Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1952)

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.

Nobody does genie movies better than Indians! His mother and best friend are overjoyed to see him. He summons the genie again to show off his new power:

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.

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31 Comments to “Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1952)”

  1. I am so conflicted about this. On the one hand there is beautiful Meena Kumari, Arabian nights and (I am sure) a ton of bad special effects (love them) and on the other there is Mahipal whom I cant stand – my childhood was scarred by watching him cavorting in a frock (or so I thought) endlessly singing this dreary song on TV! What is the soundtrack like? If its great, I’ll end up watching inspite of Mahipal.

  2. I guess I’m lucky to have no scarring childhood memories of Hindi movies :-)

    I liked Mahipal okay in this! and the songs were very pretty indeed. The special effects were not as bad as Aaya Toofan’s, but they were interesting nonetheless! I think you’d like this.

    Plus, it’s Homi Wadia! Giver of Fearless Nadia!

  3. hey a very silly curious question: after marrying Homi Wadia, was Nadia called Nadia Wadia? :-D

  4. I know, wouldn’t that be a fine thing? I have never heard her referred to as Nadia Wadia though. Her real name was Mary, so maybe they called her that.

    :-)

  5. Oh, I was so glad to see you review this film!

    Anytime I see the name Homi Wadia I know that I am in for a fun time! And while it took me awhile to warm up to Mahipal, he has now become one of my favorites…but wait till you see him in one of his color mythologicals from the 1960s…all that lipstick and make-up you can hardly tell him from the leading lady! LOL!

    And speaking of Fearless Nadia, I just watched my first film of hers…CIRCUS QUEEN…it is a non-subtitled vcd, but boy is it fun!

  6. Circus Queen is on Rajshri.com and I’ve watched it but I miss the subs…she is awesome though!

    Mahipal is hilarious in his makeup. And he didn’t really need it but I guess it was the norm then….girly makeup….not just for girls.

  7. Ah, this sounds like a bit of fun. Meena Kumari in any role which isn’t weepy is usually lovely, though I’m not too sure about Mahipal (well, I haven’t seen any movies of his – just some songs here and there). Btw, that genie looks a bit like the demon in Aaya Toofan, with a moustache…

  8. Hi! and this was fun. I’m glad to find someone who’s into Hindi film oddities and rarely reviewed films!
    Well laid out fare… :)
    I thought Mahipal did a good job in “Navrang”, which also had wonderful songs!
    Have bookmarked you for now. Will go through your blog at ease.

  9. It is fun. Meena is so so so beautiful, it’s unbelievable. And the genie is hilarious, although not nearly as Mr. Potato Head-ish as Aaya Toofan’s :-)

    Gilga, welcome! I have Navrang, haven’t watched it yet but glad to know it’s got good songs! Thanks.

  10. It would be great if you could track down his final film Adventures of Aladdin (1978) and compare it with this film. Films like these makes me wonder what would’ve happened if Indian filmmakers, then and now, had the same sort of budget and publicity Hollywood filmmakers have.

  11. I haven’t ever seen Adventures of Aladdin…is it on DVD? This film actually had pretty good special effects, considering the time it was made during (and, no doubt, its budget) :-)

  12. I think I’ve seen this when little — the frames remind me of something I saw on Doordarshan. Don’t remember much at all, which means it might just serve as good prep material for the Aladdin movie (starring Amitabh as the genie, I think) releasing in December! Thanks!

  13. Just found this one in my local Indian DVD store along with Shammi-Nutan’s Basant and loads of other movies from your blog! Cant wait to watch them! :-)

  14. I am so all over this movie.

  15. Heh. It’s right up your alley, Todd, right up your alley :-)

    Have you seen the Shammi Kapoor-directed Bundal Baaz? Because if not, you really should.

  16. bollyviewer – just saw your comments of August 22nd re the dreary song. I love that song. But I agree about Mahipal, he’s not that attractive. Strange how most of the women of that time were so charming and the men could leave you cold.

  17. Err… is it a coincidence or by design that Aladdin and the Skeleton are in the same pose? (the last photo from the cave)

  18. I don’t know :-) But it’s a great shot isn’t it?

  19. I can imagine the scene: Aladdin walks into the cave, sees the skeleton. Sees how it is positioned. “That looks uncomfortable. Let’s not get stuck here” ;)

  20. hi i need a help where can i watch this movie in which website plz eply me
    thank u

  21. Alright,I suppose I must stick up for those who like ‘girly-looking’ men.I think Mahipal is very attractive,both in the screencaps and in the songs which I have seen on youtube (and LOVED,I think it’s a great pity S N Tripathi’s music is so hard to find,it’s wonderful). Anyway,just thought I should mention there are people who like their men pretty.

  22. I love old Hindi movies. especially stunts. I want to see CARAVAAN cast Mahipal and perhaps Shakila. Pl guide me how to know more about old movies and old actors and actresses.

  23. I was looking for information about the songs of this movie. And guess where my search took me to. To this post in our own beloved Greta’s blog. :D

  24. Who is the Lyricist in the Movie

  25. i like magic films such as aladdin hindi,thank you

  26. I saw Navrang once when it came on TV. After that I continuously watch that movie for 20-25 time I guess. It is an milestone movie. Mahipal is great actor and I really respect of such wonderful actor. This kind of actors become in centuries. One of a kind….great….

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