I remember my very first glimpse of a scene from Sikandar. It was years ago, probably sometime in the mid-80s, and in some Doordarshan programme or the other, a snippet appeared from Sikandar. All I recall is a closeup of Prithviraj Kapoor, dressed as an ancient Greek, plumes flowing from a gleaming helmet as he led his troops into battle. He looked startlingly like Shashi Kapoor, though with the build of Shammi. This film, I thought back then, I must see.
Give me a period film, and I’m willing to give it a shot. If it happens to be set in Mughal India, so much the better. If the cast features people like Meena Kumari, Pradeep Kumar, Rehman, Veena, Lalita Pawar and Nighar Sultana: well, there’s hope that the acting will be passable. And when I realize that the music composer is Roshan: then I’m certainly on for it.
Noorjehan, of course (though Richard would probably question that ‘of course’) is about the noblewoman who married the fourth of the Great Mughals, Jahangir. Born in May 1577 and named Mehrunissa, she was the daughter of a man who rose to great prominence in the Mughal court: Itmad-ud-Daulah (‘Pillar of the State’) was the title given to him, and the marriage of Mehrunissa to Jahangir made of Mehrunissa a powerful woman, too. Initially given the title Noormahal (‘Light of the Palace’) by her doting husband, she was subsequently given the title of Noorjehan (‘Light of the World’) and went on to become probably the most influential of imperial consorts in the Mughal dynasty, a wealthy woman in her own right, as well as a woman who exercised a good deal of power from beyond the purdah.
…and it’s a historical, again!
Frequent visitors to this blog would probably by now have realised that I have a weakness for history and historical films. Give me a sword and sandals epic, a Mughal extravaganza, or just about any film set in the ancient, medieval, or even early modern world, and I’m happy. Even happier when it’s a somewhat unusual setting. And more when the film maker has spent two years researching the film.
The Egyptian is set in the Egypt of 3,300 years ago. The main story plays out as a flashback, the memories of old Sinuhe (Edmund Purdom), who looks back on his life.
Despite my love for historicals and Madhubala, I was surprised when Ava mentioned this film on her blog. A historical (and a Sohrab Modi one, too), with Madhubala, and I’d never heard of it? Ava recommended it, so I decided to keep an eye out for it. Fortunately, I discovered Raj Hath on Youtube—therefore, this post. Ava, thank you. This was an enjoyable film.
Bunny Reuben’s biography of Pran, as many Pran fans would know, is called …and Pran: A Biography, a nod to the hundreds of credit sequences in which Pran—invariably one of the most prominent artistes in whichever film he was in—was listed at the end of the credits. A nod, not just to the fact that his character was more often than not at odds with the hero and heroine and their parents/friends/well-wishers listed first in the credits, but also that Pran deserved to be credited separately. A sort of ‘leaving the best for the last’? I like to think so.
In this film, even though he plays the title role, it’s no different. And Pran as Halaku.
Today, November 11, is the birthday of Mala Sinha, so I decided to finally watch this film—not because it’s one of her best, but because it has three elements I’m partial to: it has music by C Ramachandra, it’s a historical, and it stars Mala Sinha.
I have to admit my love for Mala Sinha sees ups and downs, based on which film I’m watching. In a film like Pyaasa or Gumraah, where she has good roles (and good directors), she shows just how good an actress she is. And in an all-out entertainer like Aankhen, she’s equally unforgettable as the feisty, glamorous spy. These are the films I prefer to stuff like Anpadh, Hariyali aur Raasta, or even Baharein Phir Bhi Aayengi—because the melodrama is kept in check.
But one thing I’ll happily admit: I think Mala Sinha is lovely, and I’ll watch most films just to see her.
While this blog is all about old films—and the bulk of my film-watching is old films—that doesn’t mean I don’t watch new films. I do; lots of them. But the odd thing is that invariably, new films that I watch end up having some connection (even if in a roundabout way) to an old film.
Last weekend, I watched two new films. One, of course, was the latest big release: The Dark Knight Rises. The other was the 2011 Michael Fassbender-starrer, Centurion. Both films reminded me of one old film, Zulu. Like The Dark Knight Rises, Zulu has Michael Caine in its cast (it was one of his first major film roles). And, like Centurion, Zulu too is about conquered versus conquerors.
Another tribute, to yet another great who’s passed on. Dara Singh, the wrestler-turned-actor who made such a big niche for himself in a slew of films, especially in the 1960s, passed away on July 12, 2012.
As a child, nearly all my movie-watching was restricted to what was aired on Indian TV—Doordarshan—(and later, the few TV channels that showed Hindi movies). Somehow, I never ended up watching any Dara Singh movies. Despite that, Dara Singh was a very familiar figure and name. A synonym for formidable strength, for something like the Rock of Gibraltar: utterly immovable, impossible to defeat.
Mumtaz, as I mentioned in my last post, was one of the best things that happened to Mere Sanam. She may not have had much screen time in the film, but she certainly left her mark – more than she’d been doing in the B-grade films she’d mostly appeared in till then.
Rustom-e-Hind, made in the same year as Mere Sanam, is an example of that type of film. It’s basically a Dara Singh showcase – so there’s lots of showing off of wrestling – but Mumtaz gets to smile prettily and flutter her eyelashes, if nothing else.
One of the main characters in Prince of Foxes was a man who actually existed in history: Cesare Borgia (1475 (?) – 1507 AD). This post is about a film that features one of Cesare Borgia’s contemporaries, a man born halfway across the world, seven or eight years after Cesare Borgia was born. A man as ambitious as Borgia, and a man who had as marked an impact on the history of India as Cesare Borgia did on Italy. This was Babur, the founder of the Mughal dynasty – without which we wouldn’t have had the Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri, murgh musallam, and who knows how many Hindi films.
Humayun is (as the name suggests) more about Babur’s son and successor Humayun (who, coincidentally, was born almost exactly a year after Cesare Borgia died – Borgia died on March 12, 1507; Humayun was born on March 7, 1508). But the film begins with Babur (Shah Nawaz) invading India, so Babur does play quite an important role in the scheme of things.