When Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand met Charlie Chaplin’s father
In 1953, the first Indian film delegation attended the coveted Venice International Film Festival. Led by Bimal Ray, the delegation included Balraj Sahni, Salil Chowdhury, KA Abbas, Chetan Anand, Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor and Nargis. The films that were screened in Venice included Make Bigha Zamin, Aandhiyan, Rahi and Awara. The delegation was warmly welcomed in Venice.
Bimal Ray, an introvert, only spoke when needed. Even the eloquent Chetan Anand and Salil Chowdhury have avoided interacting with the media. KA Abbas, Balraj Sahni, Dev Anand and Raj Kapoor made the maximum of interaction and speech. On special occasions, Nargis also shed light on the August rally on highlights of Awara and Indian cinema.
The projection of Make Bigha Zamin received a standing ovation from critics and viewers alike. The European cinema enthusiast squire marveled at Balraj Sahni’s studied and flawless performance. Dev Anand was the darling of women for his debonair appearance, heartfelt and honest performances in Aandhiyan and Rahi. KA Abbas managed with real difficulty the broadcasts of the English and Hindi versions of Rahi. The English version was the Way Farer. Raj Kapoor and Nargis have been mobbed by fans, especially from Italy and France.
David Lean who was a delegate renewed his association with Chetan Anand who started with Brief Meetings and Neechanagar jointly winning the Grand Prix at Cannes in 1946. David Lean is full of praise for Nimmi’s questioning expressions in Aandhiyan and the underestimation of Kalpana Kantik. In a discussion with an English critic, KA Abbas pointed out the downsides of Indian cinema. He confessed that since our Hindi films were mostly artists, the box office factor has always reigned supreme. Salil Chowdhury said the song Dharti Kahe Pukar Ke of Make Bigha Zamin he composed was inspired by the Soviet Cultural Revolution of 1917.
An interesting incident happened when Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, and Nargis were having lunch at a local restaurant. An Italian beauty in her 30s approached them and told them that Dev Anand and Nargis are an attractive couple. At this, Raj Kapoor burst out laughing and said: “Wah Dev Wah, Tumne Mere Heroine Ko Chura Liya. “Dev Anand smiled and replied:”Nahi Raju Yeh Mujh Se Nahi Hoga. Nargis asked the two heroes to be quiet and the three posed for a series of photographs not only for the Italian lady but also for others.
Chetan Anand had a difference of opinion with his younger brother Dev Anand. Chetan Anand wanted to eat edit the court scene of Aandhiyan for the international version which will be screened in Venice. Dev Anand vehemently protested the act as he truly felt his best performance was during climax in court. Chetan Anand, initially reluctant, later agreed and cut some sequences of songs and dances. International media praised Aandhiyan highly and washed away the stigma on Chetan Anand, “A Pudovkin in a hurry” put by the journal of Aandhiyan at Baburao Patel India Film.
A scene that no one could forget that of Bimal Ray talking about the impact of neo-realism on his work. Cleverly explaining the plight of the landless Indian peasant, he then gave a stimulating talk on his concept and visualization of Make Bigha Zamin. It received praise and explanation from Raj Kapoor on the cinematic nuances of AwaraHis dream streak was also appreciated. KA Abbas pointed out that the socio-political relevance of Mulk Raj Anand, Two leaves and a bud on which Rahi was based was his inspiration for the memorable film.
The Moment of the Indian Delegation in Venice Prize was his visit to Sir Charles Chaplin’s Villa in Montreux and one hour of interaction with the maestro. Sir Charles Chaplin was the father of Sir Charlie Chaplin. The personalities of Indian cinema have listened with amazement to the Grand Master recounting his experiences in making films. Chetan Anand and K Abbas asked Charles Chaplin about his views on Sergei Eisenstein. Charles Chaplin replied: “A true friend and a genius.” As they bid farewell, Raj Kapoor, with tears of joy in his eyes, cried out to confess that Charles Chaplin was his idol and that he modeled himself along his lines.
This year’s Venice International Film Festival will take place in September.