First of all, I sincerely thank my friend and esteemed reviewer, Deepak M.R. for inspiring me to write a review of this classic movie from the prestigious RK banner of Bollywood. Actor-producer-director Raj Kapoor has given many excellent movies to the Hindi movie audience, yet Awara (1951) stands tall among them all. It’s a movie which is not only considered a classic by critics from all strata and categories but had got thumping commercial success also. Its song in Mukesh’s immortal voice – Aawara Hoon, found itself echoing not only in the streets and corners of India but also of Russia and China.Nature vs. Nurture is an ages old controversy starting from the plants and small creatures and extended to the human-beings. Can the acquired characteristics be transferred through genes ? Is it necessary that a baddie’s offspring will turn into a baddie only and good soul’s offspring will develop as a good and virtuous human-being only ? No ! Answers the movie. As far as the development of characteristics and personality traits are concerned, nurture has a much bigger (perhaps the only) role in that instead of nature or the acquiring of such things by birth.Aawara (stray) starts with the trial of Raj Kapoor with his biological father, Prithviraj Kapoor being on the other side and his lady-love, Nargis as his defence attorney. The story moves to flash back with the abduction of Prithvraj Kapoor’s wife, Leela Chitnis by a baddy, K.N. Singh. However when she returns, she has to face the horrible truth of suspicion in the eyes of her household members (including her husband) that she was raped by K.N. Singh and the child being carried by her in her womb belongs to K.N. Singh only, not Prithvraj Kapoor, her husband. The insect of suspicion, eats up the wisdom of Prithviraj Kapoor and he expells his pregnant wife from his home. She gives birth to a son and fosters him under the hope that he will become a learned man like his father. However, poverty and hunger throws him into the arms of K.N. Singh only who is hell-bent upon inflicting a life-long bitter revenge upon Prithvraj Kapoor who had awarded him a harsh sentence earlier. He develops Raj Kapoor has a baddy only and one day himself gets killed by him. When Raj Kapoor is tried for the murder charge, Nargis reveals the truth that Raj Kapoor is none else but the son of Prithvi Raj Kapoor himself. Ultimately the father recognizes and embraces his son who is sentenced to prison for the murder.Aawara emphatically underscores the fact that it is ultimately the nurturing and environment which matters in the development of the personality of a child. The child of a highly learned, pious and virtuous family may become a criminal in the company of bad guys and the child of a sinful person may become a very nice and admirable person by getting the fosterage of a pious family.Raj Kapoor has given admirable direction to the story, written by Khwaza Ahmed Abbas. The narrative has been made entertaining, not sermon-heavy. There are ample doses of comedy, romance and melody in the movie. The scene in which Raj Kapoor beats himself behind the wall to win the heart of Nargis, is hilarious. The master story-teller has used symbols quite artistically to signify different connotations. The use of moon in the song- Dum Bhar Jo Udhar Munh Phere, is a marvellous example in this context.Raj Kapoor was a shrewd filmmaker. He used to deliver entertainment enveloped in message instead of delivering message enveloped in entertainment. He has done the same thing in Aawara too. The movie supposedly underscore the supersession of nurture over nature. However when Nargis tries to convince Prithviraj Kapoor that Raj Kapoor is indeed his son, she refers to his anger which is a ditto of his father. What does it indicate ? Definitely the transition of acquired characteristic through genes. Further, if Raj Kapoor comes out as a good person in the end, ultimately the belief of his father only comes true that a good man’s offspring is meant to be a good one only. This is contradictory because this way, the nature triumphs, not the nurture.The technical and production value aspects are quite according to the standards set by Raj Kapoor for the movies of his banner. This black and white movie reminds of the noir cinema of the forties. Raj Kapoor’s permanent cameraman, Radhu Karmakar has caught the mood of the movie very well through his camera.The music of Shanker Jaikishan is great. The song – Aawara Hoon had almost become the national anthem at the time of the release of the movie and even today, after sixty-six years, it is as popular as it was at that time. The other songs of the movie are no less by any means.The performances of Nargis, Leela Chitnis, K.N. Singh etc. are very good. Raj-Nargis chemistry is enchanting like always.I will specially mention two actors- Prithviraj Kapoor who has delivered a towering performance in the role of judge Raghunath and Shashi Kapoor who has played the childhood version of Raj Kapoor quite briliiantly at the tender age of 13 years. Raj Kapoor, as the perennial Raju, has again done well with his mannerisms. Raj Kapoor has even brought his grandfather, Deewan Bashesharnath in the movie, as the judge in the court in which his trial for K.N. Singh’s murder takes place.Before ending the review, I just put up one point which always haunts me whenever I read any such thing or any such movie (including the Ramayan) that to which extent it is justified to harass a woman under suspicion of being raped and carrying an illegitimate child in her womb due to that incident. Though the movie was made in 1951, still the people’s psyche is more or less the same in the Indian society. Had Raj Kapoor’s mother, Leela Chitnis been actually raped by K.N. Singh, would Prithviraj Kapoor be justified in expelling her from the house (that too in the pregnancy state) ? Why should a woman be punished for a crime committed by a man and that too by quoting Lord Ram and justifying this injustice to the woman through the example of Lady Sita ? This question always makes me uncomfortable.
All Raj Kapoor fans and the people who are fond of watching musical and profound classic movies, should watch Aawara which is definitely one of the best movies of actor Raj Kapoor as well as director Raj Kapoor.
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