Senior journalist and DNA reader, Chaitanya Padukone, recalls the sterling qualities of the original showman that endeared him to the masses.
It was very interesting to read the article on Raj Kapoor on his 85th birth anniversary. I had the opportunity to meet the legend during his lifetime and I would like to enumerate some of his sterling qualities.
‘The show must go on’ was the inspiring mantra given by the ‘late’ showman Raj Kapoor to the film fraternity. A diehard optimist, outspoken by nature, Raj Kapoor never let a flop or personal crisis deter him from going ahead with his next movie ventures. His unassuming nature was exemplary. I remember at filmmaker Sooraj Barjatya’s wedding reception, Rajsaab preferred to stand patiently in the rather long queue of guests, waiting for his turn to wish the bridal couple on the stage. He declined ‘VIP treatment’ and refused to circumvent the row and step up directly on the stage. This modest quality of ‘connecting with the common man’ endeared him to the audiences.
With his legendary movie Awara, the charismatic Kapoor created the bumbling naive tramp screen character, which was considered by many as the Indian version of Charlie Chaplin. That’s because Kapoor’s vagabond characters indulged in subtle Chaplinesque tragic-comedy, which beautifully blended laughter with tears. Dialogues of the movie have just been released in a book format to mark his birth anniversary.
Another incident revealed that he never forgot when someone did a good deed. In the early eighties, when he had finalised newcomer actress Yasmin (Mandakini) to play the title role in his movie Ram Teri Ganga Maili, I happened to be on the sets of that movie at Shivaji Park. I was interviewing the other heroine Divya Rana from the same movie.
Later, when Rajsaab saw me conversing with Mandakini, he took me aside and said: “Son, I request you not to announce my new discovery Mandakini in the newspapers at this stage. I wish to reveal it at a later stage.”
It was actually a major news break for me, but I respected Rajsaab’s sentiments and instantly assured him that I would refrain from doing so. Many weeks later when I happened to meet him at a film event, he waved out and said: “love you, son”. He remembered, that I had kept my promise and it was humble of him to acknowledge it publicly. Blessed with a fabulous music sense and knowledge of rhythm, Raj Kapoor meticulously approved the right tunes to match the song situation.
Although he loved swaying to waltz and jazzy songs, Rajsaab preferred hardcore folk music, when it came to connecting with the masses. All these qualities certainly make him a legend.
(As told to Brinda Majithia)