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.
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 Sonachands 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").Nargis as Vidya
Raj Kapoor as Ranbir Raj
Lalita Pawar as Ganga Mai
Nadira as Maya
Nemo as Seth Sonachand Dharmanand
Iftekhar as Police Inspector (cameo)
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, rest of the song's lyrics (and the film) are in Hindi.
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 a number of 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.
Raj Kapoor's real life children include Rishi make special appearance in the song Pyar Hua Iqrar Hua, Rishi revealed that Nargis bribed him for chocolate and recall in 2017 interview
At the Indian box office in 1955, the film grossed ₹3.9 crore (equivalent to ₹296 crore or US$46 million in 2016), with a net income of ₹2 crore (equivalent to ₹152 crore or US$24 million in 2016). This record was beaten two years later by Mother India in 1957.
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. It was released in the Soviet Union in 1956, coming second on the Soviet box office charts that year. 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. 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.1956: Filmfare Awards
Best Cinematographer: Radhu Karmakar
Best Editing: G.G. Mayekar
National Film Awards1956: Certificate of Merit for the Second Best Feature Film in Hindi