Blogadda Who are you reading today?

Visit to discover Indian blogs

Monday, 4 October 2010

Guard of honour (Aan)

Or should I say taming of the shrew? For, more than half of Mehboob Khan's Aan shows Jai Tilak trying to win over the admiration and love of the hugely vain Rajkumari Rajshree. But, no one's complaining here. In the thorn-filled path of Jai and Rajshree's union, there are a gamut of songs, fencing duels, daunting escapades and plenty of delightful action. Not to mention the antics of the swashbuckling hero, his easy charm and the attraction of sexy Nadira in her introducing lead role.

India's first technicolour film, Aan is truely a first-of-its-kind. You can almost see Mehboob Khan's ambitious vision in this 1952 adventure flick. In the royal story, the magnificent sets, the stylish costumes and the talented names associated with this blockbuster. Dilip Kumar, Premnath, Nimmi, Nadira, Naushad, Murad, Mohd Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, Shamshad Begum, the list goes on. But it is the action-packed story that wins hands down. And the deft balance of the romance with the intrigue.
Aan is the story of a brave peasant who will not bend under the cruelty and injustice of a treacherous ruler. It is also the story of a lover who knows which tabs to pull so that his proud sweetheart gives in. He knows how to shatter a pretty and rich girl's false pride. He is also a leader who wants freedom for his lot. Aan is the story of Jai Tilak (Dilip Kumar). Watch the film to unravel the twists and turns of Jai's journey, or simply read it here.
I'd better use this space to dwell on other things. Nadira in her debut role as a lead... Sounded interesting. And, she was superb as the haughty princess Rajshree fighting an inner battle to curb her feelings for Jai. Though she gives a fearful expression too often I loved her in the film. She is unconventionally attractive and spot on with her dialogue delivery. Her voice is hardly mellow, but she really stands her ground amidst her fellow star actors. Smart and sassy in her westerns, gowns and traditional attire, she sure made a very different heroine those days, when the audience was more used to see a soft-spoken and sweet lead actress. I love the scene where she is being given a bath in the lotus pond. Reflecting on her feelings for Jai, she sure is falling in love with her enemy. While her chamber sings Aag lagi tan man mein (Shamshad Begum), she is enjoying the fire of desire that is licking at her soul. What an awesome picturisation!
Then there is the scene where Jai comes to play Holi with her. As Rajshree says, "Tum aag se khel rahein ho," Jai replies with the tantalising, "Aag bhi to mujhsey khel rahin hain." To that Rajshree's lips break into a slight smile. Awesome...
Saying that I would admit that since Nadira actually came into her own in her later films as a vamp. Here she is best before her transformation. Cruel, savage and extremely proud, she will brook no nonsense from a minnow. I can see her potential vamp avatar in these scenes. After she admits her love for Jai, her persona lose the steam. However, Nadira, is any form, appeals to me...
Nadira's opponent in the film, in the oomph factor that is, is Nimmi. Hugely talented, this actor sure knew how to act (we've seen her superlative performance in Barsaat). But, here, she looks a bit too painted and over-enthusiastic. And, a bit squealish. Her act looks a bit forced too. In love with Jai, Nimmi's Mangala is the quintessential village belle in Aan. I love the scene where she maintains her defiant stance as she walks along Shamsher Singh's car singing Gao tarane man ke. When the prince makes advances towards her, she shuns him aside with a feisty retort. Go girl!!
In a dream sequence you see this simpleton changing into a princess. Here she does look glamorous. Her act here is also quite well-moderated. Considering that Aan is a high-strung film (like most of Khan's classics), the performances too needed that extra bit of loudness. Judging from that angle Nimmi's act is certainly laudable. The shrieking notwithstanding...
Now we come to Premnath, who I consider smashing. He sure looks good enough to eat, what with his wicked smile and his stylish costumes. He is smart, a glib talker and over ambitious as Shamsher Singh. He can do anything to crush his adversaries. He is the cruel prince who has his eyes set on the crown as well as on innocent young girls. And, he will have his desires fulfilled by arm-twisting every situation. He is a debauched character and is proud of the fact that he has been ravishing girls day in and day out. He makes a villain look fascinating. And yes, he is really good looking. Those royal rooms and corridors need a man with panache. And my, he sure can fence. Those nifty feet definitely know how to move fast...
Last but not the least there's Dilip Kumar, a man who makes the man--next-door appear so charming. With his unassuming persona he nicely slides into every heart, not just Rajshree and Mangala's. Crafty, clever, fast and gallant, Jai makes mincemeat of his enemies. He knows how to woo his woman and has an attractive smile. I love every bit of this character. He fights for his clan's honour, is persistent while pursuing Rajshree, is mildly tough with her when she does not seem to relent and sword fights like the tango. In Jai's company three hours of this colourful royal flick appear not so long actually...


  1. I am among the first to admit that there's a lot of pretty theatrical acting (especially among the women in the cast) in Aan. Despite that, I find this film hugely enjoyable! Rewatched it with my parents a couple of years back, and my Dad (who was 14 when Aan was released) was talking about how a lot of people criticised Dilip Kumar for doing such a 'frivolous' role!

  2. @Dustedoff: Hihi, your Dad was 14!!! And my Dad was eight. Haha...Imagine the strength of these classics. We are still watching and enjoying them :)
    Dilip Kumar was frivolous yes, but so so smart and charming. And I loved Premnath and Nadira. The songs were also so different :) The whole film is absolutely colourful :)

  3. Aan is another classic that has been sitting on my shelf for ages and i myself have heard numerous criticisms about the overacting but despite all these, i just know i'll ENJOY it

  4. @Bollywooddeewana: But, all films during those days had a bit of overacting, hain na?
    But, Aan stands out for its spectacular cast, magnificent sets, action-packed story and many other things. I'm sure u'll like it :)