By Praveen Lance Fernandes, IndiaFM
Date of release: 6 July, 1956.
How many can recall Raj Kapoor's Jagte Raho? A film that a few might remember watching on television wondering whether it's Awara or Shree 420, Jagte Raho too is somewhat of a part of Raj Kapoor's 'Raju' series.
The plot is really thin and the screenplay written with wit. What happens when a man (Raj Kapoor) from a village comes to town in search of work but is deemed a thief when he breaks into a building just to quench his thirst?
While running away from a group of men led by young Iftekhar, Raj Kapoor ends up unintentionally discovering closets full of skeletons in the middle-class occupants' homes.
A drunk's (Motilal) fetish of making his wife dance to excite him, a respectable man's 'honest living' of producing fake currency, a couple's (Pradeep Kumar and Smriti Biswas) secret romantic endeavor whilst the girl's parents are asleep are just some of the shocking incidents that Raj Kapoor comes across behind closed doors.
How much patience can a timid man have especially when everybody chase him, try to kill him even though they are none the better? And all this when he hasn't had a drink of water for a long time. The final Raj Kapoor outburst speaks of the frustration that a poor man has to face in the midst of a hypocritical society.
Things are constantly happening and not once do you get a chance to get bored. In fact at portions, you do tend to get surprised as you had expected something else altogether.
The sequence where Raj Kapoor hides in a barrel only to be discovered by a drunk Motilal who befriends the barrel and invites him home to give it clothes is hilarious. Also the rope escape stunt towards the end is brilliantly executed.
Nargis makes a special appearance towards the end of the film in a song. The affair between Nargis and Raj Kapoor at that time was widely known but what was annoying was how such a wonderfully written film got a forced ending just to add Nargis into the film.
Raj Kapoor is the same Raj Kapoor that we have seen umpteen times in Shree 420, Anari, and Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hain. Some have praised his acting skills while some have said that he aped Charlie Chaplin. You decide on this front though the narrative does have the Charlie Chaplin stamp on it.
The rest of the supporting cast is really competent with Motilal and Iftekhar standing out. The handsome Motilal keeps on appearing at places and constantly makes his presence as the drunk who cannot differentiate between a living and non-living object.
A very young Iftekhar is a delight to watch. He has been seen in many a movie in supporting roles as a police-man or elder relative but here watching him lead a pack of youth in search of the alleged thief is something that will make us realize that he acted in his hey days as well.
Pradeep Kumar is highly competent as well though he has a lesser role as compared to Motilal and Iftekhar.
Music by Salil Choudahary is pleasant to the ears especially 'Zindagi Khwab Hai'. Even the song 'Jaago Mohan Pyare' picturized on Nargis is considered a classical hit though the sequence seemed forced in the film.
Debutant directors Shombu Mitra and Amit Mitra showed real promise in this film and not once did you feel that it was their debut film. Strangely, these two never made another Hindi film though they did foray in Bengali cinema later.
A man's natural desire to quench his thirst puts him an ordeal where his life is in danger and his faith in humanity is pushed to the limit- that is what Jagte Raho is about. For everybody who wants to catch up on some forgotten black and white cinema, Jagte Raho is a definite watch.
Veteran director, writer and producer K.A. Abbas is the dialogue writer of the film. Raj Kapoor had once called Abbas the pillar of his empire.
Daisy Irani is a child actor in the film.
A shortened version (115 minutes) of the film won the Grand Prix at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in 1957.
The song Motilal is humming is 'Zindagi Khwab Hain' sung by Mukesh. Incidentally, it was Motilal who brought Mukesh to Bombay after the latter sang at Motilal's sister's wedding. The two are also distant relatives.
Raj Kapoor is credited as Ranbir Raj Kapoor in the censor certificate.
In the opening credits, you can catch a glimpse of Metro cinema of Bombay. Sadly, it was broken down recently and converted into a multiplex.
Direction, story and screenplay: Amit Mitra and Sombhu Mitra
Cast: Raj Kapoor, Iftekhar, Motilal, Pradeep Kumar, Sumitra Devi, Smriti Biswas, Sulochana Chatterjee, Daisy Irani, Tun Tun and Nargis
Producer: Raj Kapoor
Dialogues: Khwaja Ahmad Abbas
Original Music: Salil Choudhury
Lyrics: Shailendra and Prem Dhawan
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar, Mukesh, Mohd. Rafi, Sandhya Mukherjee and Balbir
Cinematographer: Radhu Karmakar
Film Editors: G.G. Mayekar and Vasant Sule