This article is written by my friend and film historian Arunkumar Deshmukh, who previously has shared here his knowledge on actors Parshuram and Bhudo Advani. I am very honored that he asked me to publish this here, and I am thrilled to find out more about the beautiful actress Indurani of 1930s and 40s fame, her family (including her sister, actress Sarojini, and niece Azra—always a favorite of mine), her career and her life. I know you will be too!
This is one of the most bizarre films I’ve ever seen. Some parts of it left me with rounded eyes and a “WTF” bubble over my head, and some of it just made me angry; all of it left me feeling like I had just sat through ten years’ worth of Ekta Mata serial plotting in just two hours. My impression is that Sohrab Modi had some serious personal problems at the time he made this, and brought them all on set with him. His Jailor is a deranged man in need of medication and a padded cell, for his own sake and that of those around him. It’s dark, bewildering, and messy, and made me want to run screaming.
Madan Mohan’s music is beautiful, in particular the haunting “Life is Like a Punishment” (as “Bas Ek Saza Hi To Hai Zindagi” is subtitled). And Geeta Bali eventually enters like a breath of fresh air (as she is meant to). Plus, a court ruling that is actually rational, and the Indian Stevie Wonder!
The biggest surprise that this film has to offer is that rap was invented in India! Oh, yes. Here is incontrovertible proof, given us by two guys who had the outfits a bit wrong but all the hand movements just right. Listen to this (it’s short)!
I’m in love again. Almost on a Shammi scale, even. I first saw him in Humayan, where his lust for vengeance was constantly thwarted by a target who was nice to him. But his eyes and his bristling manner enchanted me, even then. And now! Chandramohan plays the Mughal emperor Jehangir in Sohrab Modi’s classic Pukar, and he is spectacular. Sometimes I had to stop the film just to sit and gaze at him.
To be fair, the entire film is spectacular. It is overwhelmingly magnificent, a sumptuously visualized and thrillingly plotted tale of love, murder and justice. I will forever be in my friend Muzafar’s debt for sending it to me. He also sent me 1941’s Sikandar, with Prithviraj Kapoor! These two films along with 1943’s Prithvi Vallabh form a trilogy directed and produced by Modi, and I feel so lucky to be able to see them. Again though, it really begs the question: why haven’t these treasures been restored, subtitled and put on DVD? Why?? I don’t know if I want to live in a world where Gunmaster G9’s shenanigans take precedence over this masterpiece!
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.