The song "Mera joota hai Japani" picturised on lengendary Raj Kapoor and sung by Mukesh is still a phenomenon in Russia and it was proven last month when a fan sang it out to the singer's grandson Neil Nitin Mukesh in a cab in Murmansk.
Recalling the incident emotionally, Neil said: “I was shooting in Russia for more than a month for Abbas-Mustan’s Players. The country has deep connections with my grandfather. His songs 'Awara hoon' and 'Mera joota hai Japani' are hummed all over Russia to this day. So, I called my father (Nitin Mukesh) over to Russia to spend some time with me.”
In Murmansk, when Neil was travelling with his dad in the cab provided by the unit, he encountered a memorable moment.
“My Russian driver Roma was driving me and my dad when he burst into 'Mera joota hai Japani'. He sang the whole song just to let my father know he loved Indian cinema. My father's eyes welled up with tears. When Roma finished the last note, my father softly asked, ‘Do you know who has sung this song?’ Roma promptly said Raj Kapoor. My father gently corrected him, ‘No, it was my father who sang 'Mera joota hai Japani'."
Then began a discussion on the song.
“Roma said his father used to sing 'Mera joota hai Japani' to him every night. But Roma didn’t know what it meant. My father patiently explained the meaning of every word in the song to him," Neil said.
"It was uncanny because when I was a child, my father too would sing 'Mera joota hai Japani' to me. I’d sing the song without knowing what it really meant. So, there was my Russian driver and me both bonding over a song that my grandfather sang and my father was explaining to both of us,” said Neil.
From that moment onwards, Roma and Neil’s father were inseparable.
“Roma wanted to know everything about my grandfather’s collaboration with Mr Raj Kapoor. Dad sang all the songs that they did together. I don’t know who felt more rewarded. Me or Roma,” said Neil.
In Russia, the locals have made Neil promise he will bring Raj Kapoor’s grandson, Ranbir Kapoor, to the country. Neil intends to keep the promise.
“Ranbir and I are so different from one another and yet bonded so closely by our past. He loves the songs and cinema of Raj Kapoor as much as I do. Yeah, I want to take him back to Russia.”