Legendary actor-filmmaker Raj Kapoor's films have been a feast of cinematic excellence and are extremely popular not only in India but in other parts of the world. Now the organisers of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) want North Americans to understand the work of the genius.
TIFF, in association with the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA), is organising a Raj Kapoor retrospective where a total of 15 of his iconic films will be screened including "Aag", "Awara", "Shree 420" and "Sangam".
"Many reasons drove us to request IIFA about the possibility of doing a Raj Kapoor retrospective. We have long believed at TIFF that Raj Kapoor is one of the most under- recognised filmmakers in North America. His contributions have been essential to Indian cinema and seeing his films is essential to understanding Indian cinema, particularly Hindi cinema," Noah Cowan, TIFF's artistic director, told IANS in an interview.
"So for us there is an enormous educational mandate. We really want people to see these films, not only the South Asian community here but everyone as a whole," he added.
Also, several pieces of memorabilia like costumes, cut-outs and props used during his films will be displayed.
"We believe that it will shed new lights for a lot of people on Indian cinema as a whole and the films themselves individually contain so many master works which haven't been fully respected yet by the international community. We want to ensure that Raj Kapoor's legacy is understood in North America," Cowan said.
The retrospective is slated to begin June 26, a day after the IIFA awards ceremony in Toronto, and many members of the Kapoor clan, including his sons Rishi Kapoor, Randhir Kapoor, Rajiv Kapoor, grandson Ranbir Kapoor and granddaughter Kareena Kapoor among others, are expected to attend the event.
The tribute will go on till early August.
"We are the curatorial lead on the programme. The selection of films and the shape of the programme has come from TIFF. We insisted very strongly that new 35mm prints were made of the key films. This will help in case other institutes globally want to access the films from us," said Cowan.
Raj Kapoor was one of his kind -- he was only 24 when he launched his own studio, R. K. Films, and became the youngest director of his time after directing "Aag" in 1948.
There was no looking back for the genius storyteller after that and he went on to climb the success ladder by producing, directing and acting in successful movies like "Barsaat" (1949), "Awaara" (1951), "Shree 420" (1955), "Chori Chori" (1956).
He also made "Satyam Shivam Sundaram" for his actor brother Shashi Kapoor. He launched his sons under his banner - in 1971, he introduced his eldest son Randhir with family drama "Kal Aaj Aur Kal" and two years later Rishi with teeange romance "Bobby", which turned out to be a rage.
In 1985, he made "Ram Teri Ganga Maili" for his youngest son Rajiv and three years after directing the controversial movie, he died at the age of 64.
Raj Kapoor's popularity tanscended borders and moviegoers were crazy about his films in the erstwhile Soviet Union . His films established him as the Charlie Chaplin of Indian cinema and he also had a huge fan following in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
Cowan is also a great fan of the legendary actor-filmmaker.
"As the lead programmer of the event I saw all his films. I saw most of them long before now because I'm a fan of films and my mentor encouraged me to see Raj Kapoor films as a kind of instruction manual for understanding Hindi cinema. If you see films like 'Awara', '420', etc., you see an entirely different kind of cinema in the making which is mesmerising. It changed me for ever and made me a fan," he said.
Asked how popular Hindi cinema is in Toronto, Cowan said: "There isn't a lot of Bollywood in Toronto. But some of the bigger ones particularly that are profiled at the film festivals create curiosity and the non-South Asian community gets interested.
"But Hindi films are regularly released in some theatres there because of the large South Asian community in the country."
(Ruchika Kher can be contacted at email@example.com)