50 Years of Mera Naam Joker, An Ode to the Golden Days

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International Cinema is celebrating 2020 as the centenary year of the birth of legendary Italian filmmaker, Federico Fellini. For Bollywood, it is the Golden Jubilee year for Raj Kapoor’s legendary “Mera Naam Joker”. This film released on 18th December 1970.


While Fellini portrayed the reality of life, Raj Kapoor bought the grandeur of colourful romantic dreams on screen. “Mera Naam Joker” was Raj Kapoor’s first attempt to change his stream, but the inferior performance of the film on box office crushed his dreams. Something very similar happened with Guru Dutt”s “Kaagaz Ke Phool” (1959) as well.


We see both these films are the classics of the Indian Film Industry. While in the 1970s when Dev Anand’s “Johny Mera Naam”, Rajesh Khanna’s “Sacha Jhoota”, “Aan Milo Sajna”, “Safar”, “The Train”, and Manoj Kumar’s “Poorab and Pashchim” were excelling at the box office, “Mera Naam Joker” was a big failure. If this film had succeeded in the box office, the face of Indian Cinema would have been different. But after its failure, Raj Kapoor returned to the familiar themes of romance and dreams. He created spiced up films like “Bobby”, “Satyam Shivam Sundaram”, “Prem Rog” and “Ram Teri Ganga Maili”.


With a production cost of Rs 1 Crore (10 Millions USD) which is huge amount at that time, “Mera Naam Joker” was a long film with duration of 4.4 hours. There were two intervals in the film.


Charlie Chaplin had a great influence on Raj Kapoor. In most of his films, he portrayed the character of an innocent common man like Charlie, who manages to make other tickle and laugh even in adverse circumstances. “Mera Naam Joker” was also his autobiography in a way. Similar to Greek dramas in its grandeur and sad compassion, the protagonist of this film is the clown of a circus. He wants to share and receive love. But time and again, his heart is broken, and eventually, he is left alone with his big compassionate heart.


Like most other films of Raj Kapoor, the music and composition of the film go with the flow of the story. In songs like “Jaane Kahan Gaye Wo Din”, “Aey Bhai Zara Dekh Ke Chalo”, “Kehta hai Joker Sara Zamama” and “Jeena yahan marna yahan”, the pain and anguish of the clown who wanted to share his philosophy of life with the society but was forced to go with the market, can be felt by the audience even today.

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