9/20/08

Meera Naam Joker (My Name is Joker)

So I don't understand a word of these songs, generally, but I still love them. They're in Hindi and yes they come for an Indian movie. I don't speak Hindi (I speak Gujrati). This is sort of proto-Bollyhood. Yes, there are songs in the movies, but it's more in line with the American musical. And these aren't you standard songs in Raj Kapoor's Meera Naam Joker (1970).

I used to love Raj Kapoor movies as a kid: each one of them has a Chaplin-esque quality that I imagine Chaplin himself, if he saw any, would have enjoyed as well. Kapoor himself was an incredible actor, director, and producer who was backed up vocally by the singer Mukesh. Then, as now, there are professional singers that sync up with the actors. Mukesh and Kapoor had a symbiotic relationship, it seemed me to me. They could never be separated and I was quite upset when I found out that Raj Kapoor wasn't singing himself.

Kapoor, already quite popular, decided to make a sort of epic about life, love and the arts. Semi-autobiographical for sure, Mera Naam Joker tells the story of Raju, a man who constantly falls in love and who hides his inner pain behind the smile and makeup of a clown. OK, so it's not terribly original. The idea of the tragic clown is rather contrived, but that Raju, at the end of his career, invites the women back to see his smile and broken heart is fantastic to me. Raju basically wants only those women to see what he has become with his pain, even though after years of wandering, he has become one of the most famous entertainers.

I wish I could provide a translation of these songs, but I can't. They're just entertaining and, of course, a bit sad. If anyone (the millions of people who read this blog every minute) finds a translation, please post it in comments or email me (addy off to the side).

I'll draw a line and put some non-Mera Naam songs below it...

My brother loves this one:


"Where have the days gone?" or something like that, I think. Certainly my favorite:


Kapoor himself says "Have you seen my heart?" which must be the title of this song (note it's the end of the movie):


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Probably the most famous collaboration between Mukesh/Kapoor Shree 420 was about The Tramp, plain and simple. And this song is pretty famous (with subtitles finally!):


What kids wouldn't love this song? But I never noticed the nationalism rampant in the song! I mean, I knew what the opening stanza meant, but I've never read the rest. Apparently its popularity in a newly free India should be too surprising.
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This one isn't Kapoor "singing", but rather him watching a drunken man stumble around. It's from the movie Jagte Raho (Stay Alert/Awake) in which he plays a bum who gets caught up in all sorts of things. Yet another Tramp-ish quality, eh? (I don't think it's the same song at the beginning...wait for the whimsical drunken music!):


There are tons of others, but eh, who's reading anyways?
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In general, I notice that many of Kapoor's films have a Marxist twinge: you'll not the Russian woman in the Mera Naam Joker clips. India at this period in time greatly flirted with following a Soviet/European Socialist model and many believe that Nehru was hoping to follow that path. Can't say I blame him, certainly. Kapoor's films generally deal in the "boy goes to big city, becomes a greedy Capitalist/avoids becoming greedy Capitalist, meets girl."

In the case of Mera Naam Joker, Raju's Soviet lover has to go back to Moscow and offers for him to follow, which he cannot because of his Mother's age and health. He must ultimately let her go, but I believe that there is the implication that if Raju simply had followed her, he would be happy and wouldn't be a sad clown at the end of his career.

Perhaps in the future, I can sit down and go through Kapoor's films with a fine-tooth-Marxist comb.

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