Oh such excitement to get my hands on a Wadia Brothers production! Made by Fearless Nadia‘s director (and later husband) Homi Wadia, this film did not disappoint. Special effects courtesy of the master Babubhai Mistry, and a young, really gorgeous Meena Kumari paired with actor Mahipal are hugely entertaining. SN Tripathi and Chitragupta provided the very melodic songs, and it’s an old-tyme treat from start to finish. Although made in 1952, it plays like a film from the thirties which really just adds to the charm.
We begin with a wicked magician conjuring up something called the Light Vampire to help him achieve his fondest (but not very original) dream:
The Light Vampire tells him that he needs the magic lamp and that there are three conditions for acquiring it (they also quibble a little over the magician’s personal qualities):
The honest person in question is, of course, Aladdin (Mahipal) who lives in a kingdom where the Sultan has forbidden all male citizens from leaving home so that the Princess (Meena Kumari) may pass through the city unseen. Aladdin is indignant at this treatment and determined to flout the law. He makes a bet with one of his gambling companions.
When her entourage arrives and all the men flee, Aladdin hides behind some jars to catch a glimpse of her. He trips one of the men staggering under the weight of her palanquin, causing him to fall and drop it, and she tumbles out.
She and Aladdin lock gazes and are instantly smitten. They are awfully pretty people:
He looks kind of like Laurence Olivier sometimes (although he wears so much makeup in the film that he sometimes looks like a girl too). I’ve heard about Mahipal but had never seen him before this movie.
Anyway, Aladdin tells everyone that he didn’t see the Princess, losing his bet. But one day a courtier almost rides over Aladdin, and then has him arrested for “insulting” his horse!
He is Nasimbeg, the son of the Chief Minister, Massoodbeg.
Unbeknownst to the Princess and most of the court, the unscrupulous Chief Minister Massoodbeg has replaced her father with a look-alike. The real Sultan is imprisoned in a dungeon in the palace while the fake one does the Chief Minister’s bidding, to everyone’s puzzlement and dismay. Massoodbeg wants to marry his son to the Princess and her real father has stubbornly refused.
The fake Sultan orders that Aladdin be whipped publicly and banished from the city, and he’s strung up in the marketplace. Meanwhile the evil magician has arrived in town, and he sees Aladdin’s moles which form the shape of a lamp—the second condition for getting the magic lamp he wants.
After the whipping ends, he goes to poor Aladdin and convinces him that he’s Aladdin’s uncle. He treats his wounds with his magic and then takes him to the magic mountain where the lamp is hidden. He gives Aladdin instructions to find the lamp, and sends him inside. All that’s missing is Boris Karloff as The Mummy and Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones.
Aladdin finds the lamp deep inside a cavern and manages to return to the main entrance with it. The magician calls down for him to throw the lamp up, but canny Aladdin refuses to until his “uncle” pulls him out. Angry, the magician shuts him inside the cave with the lamp (and some zombies). When he accidentally rubs the lamp, to his astonishment a genie appears and calls him Master. Aladdin wants to go home.
So much goodness! Aladdin’s thoughts then immediately turn to his true love, the Princess, who has been warding off Nasimbeg’s attentions as best she can. He goes to the palace and declares his love to the Sultan. Nasimbeg challenges him to a duel; the winner gets the Princess (since it’s the 1950s and a fantasy, I won’t go into how much that whole concept irritates me from a feminist perspective).
After much swordplay, some cheating (Nasimbeg poisons the tip of his sword), some swooning and a little comedy, Aladdin wins the Princess’ hand. He also rescues her father and deposes the fake Sultan and the evil Chief Minister. The genie builds him a beautiful palace across from his new father-in-law’s, and he and his bride settle in happily.
His troubles are not over yet though: the magician is still lurking, and he wants that lamp at all costs.
While Aladdin is out hunting one day, the magician turns up at the palace posing as a lamp seller. One of the Princess’s ladies-in-waiting is tricked into giving him Aladdin’s magic lamp.
When Aladdin returns, his palace and the Princess are gone! Where are they? Can he get them back, and the lamp too?
This is a cute little Arabian Nights tale, and the songs and settings and special effects are so much fun. I highly recommend it! and I really hope to see more from the Wadia studios someday soon.