My final post (for now) on the art and artists of my youth. This particular one is special to me: Raj Kapoor, because I inherited this love from my father. My father wasn’t a very expressive man, and I - as a child who wanted to be close to him and emulate him, started watching Raj Kapoor movies and listening to their music from an early age.
I always found it challenging to watch those movies. Alongside the humor was a deep sadness, a pathos, that hits hard and stays stuck in your mind.
Consider this 3-minute scene from his classic Awaara (1951.) An impoverished Raju, about 9-10 years of age, returns home to his mother who tells him that she’s cooked a special treat of roti tarkari for him today. Hungry, he rushes to the kitchen, but all the vessels are empty. He realizes that his mother is becoming delirious with hunger. So he lies to her about how delicious the roti tarkari was. She asks him to serve her some of the food too. The kid, not knowing what to do, rushes out to try and steal some bread. He gets caught and, despite piteous protests, gets sent to a juvenile correctional facility. There in the lunch room he gets handed some rotis to eat. The kid looks at the roti and suddenly starts to laugh uncontrollably.
That same pathos comes across in his real-life interviews. How many people who were fabulously successful and renowned their whole life speak like this in their seventies:
This is a house of heartbreaks. If you’re a success, your heart will break when people you love try to pull you down. And if you’re a failure, nobody will let you live. But if you can go through it, go on with the struggle, perhaps one day you might feel that it was well worth going through the house of heartbreaks.
(When asked which of his movies is his favorite:)
There’s a saying in Punjabi: “माँ जीवेन्दी सत, करम न देंदी वन्ट.” “A mother gave birth to seven, but couldn’t give fate to one.”
So for you to ask which film is my favorite… they are all mine after all. Yes, some had their own magic and they became very successful. But as in life, sometimes the one that doesn’t succeed is like the child that lags behind. The one who forges ahead anyways earns success and respect of his own. But the one who lags behind grows closer to your heart. Among those films, is “Mera Naam Joker,” another one is “Jagte Raho.” These were my special children, who, maybe they had something wrong with their leg, or their face… either way, like I said, a mother can give life, but can’t give destiny.
(Describing a scene from Mera Naam Joker:)
The joker walks around the circus and asks all of his past: “Have you seen my heart? Has anybody seen my heart? Please?” For that matter, I feel there are very few people in this world who have the distinction of having people in their life who have seen their heart. Who have loved them. Who have received love in return of what they offered to others. This affects me very much.
(On old age and regret:)
There are so many regrets… I’m not anywhere near what I wanted to be. My regret is, Lord, when I’ve just started to play… don’t take it away. When time has taught you, life has taught you, and you’re finally near accepting and understanding all that the one above has granted you, in abundance all around you. To do, to achieve… you feel it’s getting late. There’s very little time left to play.