For the Love of Raj Kapoor

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With Mrs. Svetlana at Russian Centre of Culture and Science. December 2015

On sunny December morning Mr. Sharma and I went to Mumbai for lunch with my friend’s mom from Kyiv. Heading to Russian Centre of Science and Culture, I enjoyed Sea Link drive and busyness of Peddar road. Mrs. Svetlana appeared at the gate in elegant ankle length dress, hiding behind the bags of Roshen sweets. Her icy blue eyes were sparkling with girlish excitement carefully disguised by delicate demeanour. Hugging and chit-chatting we headed to The Trident. Besides great dining and the sea view, it was a quiet cosy place to talk. After thai lunch at India Jones we were enjoying afternoon coffee at the lounge upstairs. Mrs. Svetlana gazed at rustling palms along the Marine Drive arc, telling about her visit to India. She arrived to Mumbai with Russian actress Ksenia Riabinkina ho had played the trapeze artist in “Mera Naam Joker” (1970) to join Raj Kapoor’s family and friends on the day of his 92nd birthday. Fascinated I was eager to hear her story.

Mrs. Svetlana Roshchenko with Rishi Kapoor
Left to right: Mrs. Svetlana with Ksenia Riabinkina and Ranbir Kapoor

Svetlana Roshchenko, whose career in government, commercial and joint-stock organisations spanned for decades, founded International Cultural Relations Association few years back. Following her childhood dream she authored and co-produced documentary “Raj Kapoor. Comrade Awara”.

Ksenia Riabinkina in Mera Naam Joker (1970). Movie Stills

“I’ve fallen in love with Bollywood and Raj Kapoor once I saw his movies in childhood, first as a Film Director of “Bobby” and “Sangam.” – she remembers. “They were absolutely unusual, – emotional, dynamic, colourful, filled with beautiful music. As grown-up I realised that movies of Raj Kapoor are unique phenomena in cinematography, he was innovating Indian cinema as a director and as an actor. His movies remain modern even today as they are utterly accomplished, expressing problems relevant at all times – faithfulness, love and dedication.

I had an idea of producing movie about this prominent figure of Indian culture for a long time, collecting material from private archives and connecting to people who knew him personally. Many of them participated in filming of our documentary later. We were lucky to complete it by the 90th birthday anniversary of Raj Kapoor in 2014.”

At Kapoor Residence in Mumbai
From left to right: Svetlana Roshchenko, Saif Ali Khan, Ksenia Riabinkina

Highly rated, “Raj Kapoor. Comrade Awara” was aired on multiple Russian TV channels during last two years. Then there was premiere in India. The documentary received special prize at 4th Delhi International Film Festival 2015 and was successfully screened at the Russian Centre of Science and Culture in Mumbai. Mrs. Svetlana took the next step in reconnecting our cultures and organised visit of Ksenia Riabinkina this time, which was warmly welcomed by Kapoor family and friends.

At last, I was keen to know her impression of India. “It is wonderful country with great history, its dissimilar philosophy, unusual traditions and magnificent, talented people.“ – she marvelled.

In a blink of an eye, it was time to go. Mrs. Svetlana had to rush to her next appointment and we had to drive back to Pune. We hugged. From the car I saw her disappear behind the heavy iron gate of the Russian Centre, contemplating our next meeting in Kyiv. I admired her passionate dedication, which was substantial yet without fireworks. I realized that passion is the secret sauce of joie de vivre, it simply makes life alive.

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