Robin Hood meets Hindi cinema! How can that possibly be a bad thing? I thoroughly enjoyed this film. It stars a young and handsome Premnath and the beautiful Madhubala (in fact they began a real-life romance during the filming of this, according to her biographer), and are very nicely supported by Purnima (in my opinion just as lovely as Madhubala) and Agha (so young! and cute! and funny too).
The setting is a sort of medieval (and feudal) Hindustan, where the reigning Maharaja is away and has left administration of his realm to his old, ineffectual and greedy Jagirdar. The Jagirdar has allowed his equally greedy—but more effective—men, led by Jai Singh, to loot the farmers and villagers. They are taxed beyond their ability to pay, and are imprisoned or left homeless when Jai Singh snatches away everything they own. Needless to say, the villagers are frightened of Jai Singh; all except defiant Badal (Premnath).
When Jai Singh murders Badal’s aging and fragile father, nobody has the courage to attend his funeral except gentle Maina (Purnima) who silently loves Badal from afar.
Her brother Himmat (Agha) is Badal’s best friend; he inadvertently (since he’s quite a coward himself) spurs Badal onto revenge against Jai Singh. Badal goes to the Jagirdar’s palace and overhears Jai Singh boasting to his appreciative boss about killing four men that day. He sneaks into Jai Singh’s room and confronts him at sword point, taking the gold coins that Jai Singh had collected from the peasants that day (like most bullies, Jai Singh is a blubbering fool when his life is at risk).
He spares Jai Singh’s life for some unknown reason and escapes on Jai Singh’s horse. The next day Jai Singh announces a reward for Badal’s capture, and then shows up at Maina and Himmat’s house, where he threatens their aged father too. Badal comes in disguised as a man from a neighboring kingdom, and gives Jai Singh (Hiralal) the money. Jai Singh is quite theatrical!
A word about Badal’s “disguise” here: it consists of nothing more than a teeny little wafer thin mustache and a soul patch, but it appears to fool everyone, even Maina. Sometimes he doesn’t even bother to change his clothes. And another word about his costumes: Premnath in this film is very skinny, and he wears an assortment of costumes ranging from a short skirt to a sleeveless jumpsuit and gladiator sandals to an Elizabethan-style doublet. My favorite though is this fur poncho thing with a mock turtleneck.
He calls a meeting of the local people and tells them all to grow a pair. Their courage bolstered by his success, they agree to join him in fighting against their oppressors. Woo hoo! I do love an inspiring leader in a good versus evil confrontation. A band of dacoits is duly formed, who will rob the rich and redistribute their wealth to the poor.
This is followed by a celebratory song, led by Maina. Isn’t she lovely? The songs are, too, by Shankar Jaikishan.
I worry that poor Maina is doomed to die, since she’s a good person and in love with the hero, but isn’t the heroine.
The heroine is about to arrive on the scene. The Jagirdar receives a letter from his daughter Ratna telling him that she is on her way to see him. He orders his men to go and provide a security escort for her. Meanwhile, Badal has entered the Jagirdar’s house and when the men leave he makes the Jagirdar empty his safe. The costume and makeup people had a great time with this film; check out the Jagirdar’s beard!
His security detail is too late to save Ratna (Madhubala). She has been kidnapped by Himmat (after she gives him a tight slap!), who takes her to their hideout. When Himmat tells Badal about his derring-do, gallant Badal is less than pleased. Apparently women are out of bounds when it comes to looting and vengeance.
Badal dons his disguise again (pencil thin mouche and flavor saver) and stages a rescue with the help of poor Himmat. He gallantly escorts Ratna away from the hideout, singing a song on the way—and it’s evident that they are smitten with each other.
He tells her that his name is Baga. They stop at Maina’s house: I guess Baga has as little faith in his disguise as I do, since he asks Maina to take Ratna all the way home. Maina’s heartbreak is evident, as she sees Badal and Ratna together and figures out the obvious. Ratna insists on Baga taking her home, though, and when they reach the Jagirdar’s palace her father luckily does fail to recognize the man who has just recently cleared out his safe. Instead, he’s grateful!
After Baga/Badal leaves, Ratna sings a song about their newfound love.
Jai Singh has designs on Ratna himself, marriage-wise. She dismisses him scornfully, but he’s not a good enemy to have. Then the distant Maharaja gets word that there are dacoits in the area, and he writes to tell the Jagirdar that if the dacoits aren’t caught then he will replace him. Seeing her father’s distress, Ratna suggests that they ask Baga to help catch Badal. She doesn’t know where Baga lives, though, so she goes to Maina’s house to ask for help finding him.
Maina is a little startled by this request, but she goes to look for Badal, leaving Ratna there alone. Jai Singh arrives (having been sent to protect her by the Jagirdar) and takes the opportunity to press his suit once more. Ratna tries to fight him off and is aided by the arrival of Badal (still in “disguise” and now wearing his doublet).
During the ensuing fight though, the smattering of facial hair comes off and Jai Singh recognizes his arch-enemy immediately, although poor Ratna doesn’t.
Horrified to discover that the man she loves is the man her father fears and loathes, she flees. What will happen next? Will she find out the truth about her father? Will she forgive Badal? Or will Badal be captured?
If you want to know, watch this fun little swashbuckler of a film. Premnath and Madhubala are lovely together, the songs are nice, Agha is cute and funny, Purnima is sad and noble, the villains are villainous—and the story moves along at a good pace. Here’s just a little more eye candy…