Janam Janam and the Raj Nargis Backstory

Another reposted post from the early days!  My first stab at Raj and Nargis, in terms of what they meant related to the homage to them in SRKajol movies.  Based on “Janam Janam” from Dilwale.

So, “Janam Janam” from Dilwale, song trailer released yesterday, is clearly referencing Raj-Nargis, not just in the images, but in the lyrics:

If you notice, when SRKajol meet again after years (which you can tell because SRK is hot-and-bearded instead of hot-and-youthful), their eyes meet, and it switches to fantasy-and then SRKajol switch to black and white tones, as does her car and their umbrella, while the rest of the background stays in color.  It is a clear signal to the viewer, if the singing in the rain under an umbrella didn’t make it clear enough, that this is an homage to the black-and-white love song “Pyar Hua Ikrar Hua” from Shree 420 with Nargis and Raj Kapoor:

So, why this reference?  Beyond just looking cool and making people go “Hey, it’s Shree 420!  I love that movie!”

In real life, Shree 420 was made at the height of the Raj Kapoor and Nargis collaboration.  While their earlier film, Awara, was more popular overseas, Shree 420 was more beloved at home.  However, “Pyar Hua” foreshadows the ending of their personal and professional collaboration.  No matter what promises they had made to each other, eventually, there was no where else for them to go.

Raj Kapoor was a genius, basically invented Hindi cinema, brilliant actor, brilliant director, brilliant producer, everything.  But, terrible in his personal life!  Oh my gosh!  So bad!

Although, part of that could be because everything happened to him so young, he was oddly adult in some ways from the time he was very young, but never really adult in others to the end of his life.  His father, Prithviraj Kapoor, was one of the first big stars of Indian film (see him and his nice legs in the photo below)


Although Prithviraj got fame and money from his film work, his heart was always with the stage.  He founded Prithvi Theaters (still in operation today, run by his granddaughter) and poured his heart and soul into it.  This meant his wife and children either stayed home and never saw him, or traveled with him on massive barnstorming tours of India, or worked backstage at the home theater in Bombay.  By the time he was 21, Raj Kapoor had worked as a set designer, stage manager, director, and main actor.  He had also basically raised his two younger brothers, serving as the disciplinarian and authority in their lives in the absence of their father.  And then he rebelled against a life spent serving his father’s purposes by deciding to work in film, not the stage.

So, age 22, already a major film star, he decides he wants to produce and direct.  Oh, and he also got married 3 months earlier to the sister of his friend and frequent co-star, Prem Nath.  The families arranged the first meeting, but the two of them hit it off right away and rushed the marriage.

So, Raj is ready to make a film.  And he has a script and he can star, but he knows he won’t get funding unless he find some big name to star opposite him.  So he goes to see Nargis (one of the biggest female stars at the time, only 19, but acting since she was a child and acting as an adult female lead since she was 14).  He knocks on the door of the apartment she shares with her mother, and she comes to answer it herself, with flour on her face since she was in the middle of cooking.  He falls passionately in love at first sight, despite being newly married to a woman he claimed to have also fallen in love with at first sight, and who was also carrying his child by this point (Kapoor men-very fertile).

Nargis is not that interested in Raj Kapoor the man, find him young and a little chubby, but does like his script and agrees to do the role.  By the end of filming, she is as in love as he.  For the next ten years, they form a beautiful personal and professional partnership.  His wife stays home, and gives birth to 5 children, in this same time.  But Raj and Nargis go to all the industry events together, stay up until all hours discussing scripts and projects at RK studio (founded by the profits of their first film as co-stars, with a logo based on their iconic embrace from the same film), and make a series of all time film classics, along the way popularizing such Indian film staples as the rain song, the fantasy song, the father-son conflict, the childhood flashback, the underlying social message, and dozens of others.  After ten years though, Nargis realized this was all she could ever have.  Raj was never going to leave his wife, she would never have a place in respectable society, she could never have children, this was it, just being the work wife forever and ever.

This was foretold in Shree 420, made at the height of their love story.  IT is the deeper meaning of “Pyar Hua Ikrar Hua”.  “Pyar Hua” is a duet, and while Raj keeps repeating “Love is here, promises are made”, Nargis keeps repeating “Where do we go from here?  Where can we go from here?”

So, she left him.  Raj always tells the story as though it was something she had done to him, as though she broke some vow or promise.  But from her side of things, what else was there to do?  It had been ten years, she was nearing 30, her career and personal life were both stalled in the service of his dreams.

They never acted opposite each other again, or even interacted really.  Nargis had her greatest role, playing “Mother India” in the film of the same name, and then retired and married rising actor and politician Sunil Dutt.  She became a powerful political force in her own right, and had three children.  Raj Kapoor went on to have a series of affairs with other actresses and to make more brilliant movies, but something was always missing after he lost Nargis.  He never found an onscreen partner to match him as well as her, and his films never had quite the same depth and meaning as they did when she was helping him.

Onscreen and off, Nargis and Raj epitomized the New India couple of the post-independence era.  She loved him and was completely devoted to him, but she also had her own career and her own goals (in their films, she played a teacher, a lawyer, an actress, a business woman).  He loved her, and also wanted her to be his partner in all things, their romance was not just about passionate embraces, but also making him a better man, helping him succeed in his goals, helping him determine what those goals were.

And now we have Shahrukh and Kajol.  A different kind of couple but, it is becoming increasingly clear, the couple that works for the modern India.  They are equally devoted to each other, there is no longer any expectation that a woman loves a man more than a man could ever love a woman.  She not only has her own goals, she can take the lead in them and force him to follow.  In My Name is Khan, she was the main breadwinner for the household.  In Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, she was the main lead of the film.  And unlike Raj and Nargis-who eventually stagnated playing the same old couple falling in love-in each of their films, they have come together stronger than ever.  SRKajol went from flirtatious college students to adults with children over the course of 6 films.  And I have high hopes that now, in their 7th film, the pattern will continue.  “Janam Janam” indicates that, I think.  Rather than a song about “where do we go from here?”  It is about “where ever we go, you are always with me and we will go there together.”


5 thoughts on “Janam Janam and the Raj Nargis Backstory

  1. That’s so interesting Margaret. Thank you for reposting it. I loved the song the moment I heard it, just as a song, but this gives it such depth of meaning.
    Fascinating that their long-term relationship didn’t seem to have a detrimental effect on their reputations and careers. If such a liaison between leading actors was openly acknowledged now I wonder if the media and public would be as accepting.


    • I feel like there is a couple like that, I just can’t think who it is! Well, I guess there’s Shahrukh-Karan and Ranbir-Ayan. Who aren’t traditional couples (probably not even romantic couples) but have just been accepted as partners by the industry and the media and the public. With some criticism, of course, but still accepted. Invited everywhere together, their closeness casually talked about in interviews, and so on and so forth.

      On Thu, Dec 14, 2017 at 7:33 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



    • Industry romance rumors can never be confirmed to the public because it’s not sanskari 😂 The Kangana-Hrithik drama is a testament to this.

      More than the stars, it’s the media that doesn’t want to “confirm” the existence of relationships. All the gossip mags carry disinformation – a healthy mix of actual facts plus made up stories so the public can enjoy truth as fiction and gossip and no-one can accuse the media of not reporting industry news accurately.

      I don’t think the film industry represents or represented India any more than Hollywood represented actual western society. I highly doubt everyone in the West sleeps with everyone just because that’s how Hollywood works. It’s absurd to think bollywood style adultery could be tolerated or romanticised IRL.

      If the papers reported it as it was– him cheating on his wife and her sleeping with/romancing a married man for ages– their careers would defo be over. I say that again — look at Hritik and Kangana. You can make adultery look good. Unless you’re Dharmendra and you marry your mistress while also being adamant about not leaving the first wife.


  2. I’m sure they must have interacted socially.There were no Managers then to make sure that the exes never come face to face.I remember reading somewhere that Sunil and Nargis visited Raj’s house when his sister got married.Raj can’t not invite the Dutts.Later on Raj’s daughter Rima (the mother of the Jain brothers) was engaged to Kumar Gaurav. The latter was in love with his Love Story co-actor Vijayta and broke the engagement.He later got married to the Dutts’ daughter Namrata.So the Kapoors and Dutts do get linked together one way or another.


    • In Rishi’s book he talks about one of the weddings, not sure if it was his aunt or his sister, where everyone was very nervous about Nargis coming, and then it turned out fine. My impression was that the nervousness was over Rishi’s mother’s reaction to having her in the house more than anything.

      On Fri, Dec 15, 2017 at 7:59 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



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