Thursday, 18 December 2008

Kohinoor (1960)

Kohinoor centers around the royal families of two small kingdoms, Kailash Nagar and Raj Nagar, which both have problems with less than loyal high-ranking officials.

The Raja of Kailash Nagar has passed away some time ago and his place has been taken symbolically by this crown, and practically by the Diwan, while his son, Rajkumar Dhivendra (Dilip Kumar) grew up. The time to crown the prince is now drawing near, though it would appear that he is still more interested in pet animals than ruling his kingdom.

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Now, why do I have a bad feeling about this guy?
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The prince's foster mother (Leela Chitnis) who happens to be the Diwan's wife thinks that he will settle down once he got married and has arranged a match with the daughter of a neighbouring kingdom Raj Nagar. Dhivendra ist just about to launch into a speech about not wanting to get married when he sees the princess's picture and is instantly smitten. His joy is expressed in the first of the ten songs of the movie, a holi song. Halfway through we change location and get our first look at the princess Chandramukhi (Meena Kumari). Luckily for the prince she really is as beautiful as her picture.

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Unfortunately for the princess her beauty has not gone unnoticed by the kingdom's Senapati (Jeevan), who would like to marry her to gain control over the kingdom from her elderly and rather frail father.

(Note to self: If ever in charge of a small kingdom in Onceuponthetimeistan, don't under any circumstances employ Jeevan or any of his relatives in a position of responsibility).

Chandramukhi doesn't like him either:
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Her father:
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Back in Kailash Nagar, the Diwan plots to get rid of the prince once and for all. The prince almost surprises him during the plotting and the ensuing conversation makes it clear that despite a first impression of being a bit silly and slow on the uptake the prince actually knows full well what is going on. Nevertheless, he decides to go and relax at a music contest.

Here the assassin is shown his victim:
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At the contest he meets a young dancer, Rajlakshmi (Kum Kum), and she instantly dislikes him in a manner which suggests that she is going to be in love with him within the next twenty minutes. They share a song (well, he sings and she dances), and then the prince is attacked by a snake which is valiantly fought off by the pet mongoose.

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Oh, excitement:
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Later that night, the Diwan decides to stage a more conventional assassination attempt, sending out his men with swords. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your perspective, the Dhivendra is alerted to their presence by a pet parrot and finally confronts the Diwan. However, he doesn't kill him, as he doesn't want to deprive the woman who raised him of her husband and the man who he regards as his brother of his father. Instead he leaves the kingdom, with the help of his horse which arrives fully saddled when he whistles. Not only is the prince good with animals, he is also exceedingly noble.

The less dramatic than expected confrontation:
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Well, yes, of course the horse is white:
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The Diwan, being decidedly less noble minded than the prince, has him followed by his men, and circumstances involving a cliff and a conveniently placed tree lead them to believe that Dhivendra is dead. Chandramukhi in the meantime has set out to attend the prince's coronation and it is her and her travelling companions the prince meets next. After talking to her in the disguise of a wise man, the two get their first song together, confirming that they are as smitten with each other in person as they were with each other's paintings.

That beard was Tuntun's hair until five minutes ago
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They typical practical travelling harp:
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Before the night is over, the princess is abducted by the Senapati, with the prince in pursuit. He is lucky that one of the Senapati's henchman prefers to keep himself very covered, allowing him to infiltrate to fortress where the princess is held and rescue her. It turns out that Chandramukhi is also has a hidden talent for whacking people over the head with blunt instruments.

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The two lovebirds celebrate their escape with a song. Alas, they are followed by the Senapati's men and the princess is taken captive again, while Dhivendra is put into a hut which is promptly set on fire. The men leave, not taking the prince's horse with them which turns out to be a grave mistake, as the horse manages not only to rescue the prince but also to take him to Rajlakshmi's house.

She does have good reason to faint at this point.
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Our hero:
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Royal delivery:
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Back in the royal capital, the Senapati tells the king about the abduction of Chandramukhi, and the king promises a substantial reward to the person who returns his daughter to him. In the other royal capital, the Diwan suggests that with the prince dead, maybe he should crown his own son king. Both his son and his wife are horrified and instead set out to search for the prince. The prince meanwhile, is being nursed back to health by Rajlakshmi. Chandramuki is not taking well to her captivity (especially since she believes the prince to be dead) and the Senapati is told that good music would help to sooth her troubled mind. One of his men therefore sets out to call Rajlakshmi so she can dance for her. He arrives just after Rajlakshmi has celebrated the prince's recovery with a song

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When the prince hears about the mystery prisoner, he deduces that it is Chandramukhi and sets out to rescue her, leaving Rajlakshmi, who by now is well and truly in love with him to look more than a little concerned:

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In order to gain access to the fortress he impersonates a renowned music teacher, and introduces himself with a song. Unfortunately for him, the princess recognises his voice, but not his face (she may need glasses), and it takes his bear coming off while she pelts him with pillows for her to recognise her beloved.

Sleeping beauty:
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Yes, completely and utterly unrecognisable:
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Finally:
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The next days are spend flirting with each other and pulling wool over the Senapati's eyes while the prince is trying to find a way to escape from the rather well-guarded fortress. A lot of this is genuinely funny. Chandramukhi also gets to sing another song in the garden, in her happiness of having found her beloved, which is of course easily misinterpreted:

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One night, the prince comes to see Chandramukhi without his disguise and is almost caught and sustains an arm injury. The next evening, he and Chandramukhi perform a song for the Senapati which involves rather a lot of arm movement (and a revolving couch), with predictable consequences.

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Oho

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Chandramukhi and the prince attempt to escape. She manages to leave the fortress in a raging storm (which already raged inside the dungeon) while he is arrested.

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Despite the inclement weather she makes it to a temple where she collapses in front of the Diwan's wife and son, who are still looking for the prince.

First meeting with your future mother-in-law: the dramatic style:
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In a dramatic confrontation at court between the Senapati and Chanramukhi it turns out that not only does everybody apart from the old king know what he has been up to, they are fine with it. Despite his frailty, this isn't enough to give the king a fatal heart attack and he ends up being killed properly, with a knife in his chest. Chandramukhi ends up in prison, again, singing a song about her sad fate. The prince is not going to be killed, as that would be to easy for him according to the Senapati, but is blinded, by Rajlakshmi who turns up just in time to do this as revenge for him having spurned her love.

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That is a very fine sneer:
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What will happen when Chandramukhi and the prince meet one last time?

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Is there a way out? Will the king's death go unavenged? What about the foster brother? Will the amazing horse make another appearance?

This is what I call a very nice Saturday afternoon movie. It is highly entertaining, lavishly decorated and moves along at a nice pace. Yes, there are a lot of songs, but somehow they don't disturb the flow of the movie (and I am fond of having lots of songs). The motivation of the characters' is on occasion a bit odd, and especially at the beginning the prince doesn't seem to do very much apart from being rescued by various animals but I always find it easier to deal with these things in a more fairy-taleish setting. It also balances nicely the funny bits and the melodramatic bits, and as both leads are good at both it is a joy to watch both having fun and suffering dramatically.

10 comments:

memsaabstory said...

Oh! I want to see this! Animals which are smarter than people (and loyaller, and truer, too)...not-weepy beautiful Meena! young, handsome Dilip!

Just tell me one thing: does it have a happy end? Cause if not I don't know if I could stand it :)

antarra said...

Amazingly enough (and much to my disappointment when I first watched this looking for tragedy) it does have a happy ending.

memsaabstory said...

oh yay!!!! *off she goes to shop for it*

Amey said...

Trivia for Diwan: What shouldn't you use to kill a person who has a pet mongoose?

Sometimes I think I may have a career as a consultant to villains ;)

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

I am dying of laughter reading this "That beard was Tuntun's hair until five minutes ago"- I still beleive ur review is more fun than the movie would be :)

antarra said...

Amey -- That is a very good point. On the other hand, the Diwan being more sensible would have deprived the viewer of the snake versus mongoose fight.

Shweta -- This one is pretty funny on its own, really, but thank you for your confidence in my ability to make movies more entertaining.

The Comic Project said...

great storytelling - and I am not talking about the film :-) Brought the film alive.

Thanks.

Banno said...

This is one of my favourites. Dilip Kumar is at his mischievous best. And Meena Kumari when she's bright and happy is so...ooo beautiful.

Bollyviewer said...

For some reason I have this idea that Kohinoor is a very sad costume tragedy of the Mughal period - probably because there are Dilip+Meena and the Kohinoor was a famous diamond from that period. Glad to know I am wrong. :-) And I like lots of songs in my movies too, especially when they are as good as the ones in this.

*Shuffling off to find a copy ASAP*

antarra said...

The Comic Book Project -- Thanks :-)

Banno -- I can see this being rewatched numerous times; and shown to people who let me show them Bollywood movies. And I agree with Meena being beautiful.

Bollyviewer -- I made the same mistake. In fact, I was looking for something tragic to watch. That will teach me to put actors in little boxes of expectation.