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Life imitates art

Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai, when it was released in 1961, proved Raj Kapoor’s grip on the public imagination to be strong as ever. Surendra Miglani pays a tribute to the great showman on his death anniversary, which falls on June 2

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When some ferocious dacoits surrendered to the police on the prompting of Loknayak Jai Prakash Narain sometime in the late 1970s, film critics and cine-goers were amazed to see how life was imitating art. Great showman Raj Kapoor had suggested this solution to tackle the menace of dacoits in Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai. Ironically, when the movie was released—in 1961— several critics had described the idea as "ridiculous".

A lot of people, the film tried to convey, were forced to remain dacoits as fear of harsh punishment constantly haunted them. The children of the dacoits, too, did not have any choice but to adopt this profession, as they feared that the society would not let them live with dignity. If the government assured the dacoits that they would be treated leniently, there was a chance to lessen the burden of the dacoits from society to a great extent, the film emphasised.

As if the idea of Raj Kapoor making a film on dacoits was not sufficient to make the observers ridicule it, Raj engaged Arjun Dev Rashk to write the story of the movie. The latter was known to be a writer of urbane and highly sophisticated themes.

Even Shanker (of Shanker-Jaikishan team) refused to do the film, saying a movie on the theme of dacoits had no scope for music. However, Raj, as always, had faith in himself. To convince Shanker, he hit upon an idea. It was a tradition in Raj’s camp to prepare a tune and then write a lyric for it. However, in this case, Raj asked Shailendra to first write the opening lines of the theme song of the movie. Then he invited Shanker and spoke the lines penned by Shailendra, "Hoton pe sachai rehti hai, jahaan dil mein safai rehti hai; hum us desh ke waasi hain, jis desh mein ganga behti hai". He asked the ace composer if he still believed that such poetic words, evoking the flow of the Ganga, did not offer any scope for music.

The two lines were enough to motivate Shanker to sign on the dotted line instantly. Come to think of it, the movie came to be a milestone in the annals of Hindi film music. A record number of five songs—Ho maine pyar kiya.., Mera naam Raju..., Hoton pe sachai rehti hai... Begani shadi mein Abdullah diwana... and O basanti pawan paagal—were played in the annual programme of Binaca Geetmala of Radio Ceylon in 1961 which was considered to be a barometer of the popularity of songs for 41 years.

The song Ho maine pyar kiya`85picturised on Padmini bathing under a waterfall had a mesmerising effect on viewers. The number also faced problems with the Censor Board when it objected to the line Dheere dheere aakhir band kali muskayee, saying it carried a vulgar meaning. Hasrat Jaipuri, who had penned the song, revealed in a TV interview that he was forced to change the words to Dheere dheere aakhir man ki kali muskayee.

Noted music director Anu Malik considers Raj Kapoor as a genius in the field of music. He says he has never been able to understand how he and his team must have produced the unique chorus sound appearing to come from quite a distance in the song Aa ab launt chalen in Jis Desh Mein`85

The movie took the country by storm. At a special premiere of the film at Calcutta, Raj Kapoor came to address the audience during the interval. When he introduced himself as Mera naam..., the whole house interrupted him, yelling Raju, the name of the character played by him in the movie. Padmini said she did not know Bengali, so she would not be able to speak there. However, the fans yelled, "No speech, just say Oi Oi". The expression, thanks to her unique style of uttering it, made her a darling of cine-goers.

Another "style" which cinegoers remember to date was of Pran who essayed the role of ferocious dacoit Raaka who constanly rubbed his fingers round his neck. Pran says the mannerism was meant to convey the fear of noose, which always exists in the mind of every dacoit. Incidentally, the wig and the moustache of the dacoit were "copy" of a real life dacoit who was killed in an encounter those days.

The movie, incidentally, won four Filmfare awards—for Best Film, Best Actor (Raj Kapoor), Best Art Director (M.R. Acharekar) and Best Editor (G.G. Mayekar).


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