Aag (1948)


I must confess that I don’t enjoy Raj Kapoor’s movies*. The ones I have seen are just too slow and I can’t maintain interest in them. It usually takes me about 4 days to get through one of his movies.

In Aag, you have a protagonist (Kewal, played by RK) with no luck at all. At the age of ten he is deprived of his first love (also ten) when her parents move away and take her with them. Things go downhill from there until he is finally setting himself on fire to make himself less attractive (it works!) to the woman his best friend and mentor** loves, but who loves him instead. In between is a second love ripped away, failure in his college exams, disappointed and angry parents, and two whole days of starvation before he finds his savior**. The in-between takes a loooonnnngggg time to get through and I grew tired of it all.

But there IS a happy ending. It comes when he marries a total stranger and discovers that his new bride is none other than his first love. And kismat is satisfied, finally rewarding sacrifice with happiness. I guess that was supposed to make me happy too, but I just wanted those three hours of my life back. I’ve got a lot more Hindi movies to watch before I die! Perhaps not being the self-sacrificing type myself, I just can’t relate.

I did love Shashi Kapoor as the ten-year-old Kewal. He was just as cute as a button:


Ram Ganguly’s music is beautiful*** and in keeping with the sombre tone. Shamshad Begum’s voice suits the mood perfectly, and is perfectly complemented by Shailash Mukherjee’s voice in “Dekh Chand Ki Or”. Whatever happened to Shailash Mukherjee? I can’t find any record of him singing in any other movies.

This is the thing: a movie needs some humor when it has so much drama in it. I just can’t BE that oppressed for almost three hours. Johnny Walker, where were you?

*With one exception (so far), more on that some other day.
**A young, handsome, Premnath!

***With assistance from Shankar and Jaikishan, who so impressed RK that he used them as music directors in his next production “Barsaat” (which I haven’t seen yet)

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23 Comments to “Aag (1948)”

  1. Hi Greta,
    Would you consider watching such films again, now that you have much more experience of Indian cinema? I wonder if your being bored wasn’t your disregard for what RK wanted to do, all his reflexion on the nature of art and drama…
    You’ll tell me!

  2. No, I just hated this. It’s self-indulgent histrionic Raj at his worst IMHO (well actually Aaaaaaaah is worse). I can’t bear it when he plays the “pity me, I am/have (insert malady here: poor/homeless/lovelorn/tuberculosis, etc.)” card. It doesn’t ring true for me, and makes me unsympathetic about any point he’s trying to make. I’m just too irritated.

    I find him more bearable in lighter fare, especially when he doesn’t direct it too :-)

    But I know I am much in the minority with this. Hey, that’s what makes life interesting!

  3. Wow – not even cutting the guy any slack for it being his first directorial outing! Your view of RK is obviously very much like mine of SLB or KJo – he can do no right. Given your comment :”I just can’t BE that oppressed for almost three hours. ” I sincerely hope you stay away from Mother India, although on the plus side, that film makes Aag look more like Chashme Buddoor so it might make you a little less unkind toward Aag.

    • Ha! No, maybe that is unkind of me…Actually for some reason I really loved Mother India. Perhaps because it’s just a better movie :-D I wouldn’t watch it over and over again, but I can certainly agree that Mother India is a classic. This one is just self-indulgent and annoying (to me). I have liked other Raj Kapoor-directed films (although I generally prefer him in movies made by others, like Andaz)—Shree 420, Awara…but he is not ever going to be a favorite.

  4. I’ll give you self-indulgent, but at least it has a happy ending, which is not like Mothre India which left me happy BY ending. :)

  5. OMG, Memsaab! I love this movie! I wasn’t a big fan of Raj before but you really should revisit this. It’s not self indulgent at all (certainly not like his later films – Aah, Shree 420 etc..) and is just a beautiful urban realism piece that is genuine parallel cinema before such a thing existed. The movie does have its moments of utter misery but those are only short sections vastly overshadowed by most of the film where Raj is in fact happy (the courtship with Nirmala leading into that lovely first song with beautiful sequence of crashing waves [eye candy imo], the bonding between Raj and actress Nimmi, and the conclusion..) — The cinematography especially is lovely with shadow play like a film noir film..

  6. Surprised that your first post was not a Shammi Kapoor movie, but one that starred his brothers :-)

  7. i have to take so much pain to read this yet another CRAPPY review of yours, memsaab( or whatever)

    please, if u don’t understand RK’s AAG (1948), refer to


    & gain some knowledge about cinema!

    • Actually, you DON’T have to read anything I write. Just move along if you don’t like my opinions and remember that these are movies we’re talking about, and not worth losing the ability to keep a civil tongue in your head over.

      • Forbearance thy name is St. Greta! Does thy wisdom come through by osmosis to thy loyal friends? I salute thee, I do.

        But until I can attain that state of zen, Ishwar, oblige us by not visiting here again.

        • i agree…our memsaab fully knows what she’s writing about, and even if she has nothing much to say or little to praise about a particular film, nobody has the right to force her to like the film just because they love it but unfortunately it’s not her cup of tea…it’s like that old saying, “to each his own”…

        • :) I figure people like him are here to teach me patience, since it’s normally something I am short on.

    • Hey, ever heard of “to each his own”? You liked the movie, good for you! Does not mean EVERYBODY has to like it. And memsaab’s review is HER opinion – she is as entitled to it as you are to yours. Like she says, you don’t HAVE to read her review. And if you do choose to read it – and disagree with it – fair enough, but surely there’s a more civil way of bringing this across?

    • Memsaab (or whatever) may or may not need to gain some knowledge about cimema, but it certainly appears that you need to gain lots of knowledge about the art of convincing/ persuading others to see your point of view. Trying to insult/ humiliate others by calling them ignorant will not make them see your point of view. Congratulations on possessing superior knowledge about Cinema. Neither Memsaab nor any of her fans here (there are lots and lots of her fans, if you noticed) are dying to get a piece of your superior knowledge about cinema. We are perfectly happy in our ignorance and we will continue to remain ignorant and happy.

  8. Aag is still one of my favourite films, but I completely understand that movies like that are not meant for everyone because it tends to drag a bit…I love Ram Ganguly’s music as well…it’s a pity he never composed for Raj Kapoor after Aag; apparently they had a sort of falling out, and that was how Shankar Jaikishen made their debut as composers…

  9. @Memsaab – I remember watching this ages ago and I agree that this film drags on a bit. I had no FF button then to help me. One way I have learnt to like RK movies is to watch them over several installments. If nothing else, the prospect of listening to a few good songs can lighten things somewhat.

    • I’d rather just watch the songs on Youtube or something :))) More than the dragging, it’s the RK character/persona I dislike so much—and that’s the case with many of his films. People who love him can watch him, I’ll take Shammi any day :D

      • I have to hand it to you, Greta, you’ve explained (repeatedly) your dislike for “Aag” and Raj Kapoor in general with far more grace and paitence than I would have been able to muster. I think there’s a silver lining (if you squint really hard you can see it) in all this ado though – apparently your opinion on a movie matters SO MUCH to some people that having to disagree with you drives them to inexcusably rude behavior. Poor things. Must not have enough Shammi in their life. :-D

        PS. We should do a Shammi watchalong and count the ways he’s not like Raj. ;-)

        • YES! Let’s do a Shammi film soon! And I never thought about the silver lining you mention…I feel so important now ;-) I could share the ensuing tantrums that now go directly into spam where they really belong, but I will spare you all.

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