Shree 420 (also spelled as Shri 420; transl. Mr. 420) is a 1955 Indian Hindi comedy-drama film directed and produced by Raj Kapoor from a story written by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas whose use of Shree with the negative connotations of 420 caused controversy. The film stars Nargis, Nadira, and Kapoor. The number 420 refers to Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code, which prescribes the punishment for the offence of fraud; hence, "Mr. 420" is a derogatory term for a fraud. The film centers on Raj Kapoor, a poor but educated orphan who comes to Bombay with dreams of success. Kapoor's character is influenced by Charlie Chaplin's "little tramp", much like Kapoor's character in his 1951 Awaara. The music was composed by the team of Shankar Jaikishan, and the lyrics were penned by Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri.

Shree 420
Original poster
Directed byRaj Kapoor
Screenplay byKhwaja Ahmad Abbas
V.P. Sathe[1]
Story byKhwaja Ahmad Abbas[1]
Produced byRaj Kapoor
StarringRaj Kapoor
CinematographyRadhu Karmakar
Edited byG.G. Mayekar
Music byShankar–Jaikishan
Release date
  • 6 September 1955 (1955-09-06)
Running time
168 minutes
Box officeest. ₹49.4 million

Shree 420 was the highest-grossing Indian film of 1955,[2] the highest grossing Indian film of all time at the time of its release and the song "Mera Joota Hai Japani" ("My Shoes are Japanese"), sung by Mukesh, became popular and a patriotic symbol of the newly independent India.


Shree 420 (full film)

A country boy, Raj (Raj Kapoor), from Allahabad, travels to the big city, Bombay, by walking, to earn a living. He falls in love with the poor but virtuous Vidya (Nargis), but is soon seduced by the riches of a freewheeling and unethical lifestyle presented to him by an unscrupulous and dishonest businessman, Seth Sonachand Dharmanand (Nemo) and the sultry temptress Maya (Nadira). He eventually becomes a confidence trickster, or "420," who even cheats in card gambling. Vidya tries hard to make Raj a good man, but fails.[3]

Meanwhile, Sonachand comes up with a Ponzi scheme to exploit poor people, whereby he promises permanent homes to them at just Rs. 100. The scheme pays off, as people start hoarding money for a home, even at the cost of other important things. Vidya's contempt for Raj increases even more. Raj becomes wealthy but soon realizes that he paid a very high price for it. When Raj discovers that Sonachand has no plans to fulfill his promises, he decides to make wrongs right.

Raj takes all the bond papers of the people's homes and tries to flee Sonachand's home, only to be caught by Sonachand and his cronies. In a scuffle that occurs, Sonachand shoots Raj and he falls unconscious. When people hear the shooting, they come and see Raj nearly dead. Sonachand tells police that Raj was trying to flee after stealing money from his safe, hence Sonachand shot him.

Upon this, the "dead" Raj springs back to life, and using pure logic, proves Sonachand's guilt. Sonachand and his partners are arrested, while Vidya happily forgives Raj. The film ends with Raj saying "Yeh 420 Nahin, Shree 420 Hain" ("These are not simply con men, they are respectable con men").


Cast in order of the opening credits of the film


The title refers to section 420 of the Indian penal code, where crimes of theft and deception are punished, which relates to the troubles of the main character.

In Sanskrit, the name of the main character, "Vidya", means knowledge, while "Maya" means Illusion.

The title of one of the songs in the movie is "Ramaiya Vastavaiya" is in Telugu, which means "Lord Ram, you will come". The title alone is derived from an old Telugu folk song. Apart from that, the rest of the song's lyrics (and the film) are in Hindi. The story goes, the Telugu dubbed version of the film Aah, 1953 was so well received that Raj Kapoor was elated and showed his gratitude for Telugu audiences by having a song in the film beginning with these lines.

At the beginning of the movie, the main protagonist explains to a policeman that one needs to stand on one's head to make sense of this world. He mentions that this is the reason why even great leaders stand on their heads. This is an allusion to several political leaders of that time who enjoyed practicing the Shirshasana, a yoga asana where one stands on his head. In his autobiography, Nehru described that the shirshasana was his favorite pose, and how he often did the shirshasana in jail, too.


"I had to give a shot and it was raining that day. It was difficult for the crew to make me prepare for the shot. I had just to walk without any expression. It was Nargis who came up with the idea to offer me chocolate to get the shot done. In that sense, I started taking bribes when I was two-year-old."

 – Rishi Kapoor, January 20, 2017

Raj Kapoor's real life children Randhir, Ritu and Rishi were featured in the song "Pyar Hua Iqrar Hua", Rishi revealed that Nargis bribed him with chocolate and recalled it in a 2017 interview.[4]


The song "Mera Joota Hai Japani", in which the singer asserts his pride in being an Indian, despite his clothes being from other countries, became, and remains, a patriotic favourite among many Indians. It is often referenced, including in an acceptance speech at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2006 by Bengali author Mahasweta Devi.

The film proved to be popular in other countries, including the Soviet Union, Romania, and Israel. In Russia, it was said that Raj Kapoor was as popular as Jawaharlal Nehru, due to the success of Awaara and Shree 420. In Israel, the song "Ichak Dana Beechak Dana" (transliterated as "Ichikidana") became popular and was re-recorded by local singer Naim Rajuan.

Box officeEdit

At the Indian box office in 1955, the film grossed 3.9 crore (equivalent to 359 crore or US$45 million in 2020), with a net income of 2 crore (equivalent to 184 crore or US$23 million in 2020).[5] This record was beaten two years later by Mother India in 1957.[6]

It was released in the Soviet Union in 1956, coming second on the Soviet box office charts that year.[7] Despite being imported at an unusually high price, it was the most successful foreign film of the year at the Soviet box office, drawing an audience of 35 million viewers.[8]

Worldwide gross revenue
Territory Gross Adjusted gross
Domestic (India) 3.9 crore[5] ($8.19 million)[n 1] in 1955 $89 million (490 crore)[10]
(Soviet Union)
8.75 million Rbls[n 2] ($2.19 million)[n 3]
(1.04 crore)[n 1]
$24 million (128 crore)[10]
Worldwide 4.94 crore
($10.38 million)
618 crore
($92 million)


1."Dil Ka Haal Sune Dilwaala"ShailendraManna Dey5:36
2."Mera Juta Hai Japani"ShailendraMukesh4:33
3."Mud Mud Ke Na Dekh"ShailendraManna Dey, Asha Bhosle6:34
4."Pyar Hua Iqrar Hua"ShailendraLata Mangeshkar, Manna Dey4:22
5."Ramaiya Vastavaiya"ShailendraLata Mangeshkar, Mohammed Rafi, Mukesh6:10
6."Ichak Dana Beechak Dana"Hasrat JaipuriLata Mangeshkar, Mukesh5:08
7."O Janewale"Hasrat JaipuriLata Mangeshkar2:20
8."Sham Gayi Raat Aayi"Hasrat JaipuriLata Mangeshkar4:00


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b 4.7619 Indian rupees per US dollar from 1950 to 1965[9]
  2. ^ 35 million Soviet tickets sold,[8] average ticket price of 25 kopecks[11]
  3. ^ Rbls per US dollar from 1950 to 1960[12]


  1. ^ a b Shree 420|1955. 1:17.{{cite AV media}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  2. ^ "Box Office 1955". Box Office India. 12 October 2012. Archived from the original on 12 October 2012.
  3. ^ "Shree 420 - Full movie". RK Films / You Ku. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
  4. ^ "Did Shree 420 role only after a chocolate bribe: Rishi". India Today. Press Trust of India. 20 January 2017.
  5. ^ a b "". 30 October 2013. Archived from the original on 30 October 2013.
  6. ^ "B-Town rewind: The tale of the first Bollywood crore - Entertainment". 16 March 2014. Retrieved 18 September 2015.
  7. ^ Indian Films in Soviet Cinemas: The Culture of Movie-going After Stalin, page 86, Indiana University Press, 2005
  8. ^ a b A Taste for Indian Films: Negotiating Cultural Boundaries in Post-Stalinist Soviet Society, page 163, Indiana University, 2005
  9. ^ "Pacific Exchange Rate Service" (PDF). fx.sauder. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 May 2015. Retrieved 3 July 2017.
  10. ^ a b "Yearly Average Rates". OFX.
  11. ^ Moscow Prime Time: How the Soviet Union Built the Media Empire that Lost the Cultural Cold War, page 48, Cornell University Press, 2011
  12. ^ Archive of Bank of Russia
  13. ^ "Filmfare Nominees and Winners" (PDF). Retrieved 18 September 2015.
  14. ^ "Directorate of Film Festival" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 18 September 2015.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit