[Note: I have put together this post especially to contribute to the Kapoor Khazana that was begun at Totally Filmi.]
When many people think of the Golden Age Raj Kapoor movies, they think mostly of Raj with Nargis. Of course, that is appropriate, since Nargis was Raj’s heroine in his most famous movies, the romantic chemistry between them on screen was very intense, and they had a famous (or notorious) off-screen affair as well. But Nargis was far from the only heroine paired with Raj Kapoor, and if you get into the whole repertoire of Golden Age movies that Raj acted in (including and going beyond all the ones he produced or directed), then you can see interesting combinations such as Raj and Rehana (a particularly funny combo in at least two films), Raj and Madhubala, Raj and Vyjayanthimala (something that Vyjayanthimala herself seemed to regret later), Raj and Waheeda, and Raj and Nutan. But among the movies without Nargis, the most enjoyable pairing of all (at least as I see it) was Raj and Padmini. And this on-screen couple, though never quite convincing as enthralled lovers, definitely had their own unique charms. Of course, people who know this blog well might think that I am biased, given that I have praised Padmini to no end for her dancing and her beauty. But in addition to my love of Padmini herself in just about everything, I do think there are special qualities in the Raj-and-Padmini combination that help to make it very refreshing, especially if you’ve already seen enough Raj and Nargis…
1. There’s that jovial camaraderie… Especially in Mera Naam Joker, which was made after the two had known each other for quite a while, Raj and Padmini impress you as a pair of great old friends.
Now, this viewer has no idea whether in real life these two stars might ever have “crossed over the line” in their interactions, and if they did, I don’t want to know about it. But on screen, even when their characters are supposed to be crazily in love, their relationship seems to be very different in nature from the intense situation between Raj and Nargis with that perpetually burning “aag.” And sometimes, depending on one’s mood, maybe that’s not a bad thing.
2. Padmini was definitiely earthy enough to be convincing as Raj’s partner in homelessness and general down-and-outness.
By contrast, Nargis seemed too noble, educated, and/or ethereal to be on quite the same level. (The only exception in the Kapoor movies that I’ve seen was Aag, in which she portrayed a homeless Partition refugee suffering from serious PTSD. Mehboob Khan seemed more inclined to cast her as a peasant, but in those roles, she had to have a positively saintly character.)
3. Padmini and Raj could be very engaging with their political discussions.
By contrast, while Nargis-and-Raj movies often dwelled on political matters, it seems that the romantic and ethereal qualities of this couple prevented a certain ideological directness that the exchanges between Raj and Padmini could convey.
4. Padmini and Raj seemed like two people who could enjoy many feasts together. They both had that healthy roundness about them (at least at the times when they acted together).
(Let’s face it, by comparison, Nargis, Nutan, etc., looked as though they cold put on a few pounds.)
5. Raj couldn’t dance so well, but wow, could Padmini ever! So, every dance scene with Raj and Padmini was a good one, even if Raj looked a bit silly sometimes.
When you watch the above two clips, especially, I am sure you will agree that not only did Padmini floor everyone with her dancing abilities; she also helped to create a special kind of chemistry with Raj Kapoor. In my frequent comparisons to Raj and Nargis, I hope I haven’t been disparaging the latter, because I love Nargis, too. But I like to point out that, at least as I see it, the Raj-and-Padmini combination stands out just as nicely in their films.
P.S. Looking at the other posts in the Kapoor Khazana, I noticed a wonderfully detailed review of Mera Naam Joker at Shahrukh Is Love. This also led me to an interesting thread discussing how much this film was hacked up in different versions, and explaining why I didn’t even recall originally seeing some of my favorite scenes or songs that I caught on YouTube later on. (Plus, it seems that some of the remaining songs might have been cut up a bit internally, too.)
A few years ago, I also did a more serious writeup of the other great Raj-and-Padmini movie, Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai. This writeup refers a lot to another, very interesting review at Philip’sfil-ums.
I’d like to see and write up a third Raj-and-Padmini movie, Ashiq (1962), but I have not been able to find copies, and the song clips available on YouTube are very poor. (And speaking of YouTube, I haven’t posted Raj-and-Padmini clips from some of my favorite channels this time because Shemaroo has been either blocking the videos or preventing us from embedding them. Though I think the ones that I have managed to put up here are still pretty good, beautiful in content and lots of fun.)
P.S. [written a few days later]: June 12 is/was Padmini’s birthday. So, let’s have this post double as the blog’s fourth annual Padmini birthday post. Happy birthday, Padmini!
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.
p.s what film is the lovely katay na katay from
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!!
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
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:
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. :)
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!
Sharmi, thank you for that observation about Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai. Yes, I completely agree!
“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! ;-)
Do post the link to ‘main bongali chokra’!
“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:
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.
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.
@ 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! :-)
And I take back what I said about him possibly dancing well in Sargam. LOL
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?
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.
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.
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………
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/
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…
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.
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.
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 :)
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.
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).
Growing up, I got to see two Raj Kapoor movies. Teesri Kasam, which I loved, for its poetical quality, and Sangam, which put me off from wanting to see any of his movies. (Awaara, being a cult classic, dint tip the balance). Plus, these movies had become inaccessible. Now, thanks to Youtube, I have recently rediscovered all of the Hindi movies from the 50s and 60s – mainly Raj Kapoor, and my personal favourite Shammi. Talking about Raj Kapoor’s heroines, I particularly like the Raj-Nutan combination. Nutan is a great actress. Anari apart, I definitely liked ‘Dil Hi To Hai’ where a more mature Raj Kapoor has a mellow, and a very convincing role of a struggling singer in a nawabi setting. Both Raj and Nutan do great ‘disguises’. ‘Kanhaiyya’ is crazy, and beautiful, but requires a good understanding of some very Indian sentiments, for it to make sense.And for sheer youthful exuberance (and rebellion), I love Sargam , with the vivacious Rehana. There is nothing like this movie, later. As for Raj and Nargis, there is an ethereal, soulful quality to their screen romance (very obvious in Barsaat, and Ashiana, subtle in others). It has shades of Sufi. It is not exactly chemistry (in the sense the word is commonly used). I liked the one movie where he is paired with Sadhana – Dulha Dulhan, where Sadhana’s character is an almost mute, beautiful woman with an amnesia that no one is aware of. Raj Kapoor a poor, struggling guy trying to make ends meet in Bombay city. Sweet and touching story.
And of course, Mala Sinha. I worship Dostoevsky, and the very Indian version of Crime and Punishment is a great gift for us Indians from Raj Kapoor (and Abbas). Parvarish is very engaging,(not particularly because of Mala, though) for its plot which revolves round social prejudice, and the pathos of crushing the hopes of the young.
As for Raj Kapoor and ‘Chaplinesque’, as an Indian I see shades of Chaplin only in a few sequences, where he clearly uses Chaplin’s gait and mannerisms. I dont understand why Raj Kapoor wanted to embellish his acting with that trick, but he is definitely no ‘Indian Chaplin’. I perceive it as an insult to the legacy of Raj Kapoor. Where he plays a simpleton, his roles are rooted in tradition. In Jis Desh Mein Ganga Beheti Hai, for instance,he is a wandering minstrel, which is a quintessentially an Indian institution.Can anyone imagine Chaplin singing ‘Raju mera naam, gharana benaam’. The song/chant ‘jis desh mein ganga beheti hai’, whose phrases keep changing through the movie, and carry a lot of traditional thinking, remind us of Kabir (every region in India has its own saint/poet/philosopher, like Kabir). Chaplin, on the other hand was divorced from any tradition. May be, the western audiences, who miss the import of most of the dialogue and the cultural motifs are distracted by his Chaplin antics (where they appear, and there are entire movies where they dont show up), and think of him as some ‘Indian Chaplin’.
Sorry to get back at it, but it just occurred that I could point this out. His role in Jagte Raho. A simple, poor underdog, who is definitely no Chaplin’s tramp. About the cultural motifs, a thirsty person being denied water to drink is a HUGE sentimental thing, and the pathos of it frames the whole story.
Suman, thank you for your extensive comments on this post that I wrote more than four years ago. You have actually stirred memories for me of the time I wrote this post :) , and you’ve brought it back to life. (Now, at some point, I should try to find replacements for the videos that disappeared.)
Regarding your idea that it’s westerners who are distracted by Raj Kapoor’s (few?) Chaplin antics and tend to consider him the “Indian Chaplin”…. Actually, in my blogging sphere, I’ve noticed that the people who talked about Raj Kapoor’s “Chaplin routine” most often – and sometimes appear not to like it much, either – are Indian. The first example that comes to mind is Madhulika of the Dustedoff blog. (I can think of a couple of other examples, but I’ll just stick with Dustedoff as the example, because Madhu is still writing blog posts pretty frequently, and I also don’t think that she would mind…) Westerners, unfortunately – especially those in the U.S. – are less likely to know about Raj Kapoor at all. I have shown Shree 420 to some non-Indian people here in New York, and one did comment on the Chaplin similarity, but how could anyone not, since it is most obvious there? But when I think of westerners I know of who are familiar with Indian films – such as the bloggers here in the U.S. – I don’t think that they are any more likely to dwell on the Chaplin comparison than Indian people are.
Chaplin was obviously popular and well known in India, and other actors were influenced by him, too – the most obvious one being the comedian actually called Charlie.
As for the qualities of Chaplin, himself… I don’t know if one can say he is divorced from any tradition. I am no expert on Charlie Chaplin, but when I have watched some of his films, I’ve seen someone very much working in a tradition of humanism, man against machine, someone fighting for the common man and that sort of thing. Actually, one thing that he and Raj Kapoor had in common was their opposition to the inhuman qualities of industrialization and capitalism. (And both, clearly, were socialists.) These are not traditions in an ancient/religious sense, but they were pretty well established traditions even in Chaplin’s time. I’m sure Chaplin’s slapstick also had some roots in tradition (vaudeville, etc.?)….
But thank you for bringing up some of the traditions that Raj Kapoor did reference that were unique to Indian culture. I like the Kabir reference. (By the way, I have learned a lot from YouTube channel centered on people singing Kabir’s poems and exploring his place and legacy. I may find the link and add it. YouTube might have it’s problems, but it’s remarkable how much it’s contributed to my own education in Indian culture. :) )
Regarding Raj and his heroines… Did we all forget Raj and Suraiya in Dastan? Wow, what a combination that was!
You are also right about Nutan being a great actress. I hope that you recognized her in the image header that is up now, during the time of our exchange. (That’s from Seema. In this scene, she is watching a great street performance that includes Rafi singing for Mumtaz Ali with children dancing around – one or some of whom were actually Mumtaz Ali’s own children (though not the two famous ones we all know about). It fits in perfectly with the blog’s name, Dances on the Footpath – though unfortunately, the window provided for the image header wold not fit a recognizable scene from the performance, itself – so the next-best thing is to show Nutan looking on. :) )
It was interesting to read about your first reactions to Raj Kapoor based on those two films… Yes, Teesri Kasam was very appealing, and I didn’t care for Sangam at all (actually, I never made it through that film).
Anyway, you have brought up a lot and I could go on here for quite a while, but I will stop for now. :)
Thanks again for all your comments on this old post!
Charlie Chaplin was a great actor, (and a humanist). No quarrels about that. My point is that the chaplinesque mannerisms are a small part of the phenomenon that Raj Kapoor is. Only that. And yes, I have noticed that many Indians too dont bother to look beyond those mannerisms. May be they dont bother to look beyond anything, for that matter! When I say that Chaplin was divorced from tradition, I meant that his movies do not use artistic/literary, philosophical devices directly from any particular tradition. His humanism was conveyed differently, whereas even Raj Kapoors socialistic themes contain very Indian(and traditional) elements. That itself should make them distinct.
And yes, thank you for the response.
How you feel about shivaji Ganesan and padmini on screen pair in tamil cinema.
Mahalingam, it is good to see a new comment on this post from 8 1 /2 years ago!
Padmini and Sivani were both were very good actors, and they played their parts well. I have seen a few films starring both of them, and a good number of film clips. The films in which Padmini and Sivaji worked together that stand out in my mind are Thilllana Mohanambal, Uthama Puthiran, and Thiruvarutchelvar. I think we got to see them work together most in Thilllana Mohanambal. But with regard to Thiruvarutchelvar, I always remember that funny and delightful act between them in the sequence for “Manavan Vanthanadi.” (By the way, you can find my write-up of Thiruvarutchelvar here: https://roughinhere.wordpress.com/2009/01/20/thiruvarutchelvar-1967/.)
They certainly worked together well. But I never was inclined to look at the unique qualities in their pairing as I was with Raj and Padmini. Maybe it’s because Padmini’s appearance in Raj Kapoor’s films was relatively unique (there were only three such films) and possibly more unusual. Also, everybody thinks of the pairing in Hindi films of Raj and Nargis, which had this romantic intensity that made it no surprise that they had an ongoing special thing between them off the screen. I thought of describing Raj and Padmni together in part as a contrast to that (because it was a little different – though they did have a chemistry and there are rumors that they had a brief affair).
Maybe I should try to analyze the chemistry between Padmini and Sivaji more someday, but I haven’t felt inclined to do so thus far. That might require looking a little more into their places in Tamil cinema too, which is not as familiar to many of us foreigners who love Indian movies as Hindi cinema is. (Though I did delve a bit into classic Tamil cinema, mainly because of Padmini, but that was ten to twelve years ago.) But for right now, this is about the extent of the answer that I can give to your question.
I also might want to refresh myself regarding all the other comments about Raj and Padmini below my post. (I have not reread most of them.) As I mentioned, this post is 8 1/2 years old. It’s always good to see new commenters pop up to keep an old post alive! (Especially if it’s an old post that I still like. :) )