Raj Kapoor

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outsider, poverty
Film (adventure film, melodrama)
Asia, Southern and Central
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May 16, 2003
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Raj Kapoor
Raj Kapoor © Freunde der Deutschen Kinemathek e.V.


The Hindi Megastar

The Indian star actor and director Raj Kapoor surpasses all others in his personification of a cinematic grass-roots role model. Since the 1940s he played the bravehearted "little man" who overcomes all obstacles with the help of his cleverness and determination. In this role he has conquered the hearts of the cinema-goers and has often been compared with Charlie Chaplin. Although the films that Raj Kapoor has directed mainly follow the conventions of Hindi cinematography, they display a preference for outsider characters and comedy. His melodramas focus on social themes. Raj Kapoor died on 2 June 1988 in New Delhi.
When asked "Why do you make films?" Raj Kapoor replied: "To me cinema is the greatest form of expression for depicting life, but also for entertaining. In my opinion cinema can play a vital role in uniting the people of the world in peace and harmony. That is the aim and purpose of my work as a filmmaker."
Raj Kapoor´s most beautiful films include "Awaara" / "The Vagabond" (1951), "Shree 420" / "Mr 420" (1955) and "Mera Naam Joker" / "My Name is Joker" (1970). All of these films are a blend of neo-realistic, comic and musical elements and impressively reveal the greatness of the show artist. In Indian film the relationship between the story and the music holds the key to understanding. All of the songs in "Awaara" became popular hits that everyone knew and sang. The film focuses on the question of whether a person´s character is hereditary in nature, or whether it is shaped by the environment. It is based on a true story in the family of screenwriter K. A. Abbes. Judge Ragunath is of the opinion that the son of an honest man will always stay honest, while the son of a thief will always be a thief. Young Raj stands accused of having tried to kill the judge. Rita, a young and committed lawyer takes on his defence. She is an orphan and also happens to be the judge´s ward. She reveals the truth to the jury and exposes the judge as the real culprit. He turns out to be the father of Raj whom he abandoned as a child and was thus responsible for Raj´s existence amongst vagabonds and thieves in the slums.

The comedy "Shree 420" of 1951 was Raj Kapoor´s tribute to Charlie Chaplin and is still well-known in India today. The title refers to §420 in Indian law which applies to robbers, thieves and frauds. The protagonist Raju is a poor, but educated and honest, man from the country who tries in vain to resist the corrupting influences of the big city. Raju has a suit, hat and walking stick like Charlie Chaplin; the music by Shankar Jaikischen emphasises the role play and gait, the movements and gestures, as well as the tragicomic performance of the ´Indian Chaplin´. The main character in "Mera Naam Joker" (1970) is also called Raju. He is a circus star and wants to give one last performance in the city. Three women receive separate invitations to the performance: Mary, a greying teacher; a no longer young but still very attractive Russian, and Mina, a former film star. In flashbacks the film tells of Raju´s relationships with the three women which are all based on unfulfilled love. "Mera Naam Joker" was a commercial flop that almost broke Raj Kapoor both emotionally and financially. The director assumed the audience, who had always identified themselves with the roles of Raj Kapoor, did not want to see any stories about failures.

Events at the HKW:
29 September 1991
15 December 1991
Indian Film Festival
India the Land of Film
Awaara / The Vagabond

4 February 1992
Indian Film Festival
India the Land of Film
Mera Naam Joker / My Name is Joker

Organizer: Haus der Kulturen der Welt in co-operation with Freunde der Deutschen Kinemathek
Author: Gabriele Gillner


Raj Kapoor, born Ranbirraj Kapoor on 14 December 1924 in Beshawar, Pakistan, was the son of the famous actor "Prithviraj Kapoor" who also worked as a producer and ran the "Prithvi Theatre". Raj Kapoor was educated in Calcutta and Bombay. At the early age of eleven he worked in film as a "clapper boy". Numerous film roles followed, then work as production manager, props manager and actor. He acted in over forty films. In 1946 he made his first own film "Aag" / "Fire, which he also produced and in which he played the leading role. With his second film "Barsaat" / "Rain" (1949) he became known throughout the country. His most popular production "Awaara" was synchronised in many languages and was much loved in both the Soviet Union and Arab countries. His two brothers Shammi and Shashi Kapoor also played in many of his films. Raj Kapoor received numerous awards including the so-called "Cares" ("Clare Mendionca", named after the "Filmfare Film Critic"), the Indian equivalent of the American Oscars, presented annually in 30 categories in Mumbai, India. Raj Kapoor won in the categories: best film, best actor, best editing, best director. In 1984 Raj Kapoor acted alongside Peter O´Toole in an American TV series. He made his last own film in 1985 and played his last acting role in 1987. Raj Kapoor died on 2. June 1988 in New Delhi.


Ram Teri Ganga Maili

Film / TV,

Prem Rog

Film / TV,

Satyam Shivam Sunduram / Love Sublime

Film / TV,


Film / TV,

Mera Naam Joker / My Name is Joker

Film / TV,


Film / TV,

Shree 420 / Mr. 420

Film / TV,

Awaara / The Vagabond

Film / TV,

Barsaat / Rain

Film / TV,

Aag / Feuer / Fire

Film / TV,