Jaagte Raho ! Have you ever heard this loud voice of a watchman in your locality in the darkness of late night hours ? I have heard it. The watchmen of now-a-days do not send such yells but the watchmen of the bygone period always used to do it. Sometimes the residents of the locality used to laugh at the yelling watchman with the thought – ‘It’s his duty to stake awake and protect us from burglars and he is asking us to do this job.’ Was this thought correct ? Is it only the duty of the paid watchman to stay awake and not of the public in general ? And what’s meant by staying awake (Jaagte Raho) – losing own sleep only or there’s some deeper meaning to these two words spoken out loud?
Legendary actor and filmmaker Raj Kapoor made a quest for the answer to these questions through a movie made by his home production house, i.e., the R.K. banner. This classic movie is Jagte Raho (1956) .
Jaagte Raho (stay awake) tells the story of one night only, the night spent by a villager Raju (Raj Kapoor) in a multistory building containing dozens of residential flats and business offices. He is a poor peasant who has migrated from his village to the metropolitan city of Mumbai (then Bombay) . He is very thirsty and when he enters a multistory building under the hope to have some drinking water, in no time, he finds almost the whole housing society going for his blood, terming him a thief. He keeps on running for his life from this floor to that floor, this flat to that flat and from this spot to that spot throughout the night, still thirsty. He has not been given even a drop of water but the residents of the society want his blood. He is not a thief. He is an innocent man, a simpleton who is seeing the bare, real face of the world in this building which is just like a miniature world. The people searching him on war footing, calling him a thief, themselves are criminals, law-breakers and persons of low morals. But instead of getting booked themselves, they are hell bent upon trapping this innocent man. The whole night passes in this fashion only and then due to his interaction with a little child (Daisy Irani), he realizes that he did not need to be afraid of anybody. Now he comes out fearlessly and takes upon the residents of the society who had been smelling him like blood hounds for hours. The movie ends with the quenching of his thirst when a nice woman (Nargis) offers him water.The movie was made more than six decades back but the mindset of the Indians has not changed much since then. The common psyche is ‘Pot calling the kettle black’. Instead of looking below own neck to see who we actually are and what our own reality is, we keep on finding faults with others forgetting conveniently that when we point one finger towards someone else, three fingers of that hand of us start pointing at ourselves only. Why doesn’t the Indian society improve ? Why doesn’t India grow as a nation? Because society and nation are abstract terms which derive their existence from individuals. When the individuals can’t improve and are not ready to mend their ways and practices, how can the larger institutions head further in the positive direction ? We, the Indians, are hypocrites and this hypocrisy of us only gets spread in all the institutions and collective phenomena. Jaagte Raho exposes this hypocrisy only.This is perhaps the only movie of the prestigious R.K. banner which does not contain glamour, aestheticism, Bollywoodish romance and lavishly pictured songs. With the exception of a song – Aye Wai Duniya Deve Duhaai, the filmmaker has kept the movie simple and free from the regular Bollywood formulae. This movie written and directed by Sombhu Mitra-Amit Maitra, tells a story emerging straight from the narrator’s heart and reaching straight to the audience’ heart. It moves you, stirs you and, of course, awakens you.In addition to Raju, certain other characters of the movie have also become unforgettable. One is a drunk man (played by Moti Laal) . Another is a child (Daisy Irani). The scenes involving these two characters (with Raju) are gems of cinema. Moti Laal’s performance on the song – Zindagi Khwab Hai, Khwab Mein Jhooth Kya Aur Bhala Sach Hai Kya and thereafter during his interaction with Raju is hilarious with these scenes having an undercurrent of philosophy. The character of the kid and his dialog with Raju proves to be an eye-opener for Raju as well as the audience. He asks Raju – ‘Are you a thief ?’ Raju denies. Then he asks again – ‘Then why are you so scared ?’ These words fall on Raju’s heart like lightning and he realizes that when he hasn’t done anything wrong, he need not be scared of anything or anyone. How precious are these words of wisdom ! When you are honest to yourself and your conscience, you cannot have fear of any kind.This movie breaks the myth of the progress of the country post independence (as prevailed in that era) and underscores the disillusionment with the Nehruvian idealism. It shows the downfall of moral values during the first decade of independence of the country.
The movie poses some serious questions. A person is doubted to be a thief just because he is poor and has a shabby appearance. Which extent is it correct ? Is wealth a symbol of character ? Why can’t a wealthy person be suspected to be a thief ? This is the biased elite mindset that links poverty to weak character. We can see in certain advertisements shown on TV that this mindset has still not changed.The narrative is fast paced and does not give any time to the viewer for a pause and breathe. The viewer remains hooked throughout once the story takes off. This is one of the initial movies whose narrative encompasses the events happening during just one night. We can consider it as the pioneer in this line.
Raj Kapoor has delivered a standout performance in the lead role and it can be counted among his five best performances. None could (and can) match Raj Kapoor in playing the role of a simpleton whose heart is clean like a mirror. Nargis is in a special appearance and the ending scene in which Raj Kapoor drinks the water offered by her is the last ever scene done together by this immortal on-screen pair of Hindi cinema. Nargis looks quite beautiful and impressive in her cameo. As stated earlier, Moti Laal and Daisy Irani have performed excellently. All others are also perfectly in place. The credit goes to the director duo for extracting the best out of every member of the cast and making a breathtaking, spellbinding movie.All the technical aspects are well in order. The movie boasts of simplicity and that’s why does not boast of high production value. But there’s no need of any kind of lavishness in this movie.Salil Chaudhary’s music is very good. Shailendra has supported his compositions with his beautiful lyrics (one lyric is of Prem Dhawan) . Jaago Mohan Pyare, Zindagi Khwab Hai, Thandi Thandi Saawan Ki Phuhaar etc. are all a treat for the melody loving ears.Jaagte Raho is a masterpiece. An illustration of cinematic excellence. It won the Crystal Globe Award in the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (1957) . The directors made this movie in Bangla also as Ek Din Raatre.Now-a-days the shouts of the watchmen (Jaagte Raho) are not heard in the housing societies or the colonies during the late night hours, reminding the people living there to stay alert. However let’s stay awake on our own. Crime and sin never sleep. Hence we also cannot afford to allow our conscience and senses to sleep.
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