By: Asjad Nazir
Twenty fun facts about the inspiring bollywood film to mark its 67th anniversary
Iconic classic Shree 420 is widely regarded as one of the greatest Bollywood films of all time and its theme of migrants looking for a better life remains relevant today.
Raj Kapoor produced, directed, and starred in the comedy-drama, which broke records, but also offered magical moments that connected with audiences across different generations.
This week marks 67 years since the movie originally released on September 6, 1955, and it is one that should never be forgotten.
To mark its anniversary, Eastern Eye decided to get you a step closer by revealing 20 interesting facts about Shree 420 and the team connected to the film.
1. Shree 420 was written by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas. He also wrote many all-time classics like Awaara (1951), Mera Naam Joker (1970) and Bobby (1973). He would later write, direct, and produce Amitabh Bachchan’s debut film Saat Hindustani (1969).
2. The story of Shree 420 would later influence Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman (1992), which was a star-making movie for lead actor Shah Rukh Khan. It also inspired the film Bas Itna Sa Khwaab Hai (2001).
3. Like his record-breaking film Awaara, Kapoor’s character is influenced by Charlie Chaplin’s legendary ‘little tramp’ role.
4. The teacher character played by Nargis was named Vidya, which means knowledge. She symbolises goodness, knowledge, and doing the right thing in the film. Meanwhile, the vamp role portrayed by Nadira was named Maya, which means power, and that is what she wields over men in the movie.
5. A scene in the hit song Pyar Hua Ikrar Hua, which portrayed the lead couple hiding under an umbrella during heavy rains, has regularly been ranked as one of the most romantic moments of all time in Bollywood. Kapoor’s real life children Randhir, Ritu and Rishi feature in a cameo during that song.
6. The title of the film’s song Ramaiya Vastavaiya means ‘Lord Ram, you will come’ in Telugu and derived from an old folk song in the language. Legend has it that Kapoor included it because the dubbed Telugu versions of his films had done well, and it was his way of showing gratitude.
7. The film’s song Ichak Dana Beechak Dana became a surprise hit in Israel and was later re-recorded by local singer Naim Rajuan.
8. The movie’s biggest song success was Mera Joota Hai Japani, which was composed by Shankar Jaikishan, written by Shailendra, sung by Mukesh, and performed onscreen by Kapoor. The song, about the attire being from foreign lands but the heart remaining Indian, became a big patriotic anthem. It became famous worldwide and would repeatedly appear in popular culture in subsequent decades, from literature, films, and television to musical remixes.
9. The song Mera Joota Hai Japani can be heard played in the opening seen of Hollywood film Dead Pool (2016). The song is also heard in science fiction thriller Gravity (2013).
10. The film’s famous song Mud Mud Ke Na Dekh was an early success for singer Asha Bhosle and resulted in her singing many such cabaret numbers in other Bollywood films.
11. Legendary Bollywood actress Sadhana was a background dancer as a 14-year-old in the song Mud Mud Ke Na Dekh. She would later become famous and act opposite Shree 420 lead star Kapoor nine years later in Dulhan Dulhan (1964).
12. The gown famously worn by Nadira in the song Mud Mud Ke Na Dekh was such a snug fit that she couldn’t sit down while it was being filmed.
13. Nadira made such a big impact as the vicious vamp that she was almost exclusively offered similar characters and not the heroine roles she desperately desired. She also popularised smoking with a cigarette holder and made it a fashion statement, despite not actually being a smoker in real life.
14. Although they would work on two further films together, Chori Chori (1956) and Jagte Raho (1956), Shree 420 would be the last time Kapoor directed legendary leading lady
Nargis in a film.
15. Music directing duo Shankar-Jaikishan composed the celebrated soundtrack. Jaikishan infact makes an appearance as a club regular in the movie.
16. Shree 420 became the highest grossing Bollywood film in history when it was released. The record would be broken a few years later by Mother India (1957), also starring Nargis.
17. Apart from India, Shree 420 was a blockbuster hit in the former Soviet Union, Egypt, and Middle East countries. It was so popular in Iran that Kapoor was given an honorary degree, despite being a school dropout in real life.
18. The biggest overseas success for the film happened in the Soviet Union. In 1956, it was the most successful foreign film of the year and according to historical literature, drew in more than 35 million viewers.
19. The film won Best Editing and Best Cinematographer at the fourth Filmfare awards. Despite being the biggest hit of 1955, it lost the Best Film award to the now largely forgotten dance drama Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje (1955).
20. The film remains popular and is available in full on YouTube, where it has been viewed nearly 12 million times. The various songs have collectively been viewed hundreds of millions of times on the video sharing site.