Saturday, July 28, 2012
Raj Kapoor (India, 1951)
New 35mm Print!
(a.k.a. The Vagabond; a.k.a. The Tramp). A plot that spans generations, and includes a love affair across social hierarchies, massive musical sequences, and family tragedies and reunions, all with a socialist-realist script: Awaara has all the ingredients of an Indian film classic; it was even an international blockbuster, famous across the Eastern Bloc, Africa, and Asia (even Chairman Mao was said to be a fan). Raj is a magistrate’s estranged son raised as a thief, Nargis the lawyer who falls in love, and India’s class divide the villain, but the true star—as always—is Kapoor’s showmanship, a combination of Chaplinesque comedy and tragedy, social commentary, swooning romance, and inevitable dates with destiny. Famed socialist-realist writer K.A. Abbas supplies the fiery script, which attacks class prejudices that dictate that “a son of a thief will always be a thief,” while the legendary duo Shankar-Jaikishen composed the evergreen soundtrack, sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Mukesh and visualized in a series of astonishing set pieces. “Even on earth,” wrote J. Hoberman, “Awaara’s set design comes from outer space.”
• Written by K.A. Abbas, V.P. Sathe, from a story by Abbas. Photographed by Radhu Karmakar. With Raj Kapoor, Nargis, Prithviraj Kapoor. (193 mins, In Hindi with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm)