Prithvi Vallabh (1943)

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.

Then there’s the war. The 1943 special effects are just as good as the 2007 special effects from Jab We Met!

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!

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51 Comments to “Prithvi Vallabh (1943)”

  1. So Munj does get trampled? :((

  2. I saw this years ago and was instantly in love with Sohrab Modi and Durga Khote. They were so good! Dont remember the music or the other side stories (or even K. N. Singh, for that matter) but I do remember Modi’s ringing voice and Durga Khote’s dimples. :-) I need to re-watch, NOW!

  3. Kashmira, sadly…yes. We don’t actually see it happen, but we hear it. *crunch* The humanity!

    bollyviewer: Sohrab Modi does have a fabulous voice. And Durga—even though she’s not REALLY young here—is so beautiful. I love her dimples too, they even showed through her grouchiness.

  4. Thanks for posting this. I have to admit that I’ve never watched a Bollywood film in B&W and with king/queen era. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Damm, You know so much.
    Sohrab ought to have good voice as he was a theatre artist. (This doesn’t mean everybody who does theatre has good voice but most of them do so much practice and improvisation on voice that it shows. You can notice that right from Prithviraj kapoor to Ompuri, Amrishpuri, Naseeruddin Shah)

  6. I don’t believe this. Teja and I have been ill with flu. And guess what we did yesterday? Watched ‘Prithvi-Vallabh’. Teja knows all the historical stories really well from his childhood, and apparently the fight between Tailap and Munj is a famous one, though Tailap in a lot of versions is an equally brave king, not the mean little coward that he is in the film. And gosh yes, what’s with that hairdo?

    Anyway, you missed all the interesting sexual connotations because of the absence of subtitles. Mrinalvati has taken a vow of abstinence. And hence, she is so grouchy. In fact, Charini is constantly urging Mrinal to let loose, and tells her that her abstinence is an illness, which she imposes on everyone around her. She also predicts that Mrinal will defeat Munj in war, but lose her life to him.

    Munj constantly challenges Mrinalvati to taste the pleasures of love. She resists, and then of course, falls. They spend hours together in the prison cell, while the guards change outside.

    When Bhoj, who is Munj’s son and Kavi come to help him escape, Munj says he has a date for the night, none other than Mrinalvati, and he will leave the next day with her. His virility and his love for life and its pleasures are praised several times by his son and the Kavi. Also, the fact that he is 40, young and handsome. And that Mrinalvati even at her age has fallen for him. When Mrinal is asked to give him the customary alms before he is killed, he asks her what else she can give him, now that she has given him all that she had.

    This theme of love is of course, brought to a more natural fruition with Bhoj and Vilas. Who conveniently forgets her engagement to Tailap’s son. When Tailap’s son slits her throat in anger, her mother asks him why love is a crime in Vilas, and why he doesn’t slit Mrinal’s throat for her indulgence with Munj.

    It’s all so delightfully liberal in its sexuality. So I had to hog your space to share it.

  7. oh I haven’t seen this one..now on my have to list. Thanks for the screen shots of Ameerbai Karnatki.

    The only one I have seen, long, long ago, was Pukar. Don’t remember much except the gorgeous Naseem Banu, Saira Banu’s mum, a tleast I thought so at the time.

    Hey, it quite funny that it is one movie where the dialogue seems to have made such a difference to the plot!!! what a pity they left the liberal road for so many years.

  8. Banno, THANK YOU so much!!!!!!! I really really need to learn to speak Hindi, because I missed everything! Thanks for posting such a great explanation of what was going on.

    Without the dialogue it was still fun, but I can only imagine how *sizzling* it would have been if I’d known what was happening. No wonder she was such a crab, indeed! I’ll have to rewatch it now for sure :-)

    Nicki, The old b/w historicals can be quite entertaining and usually the music is quite lovely. Give them a try!

    महेन: I don’t know anything at all, see Banno’s comment for proof of that :-) But yes, theater background definitely gives one a “ringing” voice!

    bawa: I’d love to see Pukar for Naseem Bano, and Sikander of course for Prithviraj. He was one of the most beautiful men EVER with such a fantastic voice and presence.

  9. Oh my goodness, how fascinating to see how the pendulum has swung. I have to confess that I was totally distracted by the HUGE watermark the DVD makers put on the screen. I never thought I’d see one that’s worse than Eros’ but now–wow. :-)

  10. Memsaab,

    I think this used to be a doordarshan staple in the late 70s in Delhi – I remember some of the scenes you’ve posted, especially Durga Khote – or was she in any other old historical in a similar role?

    The hair ornament thing – you can still buy similar ones – the kind she has on is now worn mostly by Bharatnatyam dancers – you should find them in any store that stocks “dance jewellery” – the various pieces are all connected by a chain, and pinned into the braid.

    M

  11. M, can I buy a braid to pin it on too? Thanks for the info :-) Durga was in a lot of historicals, since that’s what they mostly made in the 30s/40s…I saw a screen shot of her in a 1932 film yesterday and she was GORGEOUS.

    ajnabi: I hate watermarks. With a passion.

  12. I have stolen your screen caps of KN Singh- the one with himnext to a tree/shrub is esp amazing- I love the guy, and am terrified by him, all at the same time :)

    It is interesting that “Bhoj” means “a feast” and “Vilas” means “indulgence”- I love how symbolic movies used to be!

  13. He’s v.v. fierce looking, but always so “cool”—you hardly ever see him lose his temper.

    He was great in this and had lots of screen time :-)

  14. AHAHAHAH!! I mean, it’s a very sad story, but this is post is hilarious. I haven’t watched it, and now I probably never will because I DO understand Hindi and thus will probably cry when I see it and I would rather keep the happy feelings generated by your post.

    Oh, and as it happens, YES! you can buy a braid too! It’s called a parandha and it sort of works like a weave. It’s that pink thing Hema Malini braids into Preity Zinta’s hair in Veer Zaara. Of course, Preity had long hair in that movie but I used to be a classical dancer with shoulder length hair and I’ve used those things so it should work as long as you don’t have a bob.

  15. I’m very glad that Banno chimed in above to let me know what was REALLY going on. But yes, as you can see, I did enjoy it even in my ignorance. I don’t think even now I would find it particularly sad; I mean being crushed by an elephant is sad of course, but up until then Munj was a pretty happy guy. And he sure cheered Mrinal up!

    I have shoulder length hair now (since my “saloon” cut, ha ha) but by the time I find a store that stocks temple jewelry and braids it will be long enough! Do they sell them with streaks of gray? Cause otherwise they probably won’t match my real hair at all :-)

  16. Memsaab,

    yes you can buy a braid – you get a couple of styles, in both real-hair and artificial – the older one is “false hair” – like a horse-tail, in varying lengths and colors. Depending on the length of your hair, you either make a ponytail with your hair and the false hair together or just braid your hair along with the false hair into a barid. The Parandha Amrita talks about is the decorative end that you attach into the end of the braid. Modern versions of false hair are available in clip-on braids. AFAIK, Aish wore one for her wedding :-)

    M

  17. You all are not going to recognize me! :-)

  18. wow, I so *did not* recognize Durga Khote!! as you said, this movie seems to be a gold mine! and yes, Tailap’s hair cracked me up!! Maybe memsaab, after you’re done with fake braids & ornaments (and make sure to post pictures in your blog!), maybe you can try Tailap’s hairdo too?? *Evil Smile* :-D

  19. Not even for one million dollars :-)

  20. hi.. very interesting post.. where do u get to watch such old movies??

  21. wow, this movie looks great, do you have the other two films in the series as well? If so, I can’t wait to see your review. Thanks again!

  22. This one is on DVD (Nupur, in case you didn’t get that from the screen shots ha ha)…I don’t know about the other two, I haven’t seen them anywhere. But I’m looking! :-)

  23. Saw ‘Pritvi Vallabh’ last night on a pirated VCD on my 19″ computer screen. The print was so so. Unfortunately, the film was incomplete! It stopped at the scene where Vilas’s mother (Kajjan?) and father (K N Singh!) starts walk away from Tailab and Mrinalvati and suddebly blows the conch (shell).
    I have read the original novel (with the same name, written by Kanaiyalal Maneklal Munshi – mercifully K M Munshi), so I knew the theme. But watching it unfold on the screen would have been a pleasure!
    My 75 year old uncle was watching the film with me for the first time after seeing it in a theatre in 1943. The scenes were coming back to him, and he was enjoying the show!
    Your love for movies is amazing! I thought I was the only one so passionate about films!
    By the way, my uncle and I have CD’s of K L Saigal’s ‘Street Singer’, Shanta Apte’s ‘Duniya Na Maane’ and Ashok Kumar’s ‘Jhoola’ lined up for our watching pleasure!
    Will think of you while at it!
    Regards,
    -cinemaargi

  24. I was surprised at how good the quality of this DVD was…I have the Marathi version (with subtitles!!!! hurray!) of Shanta Apte’s Duniya Na Maane (called Kunku in Marathi) which I will write up here as soon as I watch it. Can’t wait to see her in a film, have always liked her singing. Am v.v. envious of Ashok Kumar’s Jhoola :-) Would love to see that. How fun that your uncle remembers seeing Prithvi Vallabh in a theater in 1943.

  25. Just discovered this blog courtesy of PC!

    Oh wow oh wow – so much to catch up on! I have a subtitled VCD of Duniya Na Mane in Hindi (at least I think it’s subtitled!)

    I got a stack of oldies from India a while ago by chance – some of them worked – others didn’t so I enjoyed the ones that did and cursed my bad luck for the ones that didn’t.

    I’m so in the mood to watch them again now.

    Have been desperate to find Pukar and Sikandar for years!

  26. Me too! :-) Glad you are here and enjoying it.

  27. I remember seeing this movie on one of those 70’s Sunday evening, Thanks to DoorDarshan. I think i was in 3rd/4th grade but i still remember one particular battle scene. Sohrab Modi is standing tall in sea-battle while getting defeated. Also in one more scene, there is a secret path somewhere in palace garden that could have been escape passage for Sohrab Modi.

    Thank you very much for bringing this flashback in light!

  28. Hi Prashant, you remember it all correctly! I really hope one day it’s released with good subtitles so that I can catch all the nuances. But it was really good even without them.

  29. Thank you for the pictures.I,too,saw Prithvivallabh,Pukar,Sikandar and Jhansi ki Rani as a kid on Doordarshan and have been looking for them ever since.For V Shantaram fans,Baba DVDs have almost all his films.Where can one get DVDs of Sohrab Modi films?I am also looking for Jailor and Nausheran-wale Adil.
    Does anyone know where or how to get a copy of Laila Majnu ,the one with Shammi Kapoor and Nutan(not Rishi Kapoor and Ranjeeta)and the hertrending Talat Mehmood song”chal diya kaarvaan”.I would hugely appreciate any leads on these.

    • the DVD/VCD movie Jhansi ki raani (sohrab modi) is available on Nupur video. but the movie is black and white. the colored version of this movie you can find on amazon.com in the name of ‘the tiger and the flame’.I also have a DVD OF this movie(black and white). the website”www.webmallindia.com claims to get you the shammi’s Laila Majnu online, but I do not believe this site.
      please let me know where I can get DVD/VCD/or at least a VHS of sohrab modi’s movie PUKAR. please tell me…………………………

  30. Hi
    Does anywone know where I can order a DVD of Pukar and prithvi Vallabh online?

    • I don’t think Pukar is available on VCD or DVD, at least I’ve never been able to find it. Prithvi Vallabh though you can get from induna.com—they are fabulous, their service is great. If you live in India the shipping isn’t a problem, but if you live elsewhere it is really high—so order LOTS of DVDs to make it worth it (the prices of their VCDs and DVDs is so low that it all evens out in the end).

  31. Hi memsaab,

    The beautiful lady with a classic ornamental hairstyle is Meena Shorey.
    Meena later became the famous ‘Lara Lappa’ girl and a heartthrob of everybody who saw her in ‘Ek thi Ladki’ released in 1949.

    Please refer to her video available on the you tube, of song ‘lara lappa’. Even by todays standards, she is just beautiful. Her acting is superb and movements so delicate that one would die for!

    And after seeing her in this song, it gives unbearable pains and sorrows to know that her last days were destitute and marred with the poverty to such an extent that she was seen begging for money to marry off her sister’s daughter, at a film fesival in Pakistan. She had a lonely death and nobody was at her side at that time.

    In an interview, just a couple of years before her death, she had expressed that she felt like a dried tree amongst the greenery around, that everybody wants to chop off.

    I could not hold my tears when I learnt this. Actually, I was not even born when the lara lappa song came up. But I feel the same way like my dear one had to go through this all and met a lonely death.

    Since 1940’s she had about 50 films to her credit. She was a heroine in nearly 10 of them. She shifted to Pakistan after the partition, in 1956. Initially, she got all the fame and accolades including becoming the ‘Lux Lady’ of Pakistan. But soon, she started getting subsidiary roles and subsequently small roles in trivial films like ‘Jagga’ and ‘Behroopia’.

    From 1968 to 1978, she was totally isolated rom films. However, in 1979, she seems to have acted in the film ‘Aakhri Nishani’, which wa her last film.

    She passed away on 13th Sept, 1987 and her burial was made by charity money.

    That is what happened to the lara lappa girl.

    Memsaab, if we can find and see all her movies irrespective of whether she was a heroine or not, or whether they were hits or flops, it will be some justice for her, at least after the death

    • I have not been able to find Ek Thi Ladki…sadly a lot of the films from her era either aren’t available at all, or don’t have subtitles (which makes it less fun for me to watch generally). That is really sad, about her poverty and death, and her feeling that she’d been cast off by the industry. I read somewhere (I think) that many hold her husband responsible for her career not going as far as it might have, but I have no idea how true it is. Show business is not kind to many people, I’m happy that I never had the urge to try my luck with it!

  32. I am trying to collect whatever possible data which may lead to have access to her fergotton movies, and I have just started.

    In Pune, India, there is an institution, ‘Film Institute of India’ with famous students like Jaya Bhaduri (Bacchan) to its credit. It has in its premises, ‘Film Archieves of India’ where film reels of some 10,000 Indian movies are stored and preserved.

    When I visited their website, I came to know that they do have the reels of Ek thi ladki’ and a few other films of hers. I also learn that they allow us to see these movies on their machines with hourly charges. I still don’t know if CD’s are available with them for sale. But mostly, they may not. I shall go to Pune in January and then try to visit the institution.

    I am also in contact by mail with Dr. Hasan Bukhari who has a big vintage library of many films produced before and after the partition and he has shared a part of his treasures with the You Tube.

    From blogs, I understand that Meena came from Raiwind, near Lahore to Mumbai with her sister after the sister’s marriage. She attended the premier of ‘Sikander’ when Sohrab Modi spotted her—- its a long storey thereafter. After partition, Roop K Shorey, who owned a film studio in Lahore, lost it in riots, and came to India, completely broke. Meena, who knew him since her early days, supported him and with her finance, they together produced one movie. Eventually, they married.

    However, after the success of ‘Ek thi Ladki’ in 1949, just when a slack period was coming, she was invited to Pakistan to act in ‘Miss 56′ and became popular. She even became the ‘Lux Lady’ of Pakistan in around 1955. And the accolades received made her permanently stay there, even at the cost o her marriiage. After her decision to stay back, her husband came back to India without her. Afterwards, she married to a few actors a couple of times but they were unsuccessful as one of those husbands used to beat her up as his privilege. Then the divorce and—–the storey continues till her death.

    The point is, perhaps, if she had’nt stayed back in Lahore, her days could be different as she was already competing with leading actresses in India and united India-Pakistan before she left for good.

    Her separation was a big shock for husband Roop K Shorey, who was heartbroken, became less and less interested in producing and directing movies, though he made some good Hindi and Punjabi films. He died sometime in 1977. So this one husband may not be at fault for setbacs in her career.

    Bye for now.

  33. I am hoping to go to the Film Archives in Pune one day, although I might disappear in there and never be seen again! Wish they WOULD do something with all the films they have there (although I don’t want them to hand them over to the likes of Ultra, Friends, Shemaroo, Eros, etc….and all those other people who will just trash them and slap a huge logo across them).

  34. I hope Pune Fil Institute will use their archive not just to preserve these movies but to circulate these movies too. I think this institute is like government institutes who treat themselves as self appointed custodians of such heritage, and then thanks to beauraucratic set up, steadily lose all these valuable treasures over time.

    Government owned “Akashwaani” (All India radio) have some of the most extensive treasures of recordings of Bollywood movie songs based programmes presented by past celebrities in ” vishesh Jaimala” progmramme on their “Vividh Bharati” channel. But they have not bothered about selling these recordings to public. They offer sales of classical music recordings though, and as expected there are few takers of such recordings. They can sell many copies of ” vishesh Jaimala” recordings, if only they decide to sell these recordings to public.

  35. Yeah. You are right Atul. But we must try every which way to persuade the authorities to make the treasure public.I may write to the concerned ministry and see what response we get initially. It should be the public property after all. I know, it is a slow process to get results from any government department. But perhaps—just perhaps, it may work.

    Atul, can you throw some light on how to contact companies like ‘Indus’ and ‘Shemaroo’ ? Indus has no website, it seems. But I learn from some blogs that it is them who have made(?) and marketed the vcd of ‘Ek Thi Ladki’ (1949) available and some such old movies. Or have I to move from shop to shop to find these?

    thanks

  36. You can find DVD and VCDs from different companies on sites like induna and nehaflix. Many of these manufacturers do not seem to have websites, probably because they know that people like me would just send them irate messages about their shoddy quality and the huge disservice they are all doing to their own cinema history and Hindi film fans around the world.

    I am forced to rant here instead :) And I shake my finger at you too Indian government and Pune Film Archives!!!!! They may like to think of themselves as guardians of cinema heritage, but if they make no effort to preserve and share these treasures then they are not really guardians at all, just selfish hoarders.

  37. Hi Memsaab,

    Just back to India from US. Know what? I booked Sikander, Prithvi Vallabh, Ek Thi Ladki and Dholak with Induna while in US and asked them to deliver the cd’s to my address in India. CD’s were waiting for me when I arrived! All are of good quality and complete. Of all of them, I am overjoyed to have the cd of Ek thi Ladki. It is a superb movie and both Motilal and Meena Shorey have superbly performed. Motilal looks like a real matured hero, unlike the present day tiny heroes! It seems, Meena Shorey had a God-gift of beautiful expressions. It is hard to believe that the movie was released even before my birth! See the movie. Except for the B/W colour of it, there is nothing to make out 1949 any different from 2010!

    I wish, I could send the movie to Youtube so that it is available to everybody and anybody. But all sorts of copyright warnings are writtin on them. I really don’t know from whom these so called copyrights are purchased by the distributors/suppliers/manufacturers in absence of its producers.

    Anyway, if you want to, book Ek Thi Ladki with Induna! It is in the stock!

    • Hi Shrikant, glad you found them waiting!!! Induna is wonderful. I have Ek Thi Ladki and Sikandar and Pukar in my shopping cart at Induna…although I doubt that I will enjoy ETL as much as I would if it were subtitled :( I wish I could get through to these people that there is a large non-Hindi speaking population interested in these films…

  38. Can anyone m,ail me the picture of rafiq ghaznavi

    RASHID ASHRAF – Adinistrator: http://www.wadi-e-urdu.com
    zest70pk@gmail.com

  39. Hi, great review with shots!! Actually I had read the novel of the writer of the movie , K.M. Munishi, which is in Gujarati and was looking for the movie review. Thanks for the review!!

  40. If anyone is interested in reading the historical novel “Prithvi Vallabh” by KM Munshi, it available online at Digital Library of India, Bangalore at http://www.new.dli.ernet.in/

    Just search the title “Prithvi Vallabh”. You could even download it.

  41. we want to know biography of old actor & actress

  42. IT IS A GREAT MOVIE . I WANT SEE IT ON U TUBE. IF IT IS POSSIBLE TOSEND DVD OF THIS PICTURE. PLEASE SEND . I WILL PAY FOR THE DVD.

  43. prithvi vallabh written by Kanaiyalal Munshi is really great…!!
    i love it..
    munj is just like god…

  44. sohrab modi was (is) so greate and minerva mooveitone is greate team powerfull dailoge of sohrab modi ji

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