Well, this is the earliest Hindi film yet that I’ve seen. It’s the third in a trilogy of spectacularly mounted historicals made by Sohrab Modi: Pukar (1939), Sikander (1941, which made Prithviraj Kapoor a film star) and then this. Since it doesn’t have subtitles, I did some research so I’d have some clue as to what was happening. This is a brief synopsis cobbled together from different sites.
Two neighboring kings, Munj and Tailap, are rivals. Munj is kind and just, and Tailap is bad. Tailap has a grumpy sister named Mrinalvati, who bosses everyone around. Another king by the name of Bhillam joins forces with Tailap and together they defeat Munj and take him prisoner. Mrinalvati attempts to humiliate Munj publicly but ends up falling in love with him. When Tailap discovers that they plan to run away together, he sentences Munj to be trampled to death by elephant.
Fun, fun, fun!
I’m immediately captivated—one minute into the film—by this textile. I want it!
The film opens inside a temple to Shiva. The temple is gorgeous, with huge bells. I have a pair of Pakistani earrings like that (around the same size, too).
This is Munj (Sohrab Modi) on his throne. Wheeeee! ‘Tis good to be King.
Bossy Mrinalvati (Durga Khote) is played by my favorite Ma and grandmother. She’s in her late thirties in this film.
Even perpetually cranky, she is gorgeous. So elegant with that aquiline nose, flaring nostrils, and those dimples. And those deep-set eyes!
When you don’t have a clue what’s going on, these are the things you focus on. Plus Tailap’s hair:
What the hell kind of g.d. hair is that? Here it is again:
I am overjoyed when KN Singh enters the picture:
KN Singh is one of my favorite villains of the 40s and 50s. So suave! I decide that he must be Bhillam, and it turns out that he is. He has a nice big part in this film.
Shiva’s devotee Charini is played by the famous singer Ameerbai Karnataki. I am so happy to see what she looks like! This movie is Indian film history gold!
Victory parade with elephant and drums! A mere screen cap doesn’t do the spectacle justice.
More KN Singh, because I love him.
These two are Bhoj (Al-Nasir) and Kavi (Sadiq Ali). They turn out to be allies/relatives of Munj.
This pretty girl is Vilas (Meena Shorey), and she is Bhillam’s daughter (I think). She and Bhoj fall in love, which doesn’t sit well with Tailap’s son, who is a jackass. I’m not sure of all the details.
Details don’t matter though: she has a tiara-hair ornament thingy that is to DIE for. I want one!
Once imprisoned by Tailap, Munj appears to be unperturbed by his fate, and by Mrinalvati’s cranky manner. His mouche makes him look like the Joker.
Mrinalvati orders his hand to be burnt by a soldier, and then is horrified.
That’s how we know she’s fallen in love with him. When Tailap orders Munj’s death, Mrinalvati contravenes his orders. I love the look Tailap’s wife gives him as he meekly sits down.
I guess he is thoroughly under his didi’s thumb!
More KN Singh.
Munj looks kind of hot with five o’clock shadow and draped in heavy chains, especially next to Tailap with his ridiculous hair (not to mention that he looks overdressed by comparison).
Sohrab Modi has a great voice too, I might add. I guess he was very well-known for his dialogue delivery.
Certainly the crowd is in tears as he goes to meet his death. Even Ameerbai:
The elephant doesn’t even really want to kill him, but is forced to by his mean mahout who keeps stabbing him with a sharp thing.
But Vilas and Bhoj do get married, which makes us all feel slightly better. Actually, despite the lack of subtitles and the crunchy ending (literally), I really enjoyed watching this. The music too was very nice, composed by Rafiq Ghaznavi and Saraswati Devi. Ghaznavi has a lovely singing voice.
Edited to add: Please see Banno’s comment below for a great descripton of all the subtext I missed, which was a lot, and very important!