Home Film and Enterntainment News Flashback Friday: Why Watch A Raj Kapoor, Nargis Starrer Awaara In Time...

Flashback Friday: Why Watch A Raj Kapoor, Nargis Starrer Awaara In Time Of Animal

Why Awaara Is This Week’s Pick In Our Flashback Friday Section

    Dec 14, 2023 marks Raj Kapoor’s 99th birth anniversary. Also referred to as ‘The Greatest Showman of Indian Cinema’, Raj Kapoor was one of Hindi cinema’s most influential actors and filmmakers. Interestingly, Raj Kapoor’s grandson and actor Ranbir Kapoor has often been compared to his grandfather. As Ranbir Kapoor’s latest release ‘Animal’ rages at the box office, we take a moment to go back to one of the biggest blockbusters of its time ‘Awaara’ which starred Raj Kapoor in the lead role, and was also directed by him.

New Delhi: ‘Awaara'( 1951) is ranked among one the ‘Top-Ten Greatest Performances of All Time in World Cinema’ by Time Magazine in 2005.

The crime drama written by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas was a blockbuster not just in India but in several parts of South Asia, and even the then Soviet Union, Africa, Middle East, Eastern Europe and the Caribbean.

‘Awaara’ stars Raj Kapoor, Nargis, Prithviraj Kapoor and K.N. Singh.

‘Awaara’ belongs to the social-realism genre of films that blends reformist themes in the plot by borrowing from melodrama, romantic comedy, and crime. Deeply rooted in the socio-cultural ethos of the aftermath of the partition of British India, it tries to show vast class divide between the uber rich and others, and how unemployment and poverty turn a petty thief into a criminal.

Awaara Plot

Raj Kapoor plays Raj, a vagabond( Awaara) trying to make a name for himself by honest and hard living. His school friend Rita ( Nargis) also becomes his muse and conscience who keeps him in a dilemma about choosing the path of righteousness or going along with what he is forced to do all along.

KN Singh plays Jagga, a bandit, wronged by the likes of a judge( Prithviraj Kapoor), now seeking revenge from the latter by drawing his son Raj on the path of deceit and murder.

Audiences of this age may look at ‘Awaara’ as any coventional, predicatable film with a plot they know like the back of their hand.

However, one has to consider the fact that the old gem of a film like ‘Awaara’, released in 1951, was one of the few firsts to bring such storylines on screen with a figure like Raj Kapoor indegensing influences like Charlie Chaplin on the Indian theatre screen.

Awaara Soundtrack

A notable highlight of ‘Awaara’ is its soundtrack. Its title song ‘Awaara Hoon’ sung by Mukesh is its most recognisable and popular feature.

‘Awaara’ was among the best-selling Bollywood soundtrack albums of the 1950s. The music of the film was composed by Shankar Jaikishan.

One cannot not miss the dream-sequence complimented by a track like “Tere Bina Aag Yeh Chandni”, a classic by all standards or the staging in “Dam Bhar Jo Udhar Munh Phere”.

Awaara Themes and Problems

‘Awaara’ rotates on two polar vortexes trying to find a middle-path to balance pragmatism and idealism.

However, unlike contemporary globalisation values steeped in mass materialism and commercialisation today, ‘Awaara is rooted in a plot and a Raj Kapoor figure who rails against capitalist and corrupt forces. It talks about the ideals of merit, and bringing social justice to a world that propogates and lives by dogmas that state ‘a bandit’s son will always a bandit and that a good man’s son will also be likewise’.

Set on the socialist premise that ‘merit overrides all’ and that we should all not just have the freedom to dream and rise above our respective social positions but also have the opportunity and sanction from society to do so; ‘Awaara’ is a ┬ásocio-political vigorous statement in itself.

It reinforces this passionately to an extent that in one heated moment, Raj Kapoor slaps Nargis right, left and centre and almost kills a man who calls him ‘junglee'( savage). A rather problematic move done at a time when this was an unfortunate practice in society and art, a reflection of the former.

‘Despite that, ‘Awaara’ is thematically very rich. It talks about too much but does not show that much. In that regard, the screenplay feels slightly bland but the fact that a social-realist film is sold in the commercial entertainer format of the day, ‘Awaara’ is a classic that requires a re-watch.


‘Awaara’ belongs to a school of film that puts across brutal truths without the need to resort to rampant violence, gore and declamation on what women can do and not do.

It is also talking about love overpowering class, money, pragmatism, crime and a chance to reform like some recent releases today, but through an alternative perspective when sub plots and a story is not hammered into audiences skulls but shown in a way that it does not leave them emotionally and physically drained after a watch.

You can watch Raj Kapoor’s ‘Awaara’ on Prime Video.

[ ]