To a writer, a subject close to his heart is often a difficult assignment. When that subject happens to be an individual who has also been in some ways a benefactor, the writer’s difficulties are multiplied a hundredfold.

This is how I am placed where Raj Kapoor is concerned. If therefore I fail to give him unqualified praise in this analytical study, it is due to my deliberate effort to be objective and unclouded by emotion.

A matinee idol and the beloved of a million hearts, Raj Kapoor can afford to submit himself to an impersonal judgment.

And on my part, I will count it as a failure if I don’t rise to the role of an unbiased critic on the present occasion because what interests me most in a genius is the suffering that lurks at the core of his being.

So much still remains unsaid about Raj Kapoor that one could write a whole book and yet miss many things.

I am often surprised that he has not made a film of his own life. What a thrilling drama it would unfold! Is he reluctant to make such a film because he cannot yet visualize the end?

Or is he haunted by the fear that only stark tragedy could be a fitting finale to his tempestuous career? I am sure he belongs to the type of people who find the idea of doom fascinating.

It is only from a new vantage point that this vein in the creative genius can be focused. It will then be clear that the Suhag of the nymph Kala cannot be really fulfilled till her groom the artist is devoured by the Chita-Agni of his creative urge.

  • raj kapoor drinking tea

The Jaymala of triumph and consummation can be worn only after the artist embraces his doom. That is why we find geniuses becoming, at some stage of their development, strangers to their own milieu and seeking exile and loneliness.

To Raj Kapoor, the feeling of exile must have come early in life. The man we see today seems to be the final product of high endeavor and deep spiritual anguish.

He has a child’s fondness for laughter and merriment, but in his laughter, there is a ring of suffering. It reveals to us the hidden tragedy of a clown’s vocation.

The Raj Kapoor of today is like that melancholy patient who was advised by his physician to forget his worries and to relax.

“There is a famous clown in the circus,” said the doctor. “I’d advise you to see his performance every night until your dejection melts away.”

“Alas,” replied the unhappy patient, “I am that clown!”

The crown’s sorrow lies in the compulsion to be one thing and the imperativeness to appear to be something else.

Here is an example, an extreme case of self-induced dichotomy which makes it almost mandatory for a genius to live in the twilight area between the joy of being alive and the anguish of knowing the sheer futility of the whole process of being and becoming.

To plunge him in sorrow in the prime of life was perhaps fate’s way of grooming Raj Kapoor for the fulfillment of his artistic destiny, which he achieved within a decade.

However, to be a successful artist with wealth and to be a happy man are two different things.

It may sound fantastic but I maintain that this entertainer of millions who is so rich has not found happiness for himself.

His sorrows, in my view, come from some deep, unfulfilled purpose. To make people laugh and forget themselves for a while is not enough.

The Indian cinema will be pooer the day Raj Kapoor gets over his present sense of frustration, a by-product of which is his artistic talent.

I do not know how and when it actually began but over the years, Raj Kapoor has felt a burning need for understanding.

  • raj kapoor in studio

It matters little to him if he is not understood in the context of his fame. But where his creative urge is concerned his need to be understood, appreciated, and accepted is supreme.

He is essentially a man who is smothered by the fire of his own blood so that whatever comes too near it is bound to be scorched.

Conversely, whoever can match that fire with his or her own passions is sure to be swept into the blaze of his life.

But God helps anyone who approaches with the lofty intention of dampening the conflagration. Who could dampen a volcano? The proposition is impossible.

So, in the make-believe world of cinema, where calculated civility passes for love and friendship, I see little hope for him in the sphere of human relationships.

And how does he react to this dilemma? I believe he accepts it in the only manner open to a brave aspirant after great heights with courage in his heart and a sad smile on his lips!

During the last few years that I have known him, I have often felt that at the core of his thinking-feeling, there lurks a sense of guilt which can be related directly to his great success.

It is possible for a very successful person to be affected psychologically by the lot of his less fortunate fellowman.

In his own affluence, their lot becomes a burden to his conscience. This sense of sorrow need not necessarily interferer with his further pursuit of success this duality of experience that can be acutely painful to the sensitive soul of a true artist.

I have often heard Raj Kapoor speak of his success as though it were a curse and halter round his neck.

I have seen him sulking and grieving because he felt as one confined to an ivory tower, his contact with a life cut off.

We have seen him at the R.K.Studios longing to go out into the street where, according to him, real humanity moves and throbs with life.

But that pleasure is denied to him by his own hero-worshipping fans who mob him wherever he is seen.

When “Jis Desh Men Ganga Bheti Hai” was being made, I once went to Mr. . Katrak’s studio at Tardeo and was surprised to see Raj Kapoor sitting cross-legged in the durwan’s hut, sipping kheer prepared by that ancient servitor and asking for a second helping!

When he emerged from that humble shed his face registered happiness rarely derived from any of the banquets he had attended.

The watchman was to him and he to the watchman a fellowman with none of the frills of wealth or status.

The same night there was a dinner at his house. Here the well-groomed Raj Kapoor was the perfect host circulating among his distinguished guests, a whole galaxy of film stars and socialites.

Watching his polished manner, I felt that what he was putting over at the moment was a consummate act, appropriate to the occasion, while his chat with the aged watchman that morning was as man to man which brought him a warm glow of honest fellowship.

Popularity may be the reward of exceptional talent but its price is loneliness and Raj Kapoor was surely a lonely man that evening.

The Positive And Beautiful

What did Raj Kapoor set out to achieve when in his early twenties he produced and directed his first picture. It was fame and power: today he has these in great measure.

Why then this sorrow and emptiness? Vairagya? That does not stand to reason, because he is still young to be satiated. It is a temporary assuagement of his all-consuming ambition? His every gesture and attitude proclaim an emphatic “No”.

Is it a cunning mask behind which he tries to hide his vainglorious triumph? Again the answer is “No”, because most of his colleagues believe as I do, that he is too decent for such hypocrisy.

If I may venture a guess, his sorrow is the sorrow of a dedicated knight whose quest of the Holy grail has not yet ended. Whether the quest will succeed or not, I cannot say.

But of one thing I am certain. The shame that comes from pursuing petty aims will never be his. No cowardice will balk his flights of creativity. However desperate his craving for company, he will never stoop to hobnob with shame.

So much has already been written about the phenomenal success he has achieved at such a young age, about the new slant he has given to our films and the distinctive points of his character and temperament, that under this mass of observations a good bit of his human side remains buried.

For instance, it is not known to his admirers that in spite of repeated efforts he cannot properly pronounce the bewakoof, that he is large-hearted in dealing involving large sums of money but shockingly thrifty where small amounts are concerned, that he has an obsessive belief in his own youthfulness.

Raj Kapoor has a deep-seated fear of air travel. It is interesting to observe him a few hours before he goes on an air trip. He becomes so preoccupied with thoughts of impending disaster that nearly anything he says or does is colored by that fear.

When he was leaving for Japan recently on business many of us gathered at his residence in the morning. Someone congratulated him on the success of “Jis Desh Men Ganga Behti Hai”.

Instead of acknowledging the congratulation with his usual courtesy, he exclaimed: “What use are all the wealth and glory? You cannot take them with you when you die!”

A heavy silence fell on everyone; the friend who evoked the pessimistic remark was embarrassed. Then as if everyone suddenly caught the point of an unuttered joke, there arose a full-throated guffaw, after which everyone assumed the role of an expert and gave Raj Kapoor all the inside dope about the latest safety devices used by airliners. This dispelled his gloom and he began to listen to us with a sense of relief.

It now occurs to me that perhaps it is his belief in the positive and beautiful that invest his work with such warmth and beauty. In a purely commercial sense, this has perhaps done him harm.

  • raj kapoor portrait

Many apparently beautiful plans presented by those cleverer than him have put him to one kind of loss or another. but experience has made him wise and it is my feeling that anyone who now talks to him glibly about the “sheer beauty” of a plan will find his match in Raj Kapoor.

This brings me to another significant aspect of Raj Kapoor’s personality. He loves money without understanding all that it implies.

To him, it means what it means to a child. He knows only of its purchasing power. He does not know that in most cases to much money may do as much harm to its possessor as too little.

Extreme affluence, like extreme want, clogs an artist’s genius. Raj Kapoor owes it to his vast following here and abroad to guard against this risk.

A genius like him, so consumed by his social conscience must be ever vigilant that the artist in him is not supplanted by the shopkeeper, no matter what the need or temptation.

If such a supersession comes about, not all the wealth in the world would be enough to wipe out the tragedy. What if the tragedy does take place after all?

It won’t be a great surprise because firstly Raj Kapoor too is a human being and secondly great tragedies have ceased to evoke great surprise in the world as we know it.

What is important is to find out whether one detects in Raj Kapoor the latent subtle makings of a cold-blooded shopkeeper. I am afraid one does. I say this with a definite reason.

When a creative artist sets out to conquer the world through the agency of a business organization he exposes himself to the danger of gradually hardening at the core of his thinking feeling, and that more often than not is the beginning of his end as an artist.

We have only to look around to find confirmation of this.

Strange Affliction

Every creative artist who went all out to amass big money at all costs ended up either as a slick manipulator or a prestigious studio owner, both of whom eventually killed the first entity the artist!

The cinema is certainly an art form of tremendous possibilities but it is also big business, based primarily on the profit motive. Imagine a true creative artist becoming sick with the profit motive and his unbridled ambition!

And imagine his suffering when the sickness eats into his creativity changing him slowly from angel to man to monster! Raj Kapoor the studio owner is a danger to Raj Kapoor the dreamer. (One hardly encounters dreams in the cruel context of management and labor!)

No wonder most of our artist studio owners have become less and less of artists with the passage of years, I wish Raj Kapoor were an independent producer entirely free from the responsibility of running a big film producing concern.

Knowing him as I do, I have every hope that the businessman in him will not get the better of the artist. Contrary to popular belief Raj Kapoor has not always been a rich man.

He has made large sums of money, and there were ups and downs. But he has always had high hopes and confidence in his ability to meet his obligations as the head of a fulled fledged production concern.

Apart from this robust self-confidence, he has always had a notion that God was on his side. He owes this deep religious faith to the influence of his worthy mother and his wife Krishna.

Both these devout ladies are in fact the mainstay of the citadel of his glory. I am reminded of a domestic scene of which I was an embarrassed witness.

It seems Raj Kapoor was driving along Marine Drive one afternoon when he noticed a pretty girl. Eager to have a good look at her, to see if he could consider her as a possible leading lady in a new film, he asked his wife to attract the girl’s attention.

He was unprepared for the result. Had he applied a match to a keg of gunpowder, there wouldn’t have been a more devasting explosion!

Worsted in the first round and failing to learn wisdom he brought his grievance to his beloved mother in his court of appeal. But before he was half through his plaint he was startled to find that the indignant matriarch had more in the same vein to deliver.

  • young raj kapoor

The seeker of wisdom had had enough. So retreating speedily he stormed up the stairs shouting for his wife’s help. The house was instantly filled with his screams and the jeers of his own brood who had enjoyed their eavesdropping.

No wonder he has the consummate skill and artistry to play the almost impossible role of a grown-up child!

Having observed him closely during the last few years, I have discovered one of Raj Kapoor’s strangest afflictions. You see him enjoying himself and that ironically is just the time he is prone to slide into the deepest suffering.

You see him enjoying himself and that ironically is just the time he is prone to slide into the deepest suffering. Everyone in the film industry knows that Raj Kapoor is a most hard-working man.

His energy is phenomenal, his single-minded devotion to work has to be seen to be delivered. But very few know that he is happy only when he is working.

The moment there is no work he withdraws to his cozy room hoping that a friend or an acquaintance, would drop in and somehow introduce an element of turmoil into his peaceful life. And Raj Kapoor returns the “favor” with his best hospitality!

Those of us who have been at the receiving end of his kindness owe our luck partly to work and mostly to our ability to give him the dope he craves for during leisure, the dope named trouble! What it boils down to is this if he cannot have an occasional bout with misery, he would be very unhappy indeed.

Suffering: Lot Of Genius

It is a heightened state of mind that a genius experiences before he isolates himself from the rest of the world, stands alone, and loses himself in creativity.

I know of many who have spent a few hours with Raj Kapoor during his leisure and returned home terribly bruised in spirit and sad at heart not at all aware that they have been in contact with the restlessness of a genius!

Before I came to seek a career in films, I had mentally collected quite a crowd of heroes and worshipped them from afar. But in the last nine or ten years, I came to know them personally and lost all my idols, for I discovered that they had but feet of clay.

The only one who is made of the stuff heroes are made of is the subject of this rambling study – Raj Kapoor. “Genius does what it must and talent does what it can,” said Owen Meredith in one of his poems.

The what it must attitude of Raj Kapoor corroborates this magnificent dictum. It was illustrated in no small measure when he made “Jis Desh Men Ganga Behti Hai.”

Here is the story of a child of twenty-four (I say child advisedly) who sings as if the song were in his blood who has the zeal of a fanatic and has set his heart on a lofty goal – emancipation of the hated and the outcast.

Such a character your experience warns you is doomed to a violent end due to his own impetuosity. You know that aperson like Raju is bound to be didactic and a bore and may raise a hornets nest.

Scores of vocies, friendly and honest protest against every thing that Raju presumes to stand for. He is accused of self righteousness.

Idealism is all very well for a Nehru or a Bhave but for the pivotal character in a film, it is nothing but poison! People speak from the heart; they shoot from the hip.

Sometimes they hit below the belt. But to all this their target is impervious. He alone has the instinctive awareness of his own doggedness and vision.

What genius must do, it must do. It does! The result is a huge gamble of half a crore and the auditoriums across the land are eventually filled with a welter of laughs and sighs and spontaneous tributes to the beloved lunatic – the one who overrode all opposition who knew that even crime had to be looked upon with compassion! Genius does what it must because genius is courage, compassion and bravery!

Some kind of a deep suffering is the lot of a genius and he cannot rid himself of his innate sense of loneliness until there emereges on life’s horizon the bright sun of his purpose.

Raj Kapoor’s suffering is the suffering of an idealist in search of a grand purpose and a sacred rage. If the monster of acquisitiveness does not swallow him up, he will find both – the purpose as well as the rage.

The millions who love him will wait for and watch the further stages of his development. – Filmfare 1962

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