Techniques in Awara (1951)

by Tiffany

Directed by: Raj Kapoor
Starring: Raj Kapoor, Nargis

I love movies that are sentimental and invoke nostalgia, although by today's standards they may seem a bit outdated or cheesy. This movie is a classic Bollywood film about romance and the socio-political struggles that may cross its path. This lesson will talk about a few of the storytelling elements/techniques in the movie.


This movie became a phenomenal hit in the USSR and China. Chairman Mao was so fond of this movie that to this day, millions of middle-aged Chinese can hum songs from the film.


Plot



Raj is a poor vagabond because he has been estranged from his cruel father, a wealthy Judge Raghunath (played by the Kapoor's real-life dad). He threw out Raj's mother years ago when she is kidnapped and he is unsure who the baby belongs to. Raj befriends Rita as a child, but the judge (who becomes Rita's guardian after her parents die) tear them apart.Raj turns to petty crime and finds a father-figure in Jagga. One day, he snatches a woman's purse and decides to return the purse and realizes that it's Rita. Years later, he realizes Jagga is the man who kidnapped his mother and kills him in a fit of rage. He also tries to kill his father, but fails and is brought to the court. Rita serves as his lawyer and recounts these events from the past.

"Awara" means "The Vagabond" in Hindi.

Storytelling Elements



Flashbacks

When the film opens, Raj is on trial for the attempted murder of Judge Raghunath. He's definitely by a beautiful young lawyer, whose interrogation leads to a long flashback that occupies much of the film. Flashbacks are useful for taking the narrative back in time and understanding the backstory to the main plot.




References to Charlie Chaplin

The Little Tramp is a character often portrayed by Chaplin, a bumbly but good-hearted character who is a vagabond. He has the manners and dignity of a gentleman despite his low social status. He walks strangely because of his ill-fitting clothes and can't afford new ones. This character is a social commentary that criticizes the faults and excesses of capitalist society, but also portrays the belief and optimism in the hope of success.

The main character Raj is obviously a reference to the silent actor Charlie Chaplin. Raj's nickname is Raju, means little Raj. The opening song is appropriately named "Awaara hoon", meaning "I am a tramp". While he sings, we see him prancing on the street in a style that is similar to Chaplin - clumsy, with lots of physical/slapstick comedy, but sweet and sincere. Watch the video below to see!




Dream sequence

This is one of the most remarkable dream sequences in cinematic history for it is both hypnotic and seems to draw from various influences within the Surrealist movement. Raj tries to escape the hell created by Jagga, his father-figure who turns out to have been responsible for his mother's estrangement from the family, and wishes to climb the steps that will lead him to Rita and his salvation. The dream represents a tug-of-war of internal conflict in Raj's soul. The song in the clip is "Tere Bina Aag Yeh Chandni", which means Without You, This Moonlight is Fire. Note Rita is displayed as some sort of Greek goddess, surrounded by women in goddess gowns and with even Greek columns as a backdrop.

A dream sequence is a technique used in storytelling to set apart a brief interlude from the main story. The interlude may consist of a flashback, a fantasy, a vision, a dream, or some other element. While many critics dislike dream sequences and dismiss them as cheap ways to explain a character's thoughts without integrating them into the plot, it helps to shed light on the psychological process and emotions of the character in question. Audio and visual elements, such as the distinctive music and cloud mists, are used in this sequence to signify the beginning and end of the dream.






Mujhko yeh narak na chahiye; mujhko phool, mujhko geet, mujhko preet chahiye
"I don't want this hell; I want flowers, music and love"




Portrayal of Romance

As with most Bollywood movies, the events are usually very dramatic and romanticized. Awara is no exception. It can be seen in this following song, "Dam bhar jo udhar munh phere", where the two lead characters chase each other on a sailing boat. At the end of the song, she warns him not to come any closer or the boat will sink - but then she succumbs to his love and says she'll take the risk of the boat capsizing. This flirting ritual is perhaps indicative of the sacrifice she is willing to make later on in the movie, waiting for him while he is in prison.







References/Images: Rediff, University of Iowa

5 Comments
    prvnyadav51
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    praveen yadavTue, 20 Oct 2009 12:50:31 -0000

    never even thiought abt this………

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    lucyinthesky
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    TiffanyFri, 19 Dec 2008 02:50:12 -0000

    Thank you, @binaljavia and @saumil! I really appreciate the comments. My latest Bollywood lesson is Chaudvin Ka Chand.

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    saumil
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    saumil shrivastavaThu, 18 Dec 2008 06:22:25 -0000

    Awesme lesson Tiff :)

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    binaljavia
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    Binal JaviaThu, 18 Dec 2008 05:10:07 -0000

    Great lesson !! Indian cinema has given such fantastic movies to the world, yet Academy (Oscar) has always shown prejudice against it. Thats really sad :(

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    lucyinthesky
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    TiffanyMon, 12 Jan 2009 22:51:57 -0000

    You're right! I think musicals and a lot of foreign movies are overlooked by the Academy Awards. It's too bad that there isn't enough media covering movies from places other than America and Europe - I believe entertainment such as the movies give us insight into other cultures and become less narrow-minded about the world we live in.

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    chandra_avinash
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    Avinash ChandraTue, 16 Dec 2008 18:19:47 -0000

    Great lesson Tiff :)

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    lucyinthesky
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    TiffanyTue, 16 Dec 2008 22:59:14 -0000

    Thanks Avinash!

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