|Imaga courtesy Indian International Film Academy|
Kapoor’s legendary film maudit was condemned throughout the Indian film world as an exercise in self-pity. A colossal failure, its reputation has been gradually revived by Western critics, who saw in it echoes of Chaplin’s Limelight and proclaimed it a self-reflexive masterwork.
Here Kapoor completely undermines the tramp persona he had so carefully evolved over two decades, removing from it all traces of heroism and social justice: this tramp is a saccharine, mopey, love-obsessed clown whose one goal in life is to follow in his father’s footsteps as a trapeze artist so he can “make Jesus laugh.”
Joker mirrors the three-story, three-ages structure of Kapoor’s first film, Fire, tracing the clown’s trio of pathetically failed relationships. As a sign of love, he sends each a sad clown doll and, later in life, gathers them all together at a circus performance for a kind of send-off monologue that begins and ends the film. This is a compulsively watchable, astonishing train wreck of a film.
These screenings of My Name Is Joker are part of MoMA's Raj Kapoor and the Golden Age of Indian Cinema film series, which runs through Sunday January 15th.