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Remembering Raj Kapoor on his 29th death anniversary.

Raj Kapoor is appreciated both by film critics and movie fans. Film historians and movie buffs speak of him as the “Charlie Chaplin of Indian cinema,” since he often portrayed a tramp-like figure, who, despite adversity, was still cheerful and honest. His fame spread worldwide. He was adored by audiences in large parts of Africa, the Middle East, the former Soviet Union, China, and Southeast Asia; his movies were global commercial successes. Raj had the knack of getting the best out of any one, since he had mastered all departments of film making and even marketing them. His films reflected the Era in which it was made.

Many of Raj Kapoor’s movies had a patriotic theme. His films Aag, Shree 420 and Jis Desh Men Ganga Behti Hai (In the country where the Ganges flows) celebrated the newly independent India, and encouraged film-goers to be patriots. Raj Kapoor commissioned these famous lyrics for Mera Joota Hai Japani, a song from the movie Shree 420:

Mera joota hai Japani (My shoes are Japanese)
Ye patloon Inglistani (These trousers are English)
Sar pe lal topi Roosi (The red cap on my head is Russian)
Phir bhi dil hai Hindustani (But still, however, my heart is Indian)

The song is still extremely popular and has been featured in a number of movies since Shree 420 was released. Indian author Mahasweta Devi stopped the show with her inaugural speech at the 2006 Frankfurt Book Fair when she used these lyrics to express her own heartfelt patriotism and debt to her country.

Raj Kapoor was a canny judge of filmi music and lyrics. Many of the songs he commissioned are evergreen hits. He introduced the music directors Shankar-Jaikishan and the lyricists Hasrat Jaipuri and Shailendra. He is also remembered for his strong sense of visual style. He used striking visual compositions, elaborate sets, and dramatic lighting to complete the mood set by the music. He introduced the actresses Nimmi, Dimple Kapadia, and Mandakini, as well as launching and reviving the careers of his sons Rishi, Randhir and Rajiv. Famous for making his actresses reveal the body, not very common then in Indian cinema, it was said his ‘show-womanship’ matched his showmanship.

The 1967 “Song about yogis” (Russian: Песенка про йогов) by Vladimir Vysotsky mentions Raj Kapoor as one of the three best-known symbols of Indian culture in the Soviet Union, along with Shiva and yoga.

A postage stamp, bearing his face, was released by India Post to honour him on 14 December 2001. To honour him, a brass statue of his was unveiled at Walk of the Stars at Bandra Bandstand in Mumbai in March 2012.

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