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Monday, January 25, 1999 Published at 16:01 GMT


Bollywood goes back to its roots

The Queen takes a closer look at Bollywood during a visit to India

By Bombay Correspondent Sanjeev Srivastava

In the dog eat dog world of film in India's movie capital, Bombay - one studio has stayed the course, having just completed 50 years in the business.

RK films, named after it's founder the actor/director Raj Kapoor, is marking its golden anniversary with the release of a new film Aa Ab Laut Chalen or Back to The Roots.

But things for RK have not been so rosy in recent years - in the last decade only two of its films have hit the big screen. The company desperately needs its latest production to be a success.

The golden years

[ image: RK hope Aa Ab Laut Chalen will be a big hit]
RK hope Aa Ab Laut Chalen will be a big hit
In the 1950s Raj Kapoor - a self-confessed admirer of the Hollywood great Charlie Chaplin - was firmly established as the loveable tramp of popular Hindi cinema.

Ten years after his death, Raj Kapoor is still regarded as the greatest showman that the Indian film industry has produced. His legacy is now born by the fourth generation of Kapoors, who have seen ups and down in RK's success.

The most difficult phase was in the early 1970s when a big budget film called Mera Naam Joker or My Name is Joker, turned into a very unfunny financial flop.

Teenage romance

But Raj Kapoor bounced back with a film about teenage romance, Bobby, in which his son, Rishi, played the male lead. Rishi went on to become the teenage heart throb of the 1970s and 1980s.

"Bobby was a film where for the first time there were actual teenagers playing the roles. Earlier they had you know the macho men playing the teenagers or college going students which did not jell very well with the audience," said Rishi Kapoor.

"But this time it really had those characters because they looked believable.

"And that's when I think the era of younger boys and girls which we have today came about. "

Although most RK films were made with a firm eye on box office takings and there was seldom any deviation from the tried and tested musical romance, an RK film was always in a different league from the usual Bollywood production.

Back to the Roots

[ image: The film is a traditional mixture of song and dance numbers]
The film is a traditional mixture of song and dance numbers
But the company has been struggling in the years since Raj Kapoor's death. Rishi Kapoor hopes that his directing debut with this film will help turn the company's fortunes round.

"All Hindi films are love stories you know. We always have music in it which plays a very integral part of cinema... Indian cinema at least.

"And I have a social theme. I have a lot of characters who are a part of the fabric of the film who are there to make the drama more intense. And this film is a very happening film because this film is about what is happening today," he said.

In an industry where a film-maker is as good as his last film, the Kapoors have a lot riding on their new release. If the film does well, the RK banner will once again fly high. If not, it may well be curtains for one of the oldest studios in Bollywood.

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