Raj Kapoor practiced the antics and body language of circus jokers by observing the Great Russian circus clowns. He always felt he had a joker in himself. It made others laugh but cried in his inner self. No wonder he remains Indian cinema’s best sere comedian. He was a born actor.
When director Kidar Sharma slapped his assistant Raj Kapoor on the sets he noticed tears in his eyes. Raj Kapoor fancied putting makeup on his face and performing in front of the camera. Understanding the actor in him, Kidar Sharma introduced Raj Kapoor as an actor in Neel Kamal in 1946. He soon became the youngest actor, director of Indian cinema.
From the late 40s to the end of the 60s, Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand formed the grand trinity of Indian cinema. Dilip Kumar was the grand thespian, Raj Kapoor the eternal tramp, Dev Anand the evergreen romantic. The three shared a set of unspoken ethics and silent regard for each other.
He was a better actor than a director. Both V.Shantaram and Satyajit Ray acknowledged this after viewing Jagte Raho, Teesri Kasam and Mera Naam Joker. As a director, he was an excellent technician who directed several socially purposeful entertainers with romantic angles. Barsaat, Awara, Shree 420 and Sangam stand testimony to this.
As a human being, he was grounded. Raj Kapoor decided to sleep on the floors of a London hotel room during a visit in the 60s. Though the hotel people disagreed he convinced them. On the sets of Shree 420, he shared his lunch with a technician who did not have money to have food.
He was a true romantic at heart. When he approached Suchitra Sen to appear in an R.K. production, he sat on the floor of her room to narrate the script. Suchitra Sen politely refused the film and felt awkward that such a celebrity opted to sit on her floor. Later she confessed to very near ones that Raj Kapoor was truly down to earth and an unpredictable class actor.
The way he mingled laughter with tears was superb. The showman had opt for offbeat characters like Gopinath, Aah, Sharada, Chalia and Char Dil Char Rahen. Raj Kapoor’s best directional ventures according to him were Shree 420 and Mera Naam Joker.
After Mera Naam Joker getting flopped, Raj Kapoor was heartbroken and he decided not to appear in films directed by him. His later ventures Bobby, Satyam Shivam Sundaram and Ram Teri Ganga Maili were big hits but lacked his earlier classy touch.
The actor-director’s psychology was best understood by K A Abbas. It is rarely known that Raj Kapoor permitted Manoj Kumar to rewrite the first half of Mera Naam Joker and Abbas approved the script copy. With an inborn sense of rhythm, he had danced Bharatanatyam matching Waheeda Rehman step by step to the song Suno Ji Suno in Ek Dil Sau Afsane.
Raj Kapoor was hero-worshiped in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Comrade Mao Zse Tung’s perennial favorite song was Awara Hun. He could play many musical instruments like the table, piano accordion and piano.
He never failed to compliment others for their good work. The ‘showman’ was the first to congratulate Guru Dutt for the laters Saheb Biwin Gulam. Only a personality like Raj Kapoor could openly clap and praise Nutan in Sujata saying, “Wah Wah.”