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Monday, 17 May 2010

Regal canvas (Rajkumar)

It's like watching one gala theatrical extravaganza. In K Shankar's 1964 hit, Rajkumar, everything is over-the-top, the makeup, sets, costumes, characters and story. But, never mind. It's one multi-coloured royal drama that will keep you hooked. That is, if you incorporate a certain willing suspension of disbelief. The rest, I assure, is like being part of an enthralling carnival.
The best part of the film, apart from the rollicking pair of Shammi Kapoor and Sadhana, are its songs. In fact, just when some implausible sequence is trying your patience, Shankar Jaikishen's music comes to the rescue. With seven chartbusters, Rajkumar is one potboiling entertainer.

From scene one itself the theatre starts. There's a maharaja who looks like a maharaja. He wears a shiny royal costume (and loads of greasepaint) and talks in an exalted tone. Prithviraj Kapoor's voice modulation is perfectly matched to his onscreen persona. He is the good king and expects that everyone around him is honest enough. He is oblivious of the intrigues and conceits brewing in his kingdom. His minister, Narpat Singh (Pran), brother to his second wife, is the scheming villain. The king is naive enough to believe that Narpat will take care of his kingdom, as the obedient minister to his elder son, the crown prince. But Narpat's eyes are set on power and yes, the king's throne...
Enter the prince. Armed with a foreign education, this prince has a loyal friend in Kapil, his nanny's son, who has informed him of his enemies. So, suitably, he has plans up his sleeves to foil Narpat's conniving strategies. Hence, he masquerades as a foolish buffoon so that Narpat finds it all too easy to swat him away from his scheme of things!! But, you simply can't have Shammi Kapoor losing the plot, can you??? Wait till our hero launches his game!!!
Rajkumar presents Sadhana in an exotic avatar. She is a tribal princess, thirsting for the blood of her father's murderer. She is awesome. Dressed in respendant attires, dancing like a dream, she takes up the cudgels of revenge with elan. She does not shy away from confronting the king, demanding justice and neither is she reluctant to give shelter to her saviour just because he is a young man! She convinces her subjects, with superb conviction, that she has the right to love! And when she dances...there are fireworks!! Especially in the song, Aaja ai bahaar. Sadhana looks like a mermaid here. She floats on a flower boat, with other dancers (on their respective boats), but your eyes will be fixed on her. The picturisation is breathtaking!! With every possible colour in the frame, this is a pretty, frothy sequence. And then, immediately after, when a funny Shammi Kapoor as Ram, caricatures the song, it's absolutely hilarious!!
Then you have the catchy Nachre man, picturised on Sadhana. It's spontaneous, colourful and joyful. Shammi Kapoor managed to rock with all his co-stars. And, here he makes mush magic with Sadhana. The song, Is rang badalti duniya mein is sheer bliss for the senses. The romance of the song is hieghtened by the spectacular stage set up. We are not even going into Mohd Rafi's honeyed voice!! Sadhana in her azure attire, Kapoor in his middleclass get-up (with a perfect limp), beautiful flowers in full bloom, little brooks gurgling by, this is an immaculate dream sequence for wannabe lovers. Only that, it's real here...didn't I say theatrical!
Another gem is Tumne kisi ki jaan ko, shot in the vicinity of the Southern temples (the film's entire look is reminiscent of films of the South). Shammi Kapoor wears a snazzy shirt in this song and is a passionate lover. Sadhana is stunning in her maroon and green garb. Mohd Rafi, yet again, is stupendous. Dilruba dil pe is a bit long, but sexy nonetheless. The opening sequence is particularly droolworthy. Shammi Kapoor appears as the stern lover, not ready to relent to his bossy sweetheart!!!
The last song, Tumne pukaara, is the most famous of the lot (though I prefer Is rang badalti the most). The picturisation is extremely dreamy, with plenty of smoke, haze and made-to order stages. But the poetry is mindblowing and perfectly sums up the yearnings of lovers. Separation can wreak havoc in a lover's heart. But if you really pray, no lovers can stay away from each other for too long??? K Shankar portrays that beautifully in this song...
The dramatic story in interspersed with many crafty comic scenes. For, if you sign the versatile Kapoor, you'd better exploit his talent. Watch him in the shaadi ka pundit scene to know what kind of versatality we are hinting at. Or, may be the sadhu scene, or the Arabian sheikh scene, or the stupid prince scenes, or... the list is endless...
The story accomodates quite a few well etched supporting roles. Manorama is the wicked stepmother, Master Babloo is the loving younger prince and Pran is the odious minister. But the best here is Bhima Saran, one of the tribals (with the obese Tuntun as his daughter). He is plotting to usurp the tribal king's throne but is hopelessly foolish in his tactics!! And laughworthy, too.
There could have been no better rajkumar, I feel. For, when Shammi Kapoor, sits atop an elephant and commands, Hoshiyar, before breaking into the impromptu Janewale zara hoshiyar yahan ke hum hain rajkumar, you know why he was chosen for the role. The epitomy of royal regalia, I call this spunky hero...

4 comments:

  1. Nice post, again.
    I remember watching this film two years ago.
    An improbable plot rescued by situational comedy and Shammi Kapoor's hilarious histrionics.

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  2. See...that's why I say Shammi Kapoor is a magician!!! You didn't like the songs??? They are melodious wonders!!!

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  3. Not one of my favourite Shammi Kapoor films, but the music is fabulous! And anyway, I'm too much of a Shammi Kapoor fan to really hate one of his films (though I'd probably make an exception for Rail ka Dibba, which was hard to sit through).

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  4. @Dustedoff: Rail ka Dibba??? Ha ha, funny name...I can imagine what it would be like!! Yes, Rajkumar is too garish to love..but I guess, the versatile actor that he was, Kapoor could pull almost anything off!! Kudos to that!

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