Can't think of a better way to start off the New Year then to help put out the word about 2012's first Asian film series, at least in New York. That would be Raj Kapoor and the Golden Age of Indian Cinema, which will be taking place at the Museum of Modern Art from January 6th through the 16th.
Kapoor (1924–1988) was an actor, director and producer who was revered not only in India but throughout the former Soviet world, the Middle East, and beyond. However, aside from fans of South Asian descent, he is largely unknown in the United States. This series should make significant gains in correcting that situation, beginning this coming Friday evening with the first of two screenings of The Vagabond.
One of the greatest and most famous Indian films ever made, The Vagabond was a global (or at least Soviet and developing-world) sensation. Collaborating for the first time with star writer K.A. Abbas, Kapoor concocted a modern-day version of the tale of Rama’s banishment of Sita. A judge (Prithviraj Kapoor) rejects his pregnant wife after she is kidnapped and presumably raped by a criminal. Protesting her innocence, she raises her son Raju (Raj Kapoor) in poverty; after being expelled from school for not paying his fees, Raju is soon recruited into the same criminal’s gang.
When he is reunited with his childhood sweetheart Rita (Nargis), now a ward of the judge, he tries to extricate himself from the vicious circle of poverty and violence. The film’s extended dream sequence revolutionized Hindi cinema, and introduced the idea of externalizing characters’ inner conflicts though song-and-dance numbers. The film also marks the first appearance of the “tramp” persona that would make Kapoor famous.
The Vagabond will be shown twice:
- Friday, January 6, 2012, 6:30 p.m., Theater 1, T1
- Sunday, January 8, 2012, 5:00 p.m., Theater 3, mezzanine, Education and Research Building