Mera Naam Joker is a 1970 drama film, directed and produced by Raj Kapoor, and written by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas. The film stars Kapoor as the eponymous character, with Simi Garewal, Kseniya Ryabinkina and Padmini in supporting roles, and was also the debut of Kapoor’s son Rishi Kapoor. The plot focuses on a clown who must make his audience laugh at the cost of his own sorrows. Three women who shaped his life view his final performance.
The film is one of the lengthiest films of Indian cinema. After Sangam became a blockbuster, Mera Naam Joker was highly anticipated as it was under production for six years and heavily publicized, loosely based on Kapoor’s own life. The film was partly made with the participation of Soviet actors and was partly shot in Moscow. The film’s music, still very popular, was composed by Shankar Jaikishan, for which the duo got their ninth Filmfare award.
In India, upon release the film was rejected by audiences and critics, putting Kapoor into a financial crisis, as the film was panned for its length and plot. The film has gained a cult status and is regarded as a classic today. Both audience’s and critics’ response has turned highly favorable with the passage of time. An abridged version was released in the 1980s and had a highly successful run at the box office. Kapoor termed it his favorite film and described it as having deep philosophical depth and meaning. The film is regarded as one of Kapoor’s finest works today with film experts labeling it as a “misunderstood masterpiece”.
In the Soviet Union, the film also initially drew a mixed reaction from critics, yet commercially became a blockbuster at the Soviet box office after it released there in 1972. Rather than being released as a single film, the film’s three chapters were released separately as three parts in the Soviet Union.