That Raj Kapoor and his ghost-voice Mukesh are considered a phenomenon in Russia to this day was proven last month when 56 years after Raj Kapoor first sang ‘Mera Joota Hai Japani‘ in Mukesh voice in the film Shri 420, a Russian fan of the song sang it out to Mukesh’s son singer Nitin Mukesh and grandson Neil Nitin Mukesh in a cab in Murmansk in Russia.
Recalling the incident emotionally, Neil says, “I was shooting in Russia for more than a month for Abbas-Mustan’s Players. The country has deep connections with my grandfather (legendary singer Mukesh). His songs ‘Awara Hoon‘and ‘Mera Joota Hai Japani‘ are hummed all over Russia to this day. So I called my father over to Russia to spend some time with me.”
In Murmansk while travelling in the car provided by the unit for Neil, the historic moment happened.
Recalls Neil, “My Russian driver Roma was driving me and my Dad when he burst into ‘Mera Joota Hai Japani‘. He sang the whole song just to let my father know he loved Indian cinema. My father eyes welled up with tears. When Roma finished the last note my father softly asked, ‘Do you know who has sung this song?’ Roma promptly said Raj Kapoor. My father gently corrected him, ‘No it was my father who sang it.”
Then began a discussion on the song.
Says Neil, “Roma said his father used to sing this song to him every night. But Roma didn’t know what it meant. My father patiently explained the meaning of every word in the song to him. It was uncanny…because when I was a child my father too would sing ‘Mera Jaota Hai Japani‘ to me. I’d sing the song without knowing what it really meant. So there was my Russian driver and me both bonding over a song that my grandfather sang and my father was explaining to both of us.”
From that moment onwards Neil’s Russian driver Roma and Neil’s father were inseparable.
Says Neil, “Roma wanted to know everything about my grandfather’s collaboration with Mr. Raj Kapoor. Dad sang all the songs that they did together. I don’t know who felt more rewarded. Me or Roma.”
In Russia, the locals have made Neil promise he will bring Raj Kapoor’s grandson to the country. Neil intends to keep the promise.
Says Neil, “Ranbir and I are so different from one another and yet bonded so closely by our past. He loves the songs and cinema of Raj Kapoor as much as I do. Yeah, I want to take him back to Russia.”