Considering the last film I reviewed—about Genghis Khan’s grandson, Halaku (Hulegu Khan)—it seemed to me about time that I watched this one. What strengthened my resolve was that I happened to watch the Julie Andrews-Omar Sharif starrer The Tamarind Seed last week, and I was reminded that Omar Sharif starred as Genghis Khan here. ‘And Omar Sharif as Genghis Khan’, as the credits read. [An uncanny coincidence there, with—as in Halaku—the lead actor’s name appearing at the end of the credited cast].
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.
This film stars Shammi Kapoor.
If you like Shammi Kapoor, do not watch this film. If you are a glutton for punishment and want to see it anyway, do not watch the last ten minutes. I can guarantee that you’ll be happier for it; you can decide for yourself what you would have liked the end to be, and spare yourself the trauma of sitting through what is definitely the most horrifying end I’ve ever seen in a Hindi film.
After a longish hiatus, I’ve begun working on my next novel. Like my first book, The Englishman’s Cameo, this one too features the Mughal detective Muzaffar Jang, and is set during the final years of Shahjahan’s reign. I’ve been doing other bits of writing—very little of it related to history—and decided I needed something to help build up atmosphere and get me back in the mood. A historic film, set in Shahjahan’s time? Shahjehan? With Naushad’s hit score, and the chance to hear (and see) K L Saigal singing some of his best-known songs?
Alas. Alas, alas, alas. Or, to put it more bluntly: &$%@##%@!!!
As I mentioned in a previous post, watching this film gave me a sense of déjà vu. There’s a lot about it that’s very reminiscent of classic Hindi cinema. The lost heir who can be identified by an amulet he wears; the long-lost brothers who don’t know they’re related and are at daggers drawn, partly because both love the same woman… fortunately, though, The Vikings is more than just a precursor to so many Hindi films. It’s also a very watchable film, with superb cinematography and a general air of having been made much, much later than it actually was.
Not too long back, I got to see the Christopher Plummer starrer The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1969), an unusual and sensitive take on the European conquest of the Americas. When I heard about this film, also based on the same subject—and starring the delicious Tyrone Power, to boot (how on earth did I leave him out of my eye candy list?!): well, I had to see it.