Bollywood Rewind |  Shree 420: Raj Kapoor’s take on crooks posing as saviors


In this weekly column, we revisit the nuggets of the golden years of Hindi cinema. This week we revisit Shree 420, the 1955 film by Raj Kapoor.

For a young man with a university education, the world is his oyster. He can be whatever he sets his eyes on and when we meet Raj Kapoor in his 1955 film Shree 420 we see a carefree man who sees the world as his playground. money, but he surely has the intelligence to progress. From an honest buffoon who believes in the power of honesty, to a rich man who sold his soul to the devil – Raj goes through a tumultuous journey in Shree 420. But what brings him back to the ground is his deeply rooted morality. that doesn’t allow him to cheat on his new family in town and the woman he loves so much.

Raj Kapoor’s Shree 420 released a few years after his film Awara and solidified his character of “desi Charlie Chaplin”. A vagabond who goes from place to place and finds humor in the darkest situations, Raj is the man who wears a mask of joy just so he can get through his day. When Vidya de Nargis calls him for his buffoonery, he says he’s doing his best to get through life even though he understands the harsh realities of unjust society.


Shree 420 is set in a newly independent India and celebrates patriotism in all its glory. Shailendra’s “Mera Joota Hai Japaani” celebrates the inherent love that an Indian has for his country and is still considered a hymn among Indians around the world. But despite its patriotic aspect, the film blatantly highlights the government’s failure to provide many job opportunities, which has led to a huge divide between the rich and the poor. The film also believes in the philosophy that all rich people are morally dubious, which appears to be an attempt by the directors to please the less wealthy masses who were their audiences at the time. Directed by Raj Kapoor, the story of KA Abbas’ film centers on the uneven foundation of the country and offers a solution that seems extremely privileged.

At the start of the film, Raj struggles to find a job until he meets Maya, played by Nadira, who understands her gullible nature and tries to exploit her. Raj is enamored of glamor and disillusioned with the power of money. In an important scene in the film, Raj must choose his path. He can either stay in Maya’s complicit world or hang on to his morals and return to his simple life with Vidya. As the lyrics to “Mud Mud Ke Na Dekh” are sung by Maya, Raj is convinced not to look back.

While the protagonist here is Raj, the film pays enough attention to Vidya who is shown as his moral compass. Vidya is an educated woman who runs her own school but struggles to make ends meet. With “Pyaar Hua Iqraar Hua”, Vidya and Raj promise to be together despite their circumstances, so when Raj leaves her in a state of intoxication, Vidya decides to let him go for her own self-esteem.


Shree 420 is 66 years old, but what seems to be the most relevant aspect of this movie today is the way it presents its crowd mentality. In different sections of the film, we see Raj and other characters trying to make their way as they convincingly preach to a large crowd and as is always the case, the top speaker wins. When Raj deceives a large crowd with his worldview of a seth’s “Indianness”, the crowd is instantly drawn to Raj, but as soon as they realize that he is selling them a fake product, they beat him. It is this faith of the great masses, who are economically weaker, that leads Raj to hang up his crook hat.

shree 420 raj kapoor Nargis and Raj Kapoor at Shree 420. (Photo: Archives Express)

Watching the movie today Raj Kapoor’s Raj feels cartoonish and Nadira’s vamp Maya looks extremely monotonous. Nargis, who is clearly the best actor in the cast, is so magical in the film that watching his expressions in the song “O Janewale” is just fascinating. Lalita Pawar’s short cameo as Ganga Mai is adorable and endearing.

Shree 420 added to Raj Kapoor’s worldwide fame as a film, and his Shankar-Jaikishan music was widely celebrated around the world. The songs “Dil Ka Haal Sune Dilwaala”, “Ramaiya Vastavaiya”, “Ichak Dana Beechak Dana” written by Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri, are still classics.

Shree 420 takes its name from IPC section 420 which deals with cheating and fraudulent behavior. The addition of “Shree” to the title suggests that tricksters and crooks often hide under the clothes of respectable men and pose a threat to the naive and innocent men and women in our society.

Shree 420 may seem a bit old-fashioned today, but the film is worth watching for its iconic songs and chronicle of an era in Indian history where impressionable audiences believed in the promise of a future. better.

Bollywood rewind | Pyasa | CID | Madhumati | Naya Daur | Awara | Sharada | Do Aankhen Barah Haath | Bandini | Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam

Shree 420 is streamed on MX Player, ShemarooMe, ZEE5.


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