Rustom Sohrab (1963)

rustom_sohrab

Oh, how I loved this film—right up to the sad, sad end. It’s a tragedy drawn from a story in the Shahnameh epic of Persia, and it vividly portrays the disastrous consequences that lies and deception (not to mention violence, war, vengeance) can bring. Now, I am not a fan of tragedies generally (although I’m totally on board with the message), but the story is not what I loved this film for anyhow. True confession: Prithviraj Kapoor, in his mid-fifties here, is amazingly sexy. His romance with Suraiya is sweet and touching, and he towers literally and figuratively as the legendary larger-than-life strong-man of the Persian emperors. Plus, he looks like Shammi, never ever a bad thing!.

Besides the formidable charisma of Prithviraj, there is a cracktastic assortment of villains populating a region where even table servants wear helmets to protect themselves from their cruel masters. Premnath, also aging, somehow also manages to pull off a hero act opposite a very young and gorgeous Mumtaz; and the film features some absolutely sublime songs from music director Sajjad Hussain. These include one of my all-time favorites: “Phir Tumhaari Yaad Aayi.” All these things, combined with wonderful sets and costumes, make for total full-on paisa vasool.

The film opens as the elderly Shah of Iran (it was Persia back then, but it’s Iran throughout the movie) on his deathbed, extracting a promise from faithful Rustom that he will take care of the new emperor, and the whole country as well.

rs_protectiran

A tall order for most, but not for Rustom!

He enjoys hunting in the nearby country of Samangan on his beautiful (really beautiful) and faithful steed Raksh. One day, he comes across the Shehzadi Tehmina (Suraiya) whose entourage is unable to continue its journey because a tree has fallen across the road. He picks the tree up and moves it, impressing everyone including the haughty princess. When she tries to pay him for his trouble, he bends the coin she gives him in half and gives it back.

rs_charity

Days pass and she moons over him in her palace, wearing the bent coin as a ring. She tries to get her loyal servant Karlos (Azad) to bend another one for her, but he fails miserably. For those of you who are not old enough to be as impressed by the mature Prithviraj as I (or should that be mature enough to appreciate the old Prithviraj), Karlos is a fine alternative!

rs_karlos

She finally instructs Karlos to go and steal Rustom’s beloved horse, knowing that Rustom will come after Raksh. This strategy works like a charm and Rustom bursts into the palace one evening as everyone is having dinner (Rustom never knocks, he just breaks down doors). Whatta man!

rs_bustingin

Tehmina’s father the King assures Rustom that they will help him find his horse (he’s unaware of his daughter’s ruse and her motivations) and invites him to stay the night as a guest. Tehmina poses as a servant and plays a song for Rustom in his room after dinner. He spots the ring she’s wearing and remembers the coin incident. I also always wonder if veils in real history were as transparent as they are in movies, because I don’t see how they can fool anyone.

rs_song1

Later, when he calls for his clothes after his bath, he sees the ring again on the hand that brings them. Yes, this is just gratuitous:

rs_bath

When she appears in his room again that night, he lets her know that he has recognized her. She confesses all, and it’s a surprisingly moving and tender scene.

rs_love

Duty first, Sita last! Although he appears to reciprocate her feelings, he makes preparations to leave the next morning; he tells her that in addition to duty, he worries that marrying her would put her in harm’s way. But she’s confident he can protect her, and he caves.

rs_beloved

Hooray!!!! They are married and Rustom stays on in Samangan.

Meanwhile, back in Iran, danger is looming in the form of the King of Mazandarer. Mazandarer is the country I spoke of earlier; it is full of bald, beefy men with Arabian Nights Facial Hair who feed off steroids and ginormous meaty drumsticks, and communicate by roaring and grunting. Arrrrrrrr!

rs_arrrr

The King himself (Murad) looks like nothing so much as a demented old bag lady wearing a bib, a vividly patterned nightgown, and a helmet.

rs_mazandarer

The big pearl earrings don’t help any (or hurt, either, I guess). I am enchanted by this ill assortment of freakish characters.

Anyway, Mazandarer has been told by his astrologer that he will die at the hands of Rustom. Surrounding himself with glaring henchmen, he flees to his friend King Afsayed of Turannak’s palace for shelter. Afsayed’s son the Prince is as insulted as Mazandarer’s guards at the thought of Rustom defeating him, and he suggests they lure Rustom to Mazandarer by kidnapping the Emperor of Iran—Rustom will surely come to rescue him. Everyone is pleased by this idea (except possibly Mazandarer).

rs_toosmart

The Prince travels to Iran disguised as a poet, where he gets an audience with the young Shah and sings a song extolling the beauties of the land of Mazandarer. As planned, this engenders a desire in the Shah to see such a wonderful place, and he travels willingly with the Prince to the border—where he is totally unimpressed.

rs_paradise

It gets no better when he and his accompanying retinue of soldiers are all arrested and brought to Mazandarer’s palace.

rs_arrest

The dungeon-master is an evil and sadistic (and bald, with Arabian Nights Facial Hair!) man with an assortment of spiky and smoking hot (in the literal sense) instruments of torture and death. The Shah is hung up in chains and they cruelly try to force him to say “Mazandarer zindabad!” to which he always replies “Iran zindabad!” like a loyal emperor should.

In Samangan, Rustom is teasing his wife, blissfully unaware of these events unfolding. Her lady-in-waiting Huma (the lovely Lillian) chastises him for playing a little too rough. Let me tell you, lifting Suraiya could not have been easy at this point in her life.

rs_pregnant

He is thrilled to discover that he’s about to become a father, but Tehmina’s worst nightmare is about to come true. Messengers from Iran arrive with a summons for Rustom to rescue their Shah, and he has to go. Duty first, Sita last! It’s very sad.

rs_heirloom

rs_amulet

Off he goes on trusty Raksh to rescue his emperor, leaving poor Tehmina prostrate with grief. In Mazandarer, the king and his men prepare for Rustom’s arrival.

rs_killrustom

Their armor and scary weapons prove no match for Rustom’s brawn. He rather easily overcomes all of them, killing the king and rescuing the Shah (still muttering “Iran zindabad!”). When the Prince of Turannak rides to meet Rustom himself, his father King Afsayed begs him to reconsider. But the Prince is arrogant and determined to pick a fight with Rustom; it’s a fight he doesn’t win either. Afsayed is devastated by grief when his son’s body is returned to him:

rs_childless

Ummm…now you are! Gossip travels fast in these parts too, it seems:

rs_gossip

He swears to avenge himself by killing Rustom’s child, but first he has to find him. He sets off for Samangan but Tehmina’s father sends her with her infant son and loyal servants to a secret place hidden in the forest. Thwarted, Afsayed begins waging a war on Iran to keep Rustom distracted while he has his soldiers search Samangan for Rustom’s son Sohrab. Tehmina decides to keep his father’s name a secret from her son to keep him out of danger.

Over the years, Rustom is kept busy by Afsayed’s army and is never able to return to Samangan, although he sends a man when he can to keep him informed of Sohrab’s progress (he is not informed that his son is growing up to resemble a Manic Pixie Dream Girl).

rs_mpdg

Sohrab (Premnath) is raised in the forest and becomes as strong and adept at fighting (and uprooting trees) as his Dad—but no matter how he begs, nobody will tell him who that is. He also falls in love with Shahru (Mumtaz), and really who can blame him?

rs_mumtaz

Afsayed’s men are still combing Samangan for Sohrab, though, and one day they finally come across him. He freaks out when a soldier asks him who his father is. One of the smarter ones spots the amulet he wears on his arm.

rs_found

Oh no! Afsayed has more than enough ammunition to put a plan in motion now. He arranges to have Shahru kidnapped, and as planned Sohrab comes riding to her rescue. Afsayed pretends to be angry with his soldiers, apologizes, and invites Sohrab and Shahru to stay with him.

We are all entertained at this point by a gori dancer who wriggles her way around Sohrab in a lamé fringed dress, enraging Shahru. Sohrab seems pleased by the attention, which emboldens the dancer so that she starts slapping Shahru in the face with her skirt fringe. Sohrab is less pleased by this development and throws her to the ground, whereupon some male dancers in blackface and weird afro wigs enter and jump around shouting “Hey! Hey! Hey!”

rs_gorisong

It’s cracktastic! The gori girl gets back in Sohrab’s good graces, irritating Shahru, and the whole thing ends in a bitch-slapping brawl between the two women. How men do love a catfight. (Also, I feel I should root for the representative of my people, but I can’t—I root for Mumtaz instead.)

rs_catfight

Too hilarious. Afsayeb now looks at the amulet on Sohrab’s arm and pretends to faint. When he comes to, he tells Sohrab that Sohrab’s father was his best friend. Sohrab, hungry for any information about his father, is horrified to learn that he is dead, murdered. He “forces” the truth from Afsayed:

rs_murderer

Sohrab vows to kill Rustom, and Afsayeb puts his army at Sohrab’s disposal. This is where one of my favorite songs of any Hindi film comes in, as Sohrab thinks about his beloved on the eve of setting out to do battle with Rustom. Raja provided a translation of it in the comments of my last post if you are interested, and you can find it here on Atul’s blog as well. Do watch it: it’s just one of the loveliest songs EVER. Sajjad Hussain zindabad!

And the film…well, if it’s possible, I am as smitten with Prithviraj as I am with Shammi. The story, and the treatment—sets, costumes, over-the-top villains, Murad! My god, Murad—is so entertaining that I was positively glued to my chair. I know I overdid the screen caps here, but believe me—I edited. It’s a sad ending, as I said, and I always prefer a happy one; but the message about truth (and non-violence) would have been lost in a happy ending, so I am resigned to it. Plus, the journey there was so much fun.

website statistics

About these ads

49 Comments to “Rustom Sohrab (1963)”

  1. I can see where Shammi got his looks from! I didn’t know Prithviraj was still acting in hero roles in 1963, along with Raj and Shammi and Shashi!

    • Me neither! And he was SO heroic in this *sigh melt melt* Certainly his sons came by their charms honestly. Although the Kapoor DNA shenanigans are interesting: Prithviraj when young looked just like Shashi, and in middle age like Shammi, but I do not recall him ever looking much like Raj (or vice versa). However, Shammi looked much like Raj at about the same age (early 20s). And Shashi very believably played a ten-or-so Raj in Aag. But Shashi and Shammi don’t really look alike.

      Oy, my head hurts now.

  2. The fact that it had “Rustom” in the title made me think it was going to be a Dara Singh movie. Guess not. But, hey, there’s Zimbo himself, Azad, in the role of Karlos!

  3. I’m amazed that you were actually able to pick one song from Rustom Sohrab as a favorite. I LOVE them all. Sajjad was a genius. You should watch “Sangdil” (Madhubala, Dilip remake of Jane Eyre) and “Saiyyan” (Madhubala, Sajan remake of a Duel in the Sun) for more musical gems from Sajjad.

    • I liked them all (and really wish they were subtitled) but “Phir Tumhaari” stands out for me like a super nova. I don’t know if I can take a Dilip-Bronte collaboration though 8-|

      • I am all for Phir tumhaari yaad aayi too: I love the music, the lyrics, and the atmosphere – it’s so wonderful.

        And thank you for that review – I nearly fell off my chair when I read your description of the King of Mazandarer! :-D

        P.S. A little gushing is in order, I think: I just love that last screen cap. Mumtaz, of course, is beeyootiful, but so’s Premnath – better, in my opinion, than in Aan or Naujawan. One of those men who looked better as he grew older (before going rapidly downhill?)

        • Oh I love the young Premnath—so beautiful. But he still looks good here, and was actually an excellent choice to play Prithviraj’s son.

          This film is chock full of eye candy, that is all I can say :)

  4. Oh my god.. and I have many a time run out to the local grocery store dressed as was the king Mazanderer. In my defence it was only for bread and eggs!

    • Also in your defence: you are a woman, and not a king! Except for all the oppression and violence I would love to visit Mazandarer. Every day is Talk Like A Pirate Day there!

  5. This was Suraiya’s last film. Just love her song in the film – ‘Yeh Kaisi Ajab Dastan Ho Gayi Hai’ – it is one of her best ever songs and rarely has she sounded better or sweeter.

    • And she really looked beautiful too. I didn’t realize it was her last film, although she had put on a few pounds! Her romance with Prithviraj was really sweet, and it was great to see her in this.

  6. I read the story of Sohrab Rustam in my younger days, and it is indeed a very tragic story. That is why I could imagine how people could actually like telling this story. But this story obviusly sells, seeing how this story is still bering told and even picturised.

    The writeup is superb. I kept reading on and on till I came to the end of the writeup. I know the end, as mentioned above, and in fact it is the end that prevents me from enjoying this movie.

    As for the songs of Sajjad Hussain from this movie as well as other movies, we are unanimous that he was a genius. He was described by Anil Biswas ( a legendary music director himself) as a music director who was out and out original. One cannot get a bigger compliment than that.

    Sajjad Hussai unfortunately was not as gifted in interpersonal relations as he was in music making. He would forever be having his difference of opinion with influential people. That is the reason why he only got to work in just 14 movies or so ( 100 songs or so). But whatever songs he created, are remembered even today.

    • Poor Sajjad! But I guess an unwillingness to compromise in your art has its costs. Better to have composed 100 great songs than thousands of mediocre ones, in my opinion!

      He used a lot of singers in this film: besides Suraiya herself, Lata and Asha each have a song, and besides the trio singing “Phir Tumhaari” (Rafi, Manna Dey and Sadat Khan) there is Talat Mahmoud singing the fabulous song about Mazandarer :)

  7. Excellent review, Greta. Loved reading it.
    I have not seen the movie but I know the story from my childhood.
    It is one of those stories that children in my time used to grow up with, I guess.
    Though I am also not a fan of sad endings, I think I should see this one.
    It seems to have way too many good things about it to let the sad ending spoil it.

    P.S : Prithviraj really looks a lot like Shammi in some of those screen caps.

  8. I’m sorry, but first I have to say: MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOBS!!! Shiny ones!

    Also, the description of the costumes brought back sad memories of my one and only attempt at directing Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra: boys in skirts and dupattas for capes. We were laughed out of the festival. Sigh.

    However! I really, really, REALLY need to see this movie! It sounds absolutely awesome!

    • LOL! Would kill to see your production of Antony and Cleopatra :) Did any indulgent parents videotape it?

      Azad does have some Moobs in that screencap, but to be fair he had quite the rocking physique (see Zimbo for more evidence if you haven’t) :) But Prithviraj…oh, sigh melt melt melt…

      Movie is absolutely awesome indeed.

      • No, thank GOD! It was this obscure Shakespearan festival held in this boarding school halfway to nowhere that had the ambiance of a prison. No parents showed up because it was the middle of a working day and man, were we glad once we got into the dressing room and realized that everybody else was serious as nails about the whole thing. To say we bombed would be to understate it.

        Prithviraj does look all studly in those screencaps! Ancient Persia was apparently quite the hunk central! Geez, I really, really have to see this.

        • My only exploit in theater was as the front end of a cow that is killed by a lion—the back end fell down first and I kept walking for a few steps before I realized that we had been “attacked”. Was v. embarrassing. I had to wriggle my way back to the rest of my body.

          It’s a miracle we aren’t all scarred for life by the age of ten, really.

  9. This looks awesome; it will have to go on my ever growing to get hold of and watch list. It’s funny, to me Prithviraj always looks a lot like Shashi, but I may be a bit blinkered, or it is easier for me to spot the son whose looks I am more familiar with.

    I would recommend Sangdil, in my view it’s a better movie than the other Dilip-Bronte combination I have in mind (Dil diya dard liya) and I find the ending of Sangdil adorable (and will say so, repeatedly, every time I watch the movie).

  10. I love phir tumhari yaad aayi hai sanam. I used to moon over that song so much.

  11. Great reveiw!
    great screen cap and the young Azad is no match for older Prithviraj!
    premnath does have the looks of manic pixie dream girl their!
    would love to see this movie just for Prithiviraj Kappor and Mumtaz!

    • This might be my favorite Prithviraj movie, not that I’ve seen a lot of them (Raj Nartaki from 1941 is coming up soon though!). He just dominated it. There are many reasons to see this film!

  12. Must get this one!!! I never knew the song ‘phir tumhari yaad aayi’ was from Rustom Sohrab. It sounds like a quwaali and I love it. I’ll check out the other songs as well in case another one turns up that I know of but unaware that it belongs to this film.

    Because of its tragic end I would have avoided it, but if you could, I could try, at least :-)

    • The other songs are lovely, really lovely too. All quite different from each other. And the end is tragic, but it’s a satisfyingly good cry and it fits the film well. And honestly, there is so much great stuff in here, I highly recommend it.

  13. You ask a very interesting question about chiffon veils, which I have often wondered myself. When I saw them in Hollywood Arabian Nights movies, I always assumed they were nods to current Western fashions, but now, I see them in Indian movies, as well. When was silk chiffon first woven?

    • I’m sure silk chiffon was invented a waaaaaaaaaay long time ago, but really—what is the point of wearing a chiffon veil? It doesn’t actually hide anything. Neither do any of those curtains I see in Muslim socials and Mughal historicals—you can still see everyone behind them pretty clearly. Just curious whether real purdah is/was as “Purdah Lite” as it is in films (burkhas of course are another story altogether).

      • Maybe it just implies,”you’re not SUPPOSED to see behind the veil.” An honor thing. Or, maybe, just art direction.

      • Okay, I think I can answer this. :)

        You’re right, Greta: this is “purdah lite”. Actual purdah was very strictly enforced – noblewomen had their own separate quarters (the zanana) in which they were kept secluded and attended only by women – who also guarded them (or, eunuchs were appointed as guards/messengers with the outside world and the rest of the household). The only man allowed into the zanana was typically the husband or head of the house (since the zanana often consisted of even more distant female relatives – aunts, nieces, etc).

        Okie. Enough for now.

        • But don’t some old paintings show this kind of a purdah? I mean ‘purdah lite?’

          Iran was always more modern, and the culture of veils spread from near east.
          The covering of head from heat and dust of the desert (like the men) slowly got converted to burqua of the present day,
          I read something of the sort a long time ago.

          I personally think that the purdah got more and more strict/thicker as time passed.

  14. I am sure transparant veils are a poetic license taken by movie makers, just like plunging necklines and other such things.

  15. Regarding the name *Iran*.
    This is actually the original, ancient name of the country and what the people called their country, and others in the region. In hindi/urdu there is no other name but this.

    *Persia* was a name given by the westerners.
    I believe one of the Shah’s once requested that the country be called *Iran* and not Persia.

  16. And they pronounce it as “Iraun” in Persian, with the mouth rounded, and not like the Hindi (E-Raan) or American ( I-ran) or (Ee-Ran).

  17. Thank you all for jumping in! I am ashamed to say that I didn’t know that Iran is the ancient name for the country. Here in the US when you meet an Iranian who emigrated in the 70s they will often tell you that they are from “Persia” or that they are “Persian”…of course the ones I know who say that were persecuted on religious or political/economic grounds after the revolution…oh history! We have learned nothing from you!

    In Sikandar too, it was referred to as Iran. Also interesting comments re: veils and purdah. It is probably a combination of poetic license and traditions which were less strict—pacifist is right on the old paintings point, and that purdah got stricter as time passed. Certainly Muslim socials would not be nearly as much fun if there were no women to be seen in the company of strange men!

  18. Oh wow, it has been several years since I have seen this film…I think towards my Bollywood beginning…when I watched it I didn’t know from Azad, Mumtaz or Helen wannabe, Lillian…I will have to dust this one off and rewatch!

  19. My high point of this film is the song – Ye kaisi ajab dastaan. Some combination! Sajjad’s unique composition (as always), Surraiya’s ‘artlessly’ tantalizing rendition in that fabulously lovely voice of hers, coupled with Surraiya and Prithviraj’s moving performances. Some scene this was.

    I feel Surraiya did great justice to Sajjad’s compositions. There’s a playlist in youtube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66nhhOBnDgY. His music generally had a complex melodic line. As a counterpoint, Surraiya’s renditions stood out drmatically because of her straight singing, clear enunciation of words, and that oh so lovely clear and full-bodied tonal quality.

  20. i wanted to buy this movie for a very long time . this movie is neither for downlload or for purchase . tried almost everywhere . i visited this site assuming would get a option to buy . if possible plz let me know where or how to buy this movie .

  21. Can anyone tell who is the girl the song ‘ae dilruba nazarein mila’ was picturized on? Was she ever seen in any other movie?

    I fell for her dreamy eyes!

    • I don’t know, but I’ll ask Edwina who is sitting right next to her much of the time :)

    • It’s Yasmin. dustedoff (Madhu) told me that once. She’s best known for being the woman Johnny Walker sings to in Jaane Kahan Mera Jigar Gaya Ji from Mr & Mrs ’55.

        • You mean, Vinita Bhatt? She looks so different in this song that it’s hard to believe it’s the same chubby lady with dimples who appeared 8yrs before in Mr. and Mrs. 55, which I thought was her first and last movie before she got married to a German cinematographer.

          • While I would NOT call the lady in Mr & Mrs 55 chubby by any means, I agree that they do not look like the same person…

            Maybe two different Yasmins? Edwina concurred with the name anyway, although she said nothing about the other song.

          • Yes. Maybe she’s not the same Yasmin. The song gives me chills whenever i see it… Thanks, memsaab. Thanks, manonoji.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 813 other followers

%d bloggers like this: