Ram teri Ganga maili, RK's last opus

Publié le 23 Septembre 2011

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I have read so often about Raj Kapoor’s last movie, Ram teri Ganga maili (1985, Ram, your Ganga is sullied), that I wanted to have a personal opinion about it. The movie has itself been sullied as obsessively concerned with Mandakini’s nakedness and the director himself as a scandalous and ageing admirer of young feminine beauties. If you haven’t seen the movie, and you google the film’s name, you’ll inevitably summon up the “hot” waterfall scene, of course quite innocuous by today’s movie standards, but which sparked the censors’ condemnation. We can start talking about that, and get it out of the way.

100% corniness

Ganga (which refers both to the girl and the river) was born in the Himalayan Mountains, and lives up there a rustic life until she meets Naren (Rajiv Kapoor), a kindly lad from Calcutta, where the river flows into the Ocean. He’s full of naïve ideals (his heinous Industrialist Daddy cannot understand why he reads about Vivekananda and rejects the values of money), and so is she, of course, born as she is near the heavens and bathed by the pure icy streams. Well, precisely, not so icy because, even though she’s got a hard skin that the poor city dweller doesn’t have (reference to a totally corny scene where she crosses a river barefoot, and he whines and pouts, until she kisses him), she can shower near the glacier with only a see-thru thing on her… Right, so yes, this scene is not very useful in terms of the movie’s message! But it does help attract him to her: they marry and consume their union, in spite of an incredible family feud, which ends in a bloodbath while they are busy lovemaking in the temple that night!
But it would be a pity to restrict the film to RK’s lasciviousness (because, they’re right, there is that other breast-baring scene in the train!!). The film’s idea, for example, I found a rather good one: it’s a parallel between the river Ganges flowing from its pure sources to its polluted estuary in Calcutta, and Ganga’s downfall from innocence to ruin, as she follows the river on her way to find the father of her child in the end.

ganga is molested  nice makeup
On the way, we see her fall prey to profiteers and thieves, who notice her beauty and charms; she’s saved by the wife of a lecherous priest in Benares, and put back on the train by a considerate policeman; but en route she’s spirited away to a music school (a “blind” tout has noticed her singing on the train), where her talents are noticed by high-flying politicians who are paying a visit.


She’s already been considered a prostitute for going around with a child on her own, and now in the music-school, where tawaifs were so common, her downfall from grace has been acted out. Anyway, this is where her story rejoins the film’s other story: Jeeva, Naren’s dad (Kulbhushan Kharbanda, pretty good) is busy obtaining political support for his capitalistic and polluting factory, and has befriended the candidate for a local election soon to take place around the theme of Ganges depollution. This new politician, Bhagwat Choudary (Raza Murad), manipulated by Jeeva, has a daughter who they agree Naren should marry, and the preparations had started just before he left for the Himalayas on an expedition where he was to meet Ganga…

lecherous and envious  struck
Well! So who are the politicians who have just come to listen to Ganga’s improving talents at the music-school? Bhagwat’s gang of course, and as soon as they eyes on her, they stop dead and wonder how they can appropriate her…I think this is Raj Kapoor’s film’s second strength: the gallery of villains. Of course their appearance underlines this, but not only, there’s a real and scathing criticism of vice in the film. Greed, debauchery, vicious cruelty, selfish thirst for power, wilful humiliation of vulnerable human beings, gratuitous slander, and when these wrongs are performed by the powerful, it’s almost impossible to expose them and reform the ills which their power has established in society. In the movie this is done by a rather unexpected righter of wrongs, played by a spirited Saeed Jaffrey.  He’s Kunj, Naren’s uncle, and his reputation is that of an openly recognised brothel owner, so he’s looked down upon by the rest of the family who keep up appearances, at least Jeevan, the corrupted and scrupleless tycoon.

snapshot dvd 00.05.54 [2011.09.12 23.22.55]

I think the interest of this character is that even though he’s morally degraded, he doesn’t hide it, and therefore unlike the others, doesn’t add hypocrisy to his vices. He’s the only one in the movie who seems neither sanctimoniously candid nor ferociously beastly. In short, he’s an average human being, with his vice but also his honesty and his courage. In fact it’s probably because of his own sins that he has the guts to stand up and denounce the far greater ones of his sanctimonious brother and his hidden corrupted plans: he has no reputation to lose.


Kunj is Raj Kapoor’s spokesman. Raj Kapoor might be equated to a lecherous old man, as is often said: but this has perhaps enabled him to say things unpleasant to see and admit, because falling from grace is never pleasant. Perhaps living in the real world boils down to that: reality isn’t only music, dancing and simplistic, sugar-coated feelings, like too much of Bollywood would like to have it. Under luxury and glitz, there’s money; under money, there’s greed; under greed, there’s the growl of power, there’s the wolf waiting for the lamb. This might sound cynical especially when one knows that RTGM was RK’s farewell to the silver screen, but well, it’s also the voice of experience.

woman and water

The “lamb”, in Ram teri Ganga maili, after being compared to her predators, comes out rather human. Her trip to Calcutta provides us with the right portrait of her. If you have in mind the Ganga from the first half of the film, she’s pathetic; but the battling, sneering mother of the second half shows the little that Mandakini was able to do. Unfortunately, even that little doesn’t come from Rajiv Kapoor who, I hear, didn’t pursue a very long film career …

BTW, had he lived, I wonder what Raj Kapoor would have felt in front of Aishwarya Rai: his filming of a radiant Mandakini certainly feels like he had a tender spot for the likes of her:

akeli hoon looks like Aish

healthy face spring beauty

Rédigé par yves

Publié dans #Film reviews

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vineet kumar 03/07/2012 17:22

hi yves,

a very very interesting article regarding the movie at


yves 04/07/2012 21:17

Thanks VK; as it's a long article, I've downloaded it and will read it in due course. Thanks for the reference. I'll let you know!


vineet kumar 16/05/2012 14:13

hi yves,

there is a criticism of RK at http://satyamshot.wordpress.com/2010/04/10/raj-kapoors-late-problems-and-why-he-could-never-have-made-amar-akbar-anthony/.


what do you think about it?


yves 22/05/2012 12:35

Hi VK, sorry for the delayed answer! I have read that interesting critique, and will answer it in time, thanks for indicating it to me!


vineet kumar 03/02/2012 20:17

hey yves, what an ASTONISHING DISCOVERY!

the lady seems very similar to mandakini

yves 03/02/2012 22:43

Yes, it struck you as well?

vineet kumar 21/01/2012 15:54

The mandakini waterfall scene was inspired from one of Raja_Ravi_Varma's paintings. 


yves 21/01/2012 16:14

Hello Vineet Kumar,

Are you thinking of this one? http://www.google.com/imgres?hl=fr&safe=off&sa=X&gbv=2&biw=1429&bih=615&tbs=isz:l&tbm=isch&tbnid=9Iy53pjRv-9rbM:&imgrefurl=http://www.cyberkerala.com/rajaravivarma/ravivarma-oil-painting-133.htm&docid=310Fuedl4TnduM&imgurl=http://www.cyberkerala.com/ravivarma_images/raja_ravi_varma_oil_painting_133_malayalee_lady.jpg&w=848&h=941&ei=xdQaT4LBLNGSOprk5JcL&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=244&vpy=158&dur=5205&hovh=237&hovw=213&tx=120&ty=114&sig=115850153235493170303&page=1&tbnh=126&tbnw=119&start=0&ndsp=32&ved=1t:429,r:1,s:0



vineet kumar 07/11/2011 04:21

hi yves,

what did you mean by "densely-coded"

yves 07/11/2011 18:21

Hello, well, this means with a lot of references. It's what Upperstall's review says about the movie!

vineet kumar 04/11/2011 07:40

hi yves,

plese check the link


yves 04/11/2011 18:45


Thankyou for this very interesting article! As they say, this is a "densely-coded" movie!


harvey 28/10/2011 20:37

RTGM! I think it was one of the first film titles to get abbreviated in the press. It was accompanied by a big scandal. Margaret Alva, the then minister in the cabinet of Rajiv Gandhi, who was
also responsible for women affairs (?) staged a walk-out during a ceremony, where RK was being honoured.

And all the boys in the college were talking of Mandankini's well endowment in bodily assets. And all the time RK was insisting that all he wanted was to start a campaign to clean the Ganga
river. But I didn't really buy him that. Sure a part of him surely wanted that!

I don't have any problems with nudity or semi-nudity, but it seems RK and I have different asthetics.

But like many RK films, this one also did have a message! This one thing we should grant him.

yves 28/10/2011 23:05

Oh, that was fun to read! I love it when people tell me of how they lived events which we now refer to as almost part of history! Yes, I can imagine the hushed (or perhaps not so hushed) comments
about Mandakini's "assets"... But the film now of course has recognized qualities which owe nothing to her charms.


pacifist 06/10/2011 21:30

Hi Yves, I don't know where to post this off topic comment, so I'm doing it here.

I was wondering if you're aware of songs sung by Nutan for her film.

yves 09/10/2011 23:31

Hello Reeba,

Thanks for your two messages, this and the one you sent on my mailbox, thinking that (perhaps) this one hadn't gone through. Yes, I was aware of Nutan having sung in that song from Chhabili, and
she's sung in other songs from that same movie, for example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0VDwp8hWMU

But I don't know of any other movie where she might have sung.



Anu Warrier 27/09/2011 01:14

You might be interested.

yves 27/09/2011 23:30

Thanks Anu, I'll go check and let you know!


Anu Warrier 26/09/2011 04:02

It's funny strange, but Harvey had mentioned that he had picked up the entire RK collection and was wondering which one to start with - and I wanted to tell him "Ram Teri Ganaga Maili' - simply
because it is the most reviled of the RK films. I don't think Satyam Shivam Sundaram got such a bad rap, and I thought that was awful. I must confess that I actually did like Ram Teri,
so perhaps I am in a minority. Apart from the waterfall scene (which I thought was unnecessary, but it wasn't as sleazy as the critics of the time made it out to be), I honestly had more of a
reaction to Ganga's journey than I did to Rupa because there, the script didn't hang together *at all*.

By the way, one correction: Kunj is not the owner of a brothel. He is in love with a tawaif. Because he is not allowed to marry her on account of his family's respectablity, he *moves in* with
her openly - as her lover. It's a slap in the face to his oh-so-respectable family.

Thanks for the review. So, did you like it

yves 26/09/2011 21:04

Hello Anu, and thanks for visiting!

I was actually wondering if I'd got Kunj's info right, thanks for the correction.

Are you asking whether I liked the film? Yes, up to a certain extent; As I said, I thought the second part was interesting, and I was curious about the way RK had chosen to criticise the
corruption of the Indian high society. All in all I found his Ganga simile a rather clever one.


Suja 24/09/2011 08:13

Hi Yves, I see that you have much higher level of patience and tolerance for the filmi world that I do! I started seeing this film 2 weeks back with my husband..I think we lasted about 30 mins
after that we looked at each other and decided unanimously to stop. I didn't take to the leads really so I couldnt even watch it for them. And yes, we did see the 'hot' scene and I think even in
today's bollywood world its quite bold..and yes, it made me think of Raj Kapoor as a lech.. Maybe one day I'll pick up this DVD again but I doubt it.

Cheers. Suja

yves 24/09/2011 11:42

Hmm, well, patience perhaps! But as I said I wanted to watch the movie for two things, one its reputation, and two Raj Kapoor. I wanted to see what had come over him, so to speak, and on the
whole wasn't too disappointed, even though I had to admit his bawdiness, but as I said the movie's second half is better than the first, and makes up for it nicely. Still, you're right, it isn't
a must-see!

regards, yves

bollywooddeewana 24/09/2011 05:27

Lovely review and that comparison with Aish seems so apt, I've never thought of it that way before but I certainly do agree. I love this meloedrama to bits, I had seen it in my early days of
being a bollywood deewana, and yeah all that so called nudity seems wildly tame by today's standards or even the standards of some foreign 80's movies

yves 24/09/2011 11:32

Thanks Deewana for your appreciation, it's really pleasant to receive. I hope the reading brought back those nice memories and that more are to come!