Sunday, June 28, 2009

Dilip Kumar and Sheroo the Wonder Mongoose! Kohinoor


When you're relatively new to Dilip Kumar, it's kind of hard to imagine that a movie with a grand, dramatic name like Kohinoor will be anything other than be trauma-drama-o-rama. Oh happy surprise that this film turned out to be a textile lover's blinged-out swashbuckling delight! It reminded me far less of Mughal-e-Azam (released the same year) and much more of Dharam Veer. Granted it's in a somewhat more specified, or at least sartorially consistent, place and time and is less full-tilt loony with a less rambling plot, but it's really funny in parts and has plenty of rollicking action, multiple bad guys, a creepy lech, an orphan, royalty, disguises, schemes, a song on a spinning platform, and lots of helpful animals. It felt proto-masala to about the same degree as Waqt - different RMA elements but similar effect of a restrained mix. If it had been made fifteen years later, I have no doubt all the right seedling elements would have been amped up sufficiently to earn Kohinoor its place among the proud, if less flashy, members of the state of Genuine Masala in our beloved Masala Pradesh.

As with much masala, it may not really be worth the bother of explaining the plot, but here goes: Dilip is a prince who is about take over the throne to his kingdom - unless the evil diwan can kill him first.

By snake, preferably.
He's also engaged to a princess (Meena Kumari)

Depending on how good your disguise is, the princess may or may not hurl a heavy vase of flowers at your head.
- unless the evil...um...whatever Jeevan is, who also wants the throne in her kingdom, can marry her first.

Never let Jeevan in your bedroom.
The two sets of villains with identical motives confused me periodically, but it didn't really matter. There's also a helpful musical family, where the prince rocks out while wearing a calico quilt jacket

and, more importantly, whose daughter (Kum Kum) falls in love with him

and must ultimately choose whether to give into her jealousy/fury of a woman scorned and help Jeevan separate Dilip and Meena forever, as well as submit both kingdoms to the evil usurpers, or do the right thing.

And as with many movies generally, the plot and other basic elements of the story are less notable than the particulars through which they are created and portrayed, so let's just skip over any real analysis - I think the basic gist is that you should be nice to people and recognize the source of genuine authority - and if at all possible surround yourself with an arsenal of various animals, sticks, and long curtains - and wallow in Kohinoor's fantastic details. For starters, just look at these costumes!




Gems! Pearls! Brocade! Embroidery! Fabric woven with silhouettes of women carrying water jugs! Once I figure out how to get Sadhana to take me shopping in the mid 1960s, I'm calling up this costume staff.* Awesome in all senses of the word. And it should not go unnoted that Jeevan might be the originator of grunge as formalwear.


The sets and locations are no less impressive than the costumes. I'm ready to believe that some of this was filmed in actual Rajput palaces, though I didn't see any credits saying so.




Click to enlarge the last one and see the giant peacock feather plumes that keep the princess in ultimate comfort.

Dances!



Glamorous heroine and dashing hero also get to be silly a lot, with many disguises and playful teasing.


Spills and thrills!




Even Meena gets in on the dishoom. In this last picture, she's in the midst of knocking out several enemy guards with a big stick. She does not, however, speak softly - and lets out many a good shriek and "Nahiiiiin!"

All in all a very fun movie that requires limited thought and provides excellent entertainment value. Even if the mongoose isn't actually named Sheroo.

* I am also working with Indie Quill to develop Project Runway India and create many filmi challenges for the designers, such as "Here's the song [perhaps the Krishna number from Disco Dancer], now make the backup dancers look not quite so insane" or "This hero needs to take off his shirt in a way audiences haven't seen before...something fresh, something modern."

17 comments:

Anarchivist said...

Your title sounds like the name of a children's picturebook. There is not enough Dilip Kumar in the kids' section of the library. Too bad there's probably some licensing issue...

VIRGINIA said...

Very nice.

Deep thoughts:

1. Dilip Kumar looks about 15 years younger in your pix than in Mughul-e-Azam, that's one thing.

2. In the first set of pictures, the woman in the first picture/second row, wearing a little crown, looks to me a lot like Vivienne Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara, with a little Restylane in the lips. It's a great look!!

3. The costume project is thrilling to think about. Ek little idea - if there really is a Disco Dancer Krishna song assignment, a really tough challenge could be, the contestants are forbidden to use crepe paper.

Anyhow if that is real and happens I'll get Indian cable TV and change my work schedule if I have to.

dustedoff said...

What I really liked about this film was the fact that Meena Kumari is, for once, not as weepy as in most of her other films. And she even gets to kick-ass (a bit). Love the music, too - especially Madhuban mein Radhika naache re.

BTW, the clothing with the silhouettes of women bearing waterpots is similar to the Baluchari saris of West Bengal - they're often woven with figures. My sister has an old one, an heirloom, which depicts a turn-of-the-century drawing room: a man sitting and smoking a hookah, servants pottering about, the lady supervising the housework. etc. Neat!

bollywooddeewana said...

Project runway India sounds interesting, i'm a sucker for the american series

Filmi Girl said...

EEEE! Why haven't I seen this?! *adds to mega-Nehaflix list in the works*

I do <3 Dilip Kumar - have you seen Ram aur Shyam yet? Hmmm?

Beth said...

Anarchavist - Perhaps he's too gloomy?

Virginia - I need to rewatch M-e-A. Or rather, I feel like I should, since I don't remember it well.

The crowns and other jewelry are so wonderful here. The peacock one is my favorite.

re: Krishna song - and no black socks, either! I think we'd have to require the show to be available online. It's only fair :)

dustedoff - She was wonderful! I've only seen one other of her films so I have little to compare with, but I liked her character and her performance very much here.

Very cool about the saris! I've got some fun Indian textile books here at work and should go scoping.

bollywooddeewana - Me too. I don't like the UK version much, but Canadian and Australian series are wonder.

Filmi Girl - You should see it! Very fun. I have seen Ram aur Shyam but haven't reviewed it - or, sadly, taken any screen caps! Perhaps I can catch up this weekend (along with Aan - I'm behind on Dilip).

gebruss said...

The internet appears to have eaten my comment; not that it was very deep. All that I said was that when I watched Mughal-e-Azam everybody appeared to be ten years older in the coloured bits than in the black and white bits.

dustedoff said...

Beth, I remember Greta reviewed at least one happy Meena Kumari film - I think Miss Mary. She was a good actress (and beautiful), but ended up playing the tragedienne to the hilt.

memsaab said...

Miss Mary AND Mem Sahib (with Shammi as the villain) are both happy Meena films. She was just so gorgeous in the 50s! I have this film, and just moved it right up on my stack to watch :-)

And how I wish sumptuously-scrumptious films like this were in color!!! *sad*

ajnabi said...

Meena looks delighted with life in general in a lot of those caps. :-) What a fun plot! (Or plots...)

Beth said...

gebruss - Naughty internet! How rude. The colored bits of M-e-A look horrendous, I think - flat and false.

dustedoff - Oh excellent, I'll look for that. She's impressed me so far and I'd like to see more.

memsaab - Ooh la la, two?!? I think you'll enjoy this one. It's pretty silly. More dishoom than I expected but since it was historical, I enjoyed it.

ajnabi - Her character is so fun in this most of the time. She is a bit helpless here and there but not NEARLY as much as she could have been.

bollyviewer said...

Beth, you should also try Azaad - its another swashbuckler with a much younger looking Meena and more swashbuckling Dilip. Happy Meena is such a delight to watch! I really need to find this one to complete my happy-Meena collection.

Aparna said...

I loved the movie and what was the surprsing part was that the main leads - known as tragedy king and queens do comedy such effortlessly! Something to be said about fab actors doing any kind of role well enough...

Beth said...

bollyviewer - Oooh! Yes! And then I can also add another Azaad to my collection (the Dharmendra one is sitting on the coffee table as we speak).

Aparna - So true!

Naeem said...

Which song is that..in which actress wear peacock dress.?
Please reply

Beth said...

Naeem - Not sure what you're asking about. If I recall, the peacock stuff in this film is all in accessories rather than an actual dress or other types of clothing?

jjake said...

I just loved this movie the sets felt like something out of a fairytale. I would love to see this in color and I usually don't like colorizing. Dilip Kumar is the best fake sitar player ever. I really thought it was him playing in the second song especially. (But what do I know about sitars?)
And the palace escape via cannon was so OTT cheesy it had me squeeling and clapping in its awesomness.