On tuesday, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu released the book "Raj Kapoor: The Master At Work" and remembered the late showman for his invaluable contribution to making Indian cinema "a vehicle of cultural diplomacy" across the world.
Published by Bloomsbury India, the book is written by filmmaker Rahul Rawail, who served as an assistant director to Raj Kapoor on films like "Bobby", as told to Pranika Sharma. The book launch, held at India Habit Centre's Stein Auditorium here, coincided with Raj Kapoor's 97th birth anniversary and was also attended by the late director's eldest son Randhir Kapoor and grandson Ranbir Kapoor.
The vice president described the book as a "labour of love and dedication". "Raj Kapoor ji gave a new identity and direction to Indian cinema in the '50s and '60s, and his contribution to Hindi cinema as a sensitive producer and an eminent actor is invaluable. His films were based on the true characters that existed in the society. His films were lessons in life," Naidu said.
His early films showcase the influence of Charlie Chaplin and his character of The Tramp, the vice president added. "Raj Kapoor ji's persona of The Tramp was simple, honest and enduring, leading to his worldwide popularity," he said. Citing the examples of Raj Kapoor's movies like "Barsaat", "Awara", and "Shree 420", the vice president said these films were not only blockbusters at the box office but also had timeless melodies which are popular even today.
In his filmmaking journey as an actor, director and producer, Naidu said Raj Kapoor had the knack for unearthing remarkable hidden talent -- be it composer duo Shanker-Jaikishan, lyricists Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri or singer Mukesh, who went to become his voice of Raj Kapoor.
"Importantly, he was a team builder of exceptional merit... Songs from his movies enjoy unparalleled appeal in Russia and a number of Central Asian countries even today. The song 'Awara Hoon' became hugely popular in the Middle East and the (erstwhile) Soviet Union. Through his movies, Raj Kapoor ji turned India's cinema into a vehicle of cultural diplomacy," he said.
Cinema should generate positivity and happiness, Naidu further said. As the "most influential tool" which impacts the minds of the people, the vice president said filmmakers and creative people must ensure that films carry a "social, moral, and ethical message" without glorifying violence and vulgarity. Many of Raj Kapoor's films like "Jagte Raho", "Awara", and "Boot Polish" highlighted social changes, including consumerism and rapid decline of human values, he added.
Addressing the Kapoor kin -- Randhir and Ranbir, Naidu said while he is a critic of dynasty in politics, in art, "dynasty speaks of the great value that was given by Raj Kapoor". Rawail said the book is a "humble homage to his guru Raj Kapoor". "I'd like to thank Randhir Kapoor who stood behind the book like a rock," he added. The filmmaker, known for movies like "Love Story", "Betaab", and "Arjun", said it was "Shahid" writer Apoorva Asrani who asked him to write a book on Raj Kapoor. Rawail said he reached out to the late Krishna Kapoor, the wife of Raj Kapoor, seeking her permission to go ahead.
"Krishna ji told me 'Rahul, you were the closest person to my husband and things you narrated to me are the things I didn't even know about. So please have this book chronicled. If you don't do this, my husband's way of working will never be seen by anybody'," the director recalled. The book gives an insider view into the life of Raj Kapoor as a filmmaker and how Rawail learned the ropes of filmmaking at the Kapoor family's iconic RK Studios.
Randhir Kapoor, who has penned the book's foreword, expressed his gratitude to the vice president for unveiling the memoir. He said the vice president has not only been gracious to his family but also to the Indian film industry. "I feel privileged to be here in the presence of the vice president of India who has graciously come here to inaugurate my friend Rahul's book on my father," he said.
Ranbir Kapoor, who is in the capital to launch the motion poster of his upcoming film "Brahmastra" on Wednesday, said he read the book in "five hours flat". The actor said he got an insight into his grandfather's life as a filmmaker through Rawail's "brilliant" memoir. "I knew about him as a grandfather, husband, father, but through Rahul uncle's brilliant book, I got an insight into Raj Kapoor the filmmaker. As a student of cinema, I got to know Raj Kapoor -- the filmmaker, the director, the actor and the artiste that he was," he added.
Sharma, the co-author of the book, said it was her maternal grandfather who introduced her to Raj Kapoor's cinema when she was fifteen. "I was blown away when I saw the film ('Shree 420') back then... This book is for all ages and I hope it is read by people across the country," she added.
The event was also attended by film producers Boney Kapoor, Shabinaa Khan, and Rahul Mittra. The book is dedicated to Raj Kapoor's second son and father of Ranbir Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor, who passed away in April 2020 after a two-year battle with cancer.
-With PTI Inputs