Actor-director Raj Kapoor’s highly ambitious movie Mera Naam Joker was a gamechanger for ‘The Showman’ despite being a commercial failure at the box office. It helped him consolidate his standing in the Soviet Union while proving that his brand of cinema was way ahead of the times. On Friday, as the classic completes 50 years, here is a look at why the film is a priceless gem.
Rishi Kapoor’s ‘debut’: ‘Chintuji’ made his big-screen debut as a child artiste, essaying the younger version of Raj Kapoor’s character in Mera Naam Joker. His scenes with Simi Garewal hit the right notes due to their effective presentation, adding a new dimension to the movie. Rishi garnered a fair deal of attention with his reel innocence and proved that he was ready to follow in his father’s footsteps.
The Bobby connect: The underwhelming response to Mera Naam Joker indirectly paved the way for Rishi Kapoor’s full-fledged debut. Raj Kapoor was forced to cast his son in Bobby as he did not ‘have money’ to approach superstar Rajesh Khanna for the romantic drama. The film, featuring Dimple Kapadia in the titular role, emerged as a runaway hit at the box office and the rest is history.
Timeless songs: The film featured quite a few hummable songs, which gelled with the narrative. The Jeena Yahaan Marna Yahaan song, in particular, struck a chord with its philosophical lyrics and effective presentation The song, which was used quite intelligently in the film, did a good job of highlighting the plight of the protagonist.
Stellar cast: Mera Naam Joker marked the Bollywood debut of Ballet dancer and Russian character actor Kseniya Ryabinkina. She essayed the role of ‘Marina’, a close friend of the protagonist, and did justice to a role that added an international flavour to the film. The cast included promising stars such as Dharmendra, Rajendra Kumar and Manoj Kumar. Each actor had a well-defined role, getting ample scope to make an impact.
Touching story: Mera Naam Joker was arguably the first movie to focus on the life of a circus performer, exploring the pain of the man behind the mask. A song in the 1989 Tamil movie Apoorva Sagodharargal featured a subtle ode to the Bollywood, highlighting the tragic manner in which ’Appu’ is forced to put on a smiling face despite being heartbroken.