make Raj Kapur burst into a song tp demanstrate hanging through a mime?

  13. Good analysis, I enjoyed reading this post.

    Padmini is a true Indian beauty, before Westernisation made all those extra pounds seem unseemly. She is like a temple sculpture; surely, that must be the shape of Indian women from ancient times… I think in South India the well-padded leading lady was considered beautiful well into the eighties but now all the girls come from the same not-an-extra-ounce mould. A pity. It would be nice to appreicate beauty in different forms.

  14. Thank you for the nice words, Suja.

    I think film directors must have realized how much Padmini resembled the beauty of ancient statues; that’s why she was filmed so often dancing in front of them, or turning into them while she was dancing. (Though the bharatanatyam moves could have had something to do with that.)

    Anyway, so has “westernization” spread the anorexic aesthetic to movie stars all over India now? That seems like such a shame, especially to this westerner.

  15. I think the anorexic aesthetic (good term!) has already found a certain place in the Hindi film industry, with actresses proud of their size zero figures (question, do then have a ‘figure’ at all??!!). It seems to be less influencial in the South where one still sees full figured leading ladies but that aesthetic is defintely creeping in. The fact is, Indian clothes enhance a very curvacious (and I dont mean fat!) figure while in tight jeans/t-shirts/pencil thin skirts (ie. Western clothes) the lines are more pleasing if the woman has a more linear look – that said, Marlyn Monroe who looked fabulous in tight skirts was definitely curvy! So I do place blame on Westernisation this need of heroines to be slimmer, taller and lighter-skinned. If they could, they would just clone them like that and get rid of all the ‘normal’ Indian women!! Oh…maybe they have already done that? Is that why I can’t tell most of them apart? Of it is just advanced dementia? Food for thought, hmmm………

  16. BTW I write a blog on Indian music, limiting myself to my favourite genres of Carnatic classical music which you will be familiar with with your interest in Bharatanatyam, Bollywood music old and new with forays into Hindustani Classical music / Qawwalis / Ghazals etc. However, I am a theist unlike you and as Carnatic music is very devotional, I often go on about Hindu beliefs, which might not be your thing :) In case interested, do visit sujamusic.wordpress.com. A recent post presents a lovely Bharatanatyam dance too..http://sujamusic.wordpress.com/2011/06/07/bho-shambho/

  17. Suja, I think it’s well known that Hollywood actresses of yesteryear also had more curves, and it would be silly to blame the west in general for the anorexic trend if you consider actresses from Italy. Though I think dancers is another matter… Yes, it’s true that for some reason dancers, especially classical ones, are expected here in the West to be very skinny, and as far as I know, this likely has been the case for well over a century.

    I don’t think the jeans, T-shirts, and pencil-thin skirts became a standard in the west until after the 1960s. I blame the post-’60s overemphasis on youth culture for many of the standards (for fashion, body type, etc.) that were later adopted and pushed by Hollywood and Madison Avenue. In the U.S., the trend might also have taken off due to increasing obesity in the general population, as more money can be made when more people can be made to feel inadequate.

    I don’t know if I like all of this being called “westernization,” since I don’t share many of the aesthetics or non-aesthetics that are blamed on “westerners” :) … I prefer to think of it all as a product of corporate globalization (well, especially these days…). And, anyway, for a long time, I have noticed that the pencil-thin-skirt standard seems to be even more popular in far-eastern countries like Japan.

    Also, I don’t think that the preference for lighter skin could be counted as a concurrent trend resulting from the same “westernization.” I mean, hasn’t this preference or prejudice been existent in Indian cinema – and Indian culture – for a lot longer? If anything, I am seeing more dark skin being shown in the movies of today than in the movies of yesteryear, especially if they’re South Indian movies. (Although maybe sometimes that’s the result of the change from black-and-white to color.) And I recall a V. Shantaram movie made in 1953 or so that was all about the unfair preference for lighter skin in India. (Sandhya in dark makeup… Her character was always in distress about being considered ugly, but I thought she was pretty cute there.)
    ———————-
    P.S. From a brief perusal, I can see that you have a very good blog, and I will add it to my blogroll. I certainly don’t mind discussion about devotional content, either. It is always interesting to me, and there is much stuff to be learned from religious stories, whether or not one believes in religion(s). (Devotional films, music, and dance can be so great too, and it is good to know more about the thoughts and perspectives which helped to inspire that greatness.) I also have great respect for different kinds of spiritualism, as I may have mentioned…

  18. Actually your points are all very valid. I think I was just feeling ornery because my jeans were feeling uncomfortably tight :) But I do wonder what’s happening in India when in the movies I see American or European culture being blindly aped, when even back-up dancers are white, long-legged beauties (from Eastern Europe perhaps??), when music and dance seem more and more ‘MTV’ (I carefully didn’t call it Western :) But don’t mind me, I’m just old fashioned and miss the India I knew..Like most of us Indians who left India to make our lives elsewhere, we need India to remain what it was, more so because our own lives have changed to something very different over the years. People in India seem less bothered about all these changes than we are.
    And thanks for blogrolling my site, I have added a link to yours as well.

  19. AK, I meant to get back to you on your interesting comments… Yes, I agree with much of that…

    I do think that Raju maybe doesn’t let on regarding the depth of his thinking or perceptions in some situations, even if/when he is innocent of the social phenomena that baffle him.

    In Shree 420, Raj clearly states at one point that it makes life easier to play the clown, and he shows in a few places how he can change the image that he projects and/or hide his real feelings. I think that there is the possibility of this revelation with all of Raj Kapoor’s quasi-simplistic characters.

    With Raju in Jis Desh, maybe it’s not a matter of conscious deception, but that innocence does not equal simple-mindedness or stupidity and, in fact, the reverse might be true, with innocence leading to a kind of wisdom that those who are too expertly familiar with the social environment simply cannot attain.

  20. Suja, regarding your comment:

    But don’t mind me, I’m just old fashioned and miss the India I knew..Like most of us Indians who left India to make our lives elsewhere, we need India to remain what it was, more so because our own lives have changed to something very different over the years.

    Let me offer a different perspective… I was drawn to Indian movies in part because I was tired of the same old thing that I had been seeing from our (“western”) media for so many years – tired of the films, the TV, the MTV. This might be one reason that I ended up enjoying older movies more than the newer ones.

    However, I did not need to see old movies to see people, especially women, dressed in traditional Indian clothes. When I lived near Jackson Heights, Queens, for a few years, I saw dozens of sarees every day. :) And this past weekend, when I visited a friend in Edison, NJ, it seemed that 80 percent of the people around me were wearing traditional Indian clothes. So, while Indian people (or Pakistani people or Bangladeshi people) might leave much of their old life behind them, it seems that they can bring much of that life with them, too – at least to certain parts of “the west.” :)

    I’ve spent most of my life in New York City, and one of the things about this city that I’ve always been grateful for is the incredible cultural diversity. (I especially appreciate this because I have never been very well off, so haven’t really been able to travel that much.) In fact, the supposedly real American culture that I’ve seen portrayed in many movies and television shows has often seemed much more alien to me than the bits of culture from many “foreign” countries that I get to see a little of all the time in my day-to-day life :)

  21. You make interesting points. I think you have hit it on the head with the word ‘alíen’. All of us fight with this feeling of alienisation in different milieus – perhaps because we have migrated or chosen to live ‘elsewhere’ (that ‘elsewhere’ becomes home sometimes and the original home becomes ‘elsewhere’), perhaps because we grow older and feel a certain alienisation with the younger ‘with it’ generation, perhaps our choices and/or inclinations in life is outside the ‘norm’, if there exists a norm. Whatever the reason, this alienisation is what makes us seek books, blogs, people, films, music in which, for a time, we don’t feel so alien, we somehow belong. How contrary we are – sometimes we seek alien surroundings (eg. when we travel) for pleasure yet fight against the same alienisation at other times! But I digress. Perhaps all I object to is that I look for ‘home’ in Indian films (while others may see it for its ‘exoticism’ LOL) and if what I feel is alienisation, I resent it.

  22. Suja, that is nicely put. It helps to explain how I ended up feeling most at home with music/dance/films that originated so far from home :) (and with blogs devoted to these things too, of course).

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