I have been wanting to watch this film since 1985.
That was the year, while watching Chitrahaar on Doordarshan, that I first heard (and saw) Chaand bhi koi deewaana hai. My sister and I, who loved old Hindi film songs even back then, used to keep a blank VHS permanently cued to record every time Chitrahaar came on, so we recorded this song—and over the years, I watched it so often that I memorized the entire song without ever having heard it anywhere else. When the Internet became easily accessible, I spent ages looking for the song (and finally found it, audio only, a few years back). Since then, I’ve been looking for the film. VCD, DVD, even a grainy version on Youtube would do.
And finally, after countless tries, I got to see the film. When I sat down to watch Apna Ghar Apni Kahaani, I kept reminding myself: most of the films that I’ve watched just because of one good song (or more) have turned out to be duds. I shouldn’t expect much.
Surprise, surprise. Not only did Apna Ghar Apni Kahaani have some good music and a lovely Mumtaz, it was also quite a good film.
I ended up re-watching this film in a roundabout sort of way, which is a story in itself. A few months back, my sister (a historian, whose PhD was on 19th century Delhi) remarked, “I’d like to watch Lal Qila. I’ve never been able to find it in stores.” So, good little sister that I am (and a shameless opportunist), I figured out at least one of the things I’d gift my sister for Christmas.
Before gift-wrapping the VCD, I decided to watch Lal Qila, and write up a review right after. The latter didn’t happen – because Lal Qila is so badly written, so badly directed, and such a crashing bore, I couldn’t make head or tail of it most of the time. Only Rafi’s superb renditions of Bahadur Shah Zafar’s poetry – especially Na kisi ki aankh ka noor hoon – are a saving grace.
I was so peeved and disappointed after Lal Qila, that I needed this to buoy myself up. In any case, I told myself: logically, the two films are related (other than the fact that both feature Helen): the Lal Qila and the Taj Mahal were both built by Shahjahan.
Here we go, then. One of Hindi cinema’s better historicals, with a stellar cast and very good music.
Of the many things that fascinate me about old Hindi cinema, this is one: the making of films set in a time and space wholly alien to India of the mid-1900’s. The 1950’s, especially, seem to favour these sort of films, set in exotic locales and needing costumes, makeup, and sets that were vastly different from what one saw in the more usual Bollywood drama, thriller or even mythological. There was Yahudi (with Dilip Kumar looking far from Roman in a light-haired wig and ankle-length gown); Aurat(based on the story of Samson and Delilah)—and this one, about the Mongol warrior king, Changez (better known to the West as Genghis) Khan.
I’m very fond of Bina Rai. I’m also a fan of Premnath in his pre-paunchy days. And a film that starred both of them? I didn’t even bother to try and find out what it was all about. So, when I began watching it and saw this, it made me sit up a bit:
Every now and then (recently, with alarming frequency) I come across films that do an about-turn midway through. Either they start off being happy and degenerate into utter despondency; or they are intelligent to start with and then descend into idiocy. Marine Drive is a prime example of a film that manages to become irritatingly nonsensical almost exactly at the half-way mark.