The last Hindi film I’d reviewed was the Sanjeev Kumar swashbuckler Baadal. When I’ d begun watching that, I wondered briefly if it would be a remake of the Premnath Baadal, a film I’d seen too long back to remember much of. As it happened, while the later Baadal did borrow some of the basics—the rebel hero who falls in love with a noblewoman whom he should probably be hating instead—it is actually a very different film. Premnath’s Baadal, for one, is no poet, and instead of borrowing from The Three Musketeers, this Baadal is explicitly stated as having been inspired from Robin Hood.
Baadal (Premnath), when we meet him, is a strapping young villager [and Premnath sure looked very strapping in his heyday] who’s hauling hay for someone who pays him a small sum for the work. When the two of them—employer and employee—hear hooves thundering by, they remark that that’s Jai Singh and his men. Not a good sign, for Jai Singh is the local jagirdar’s man. Where there is Jai Singh—always eager to suck the lifeblood of the peasantry, after having snatched every last anna they possess—there will be suffering.
Baadal hurries home, and finds Jai Singh (Hiralal, who also played the baddie in Sanjeev Kumar’s Baadal) there, harassing the life out of Baadal’s poor, ill father. Even after Baadal hands over the money Jai Singh is demanding, Jai Singh isn’t satisfied.
A brawl breaks out between the two younger men, and in the fisticuffs that follow, Baadal’s dad receives a blow which sends him reeling. He hits his head, is concussed, and dies.
Baadal is one of only two people who attend the cremation of the old man. The rest of the villagers are too scared to defy Jai Singh, says Maina (Purnima), who is the other person who comes to the funeral.
She comforts Baadal, and since Baadal’s home and other possessions have all been taken away by Jai Singh [talk of adding insult to injury…], Maina takes Baadal to her home, where she lives with her brother Himmat (Agha).
She doesn’t merely feed Baadal and console him; Maina also sings him a song, egging him on to rise up against the injustice he sees around him. So Baadal, with the help of Himmat, soon becomes a Robin Hood-like character, who goes about terrorizing Jai Singh and his men as they go about terrorizing the countryside. [Where paupers like Baadal and his gang get the capital to set themselves up with horses, weapons, and a fancy Cossack-like outfit for Baadal is beyond me].
Baadal begins his vendetta by going up against Jai Singh himself, bursting into the palace, holding a sword to Jai Singh’s throat and spewing threats at him, before escaping. Jai Singh is thoroughly peeved, and soon announces to all the janta that Baadal has been hereby declared a rebel. If he’s found, he will be captured and executed.
Baadal, being Baadal, is not deterred by this declaration. Soon after, encountering Jai Singh trying to get fresh with a reluctant girl, Baadal comes to the girl’s aid. Because he’s in disguise [a flimsy moustache, coupled with the end of his turban, covering the bottom of his chin], Jai Singh—who seems to suffer from a severe case of myopia and/or prosopagnosia—doesn’t recognize him as Baadal.
Baadal happily relieves Jai Singh of some money, which eventually he passes on to the poor. The poor are all very happy, and Maina leads them in a song and dance which
(a) celebrates the general goodness of Baadal and his rebellion
(b) helps establish, for those who haven’t cottoned on to it yet, that Maina has fallen for our hero
We are now introduced to Jai Singh’s boss, the jagirdar. This man [an actor I haven’t been able to identify, partly thanks to those patently fake masses of hair] is a weak-willed, spineless sort who has absolutely no hold over Jai Singh. Baadal breaks into his palace and holds him up—at sword’s point—to get money, which the jagirdar hands over without any resistance. In any case, these days the jagirdar is busy fluttering about, worrying that his daughter Ratna, who’s gone to her nanihaal, has not yet returned. With Baadal on the move, Ratna may well be in danger.
… and she sure is. Himmat and a bunch of his colleagues attack Ratna (Madhubala) and her entourage [why, I haven’t been able to fathom, unless it’s just as a means of keeping their hand in]. Himmat, happening to glance into the carriage, sees Ratna and decides to kidnap her.
To Himmat’s surprise, Baadal is furious that Himmat has abducted a girl. Even if the girl is the jagirdar’s daughter. Baadal’s grouse is with the jagirdar and Jai Singh, not the girl.
Baadal therefore dons his disguise and instructs Himmat to come and pretend to fight him, Baadal, when he frees Ratna.
Ratna is surprised to find herself accosted by a stranger who leaps into her prison, tells her to follow him out, and then proceeds to fight Himmat, who appears on cue. Baadal, calling himself Baaga, quickly disarms Himmat and ‘rescues’ Ratna. This brief interaction has been enough for both of them to pretty much fall in love, so when ‘Baaga’ offers to escort Ratna home, she happily agrees. This allows for some pretty views of countryside, Madhubala, and Premnath, plus the chance of a song.
They get to the village, where Baadal guides Ratna’s horse to Maina’s home. There, he stops long enough to let Maina know that he’s masquerading as Baaga for Ratna’s benefit. This done, and Maina having agreed to play along, Baadal goes to the jagirdar’s palace to drop Ratna off.
The jagirdar, of course [thanks to Baadal’s disguise, in case you hadn’t noticed] doesn’t recognize ‘Baaga’ and is very grateful to him for having brought Ratna home. Ratna is very grateful too, and is busy batting her eyelashes at Baadal while Daddy showers him with praise.
The long and the short of it is that soon [too soon for credibility, actually] Ratna and Baaga/Baadal are singing duets and gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes, while Maina, peering in through the railings at them, is heartbroken. She’s too good a girl to grudge them their love, though, so Baadal’s secret—that he’s really the rebel Baadal, not Baaga—stays safe with her.
Meanwhile, in the capital, word has reached the Maharaja of Baadal’s doings. This is worrying, so the maharaja sends a missive to the jagirdar, ordering him to capture Baadal. The jagirdar, who’s prone to fret, is busy pulling his hair out when Ratna prances in, and seeing Daddy in a flap, asks him what’s wrong. When she discovers what’s wrong, Ratna offers the perfect solution: Baaga, after all, had rescued her from Baadal’s den. Baaga can go and capture Baadal.
So, with nary a thought for her beloved and his life, Ratna goes off to Maina’s house—which, she knows, is also Baaga’s—to beg Baaga to capture Baadal. Baaga isn’t home, but Maina is. Ratna tells all, and Maina promises to go fetch Baaga.
She hurries off, and Ratna, all alone, suddenly finds herself assaulted by none other than Jai Singh, who has followed her in here. Jai Singh has been telling Ratna on and off how much he loves her and how much he wants to marry her. Ratna has been giving him the cold shoulder, but when she tries to do that now, Jai Singh pounces on her and tries to have his way—
—except that the Cavalry/Marines/Cossacks arrive just in time, in the form of Baaga [I’m calling him that, because he’s in disguise right now, moustache in place]. The two men fight it out, and with all that rolling about and bashing each other up, Baaga’s moustache gets ripped off.
In one fell swoop, Baadal has not only had his identity revealed to his arch-enemy, but is also less one girlfriend, who feels horribly betrayed. And worse is to come before the happy ending.
What I liked about this film:
The generally straightforward, fairly balanced script. There is very little in the way of distraction here from the main story, which is of Baadal’s rebellion and the consequences of it. True, there is a romance, and there is the ‘other woman’ who (not being a vamp) quietly watches on, suffering all the while, as the man she loves falls for another. There are even a few brief comic [or non-comic, however you regard them; I didn’t find them especially funny] scenes featuring Himmat. But the comedy and the love triangle don’t take up much time (the romance, at least, mostly plays out through songs), so the script can focus on the swashbuckling. While this may give the impression that this is some sort of proto-Dara Singh flick, it isn’t: it’s far more coherent, less complicated, and just generally more enjoyable than films like (say) Faulad, Rustom-e-Hind and Rustom-e-Rome.
Some of the songs, by Shankar-Jaikishan (Baadal was one of their earliest films; they had first partnered as composers in Raj Kapoor’s Barsaat, 1949). My favourite of all the songs in Baadal is the lovely Ae dil na mujhse chhupa, which begins softly and sadly before turning into a peppy romantic song.
And, how could I not mention the lead pair? Premnath is handsome, and Madhubala is pretty—not as beautiful yet as she was to be in later films like Howrah Bridge and Kaala Paani, but still beautiful. Both, singly as well as together, are very easy on the eyes. The rumour that they were, offscreen, also in love probably accounts for the chemistry that shines forth now and then (when it’s allowed to, considering the script doesn’t allow for much romancing).
What I didn’t like:
The plethora of songs. Yes, some of them are good, but there are just too many of them, and they keep getting in the way of the script.
Plus, as I’ve mentioned in the course of this review, there is some stuff that requires a willing suspension of disbelief: Baadal’s horribly idiotic ‘disguise’, for instance.
But. There’s eye candy, there’s a fairly interesting script, there’s a decent amount of entertainment. It’s fun.
Note: If you decide to watch this on Youtube, avoid the version on the CineCurry Classics channel (which is the SEPL version); the last quarter of the film has the reels all jumbled up, so it doesn’t just take some thinking to get the order of events straight, it also—of course—takes away from the enjoyment of the film.