(The Vagabond)

Screening on Film
Directed by Raj Kapoor .
With Raj Kapoor, Nargis, Prithviraj Kapoor .
India, 1951, 35mm, black & white, 193 min.
Hindi with English subtitles .

By the time he made Awaara, his third film as a director, Kapoor had built himself a studio and assembled a team of trusted colleagues, including cinematographers, screenwriters and composers. Their collaboration produced Kapoor’s most popular film, a runaway hit during its initial release across Asia, Africa, the Middle East and the Soviet Union. (It was also distributed, in an abbreviated version, in the US.) Now an enduring classic, it has even been dubbed the most popular film of all time. Its Dickensian plot concerns the estranged son of a judge who has been raised by a thief. His surrogate father trains him for a life of crime, but a reunion with a childhood sweetheart leads him to try to reform. In a move reminiscent of Capra, whom Kapoor counted as a major influence, the film’s political message of the struggle against the feudal and socioeconomic bonds is wedded to an Oedipal plot of struggles against and reconciliations with fathers. The film’s lavish sense of spectacle includes a nine-minute dream sequence that alone took three months to shoot.

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