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Bollywood Mongol

Friday, January 26, 2018

As a film about a deranged invading king desiring a beautiful queen makes disturbing news all over the country, flashback to a 1956 film about a Mongol emperor and his passion for an unattainable woman.

DD Kashyap’s Halaku had Pran playing the role of the eponymous brute (grandson of the legendary Genghiz Khan and brother of Kublai Khan), who invades Persia, and becomes a spoke in the wheel of the romance between Parvez (Ajit) and Nilofer (Meena Kumari). Her father Hakim Nadir does not approve of her good-for-nothing suitor, but the two find ways of meeting and singing songs.

Parvez manages to convince Nilofer’s father to let him marry her; when he goes to the city to buy wedding garments and jewellery, Halaku and his army strikes. Parves rushes back to find the Hakim dying and the news that Nilofer has been abducted by the Mongols, along with other women of the town.

Two of the soldiers squabbling over the most beautiful Nilofer, decide to sell her in the slave market. Parvez’s attempt to rescue her is foiled, he is beaten up and left for dead.

The girls are taken before Halaku, who tells his men to do what they wish with the women, when Nilofer steps forward to protest this treatment. When her veil comes off, Halaku is smitten, and orders her to be taken to his palace.

Halaku may lay waste to the lands he vanquishes, but he draws the line at raping Nilofer.

He decides that she will be his queen, and to help her recover from the trauma of the capture, he even sends for a Persian maid, Naubahar (Shammi) to look after her. Halaku’s Christian wife, Dokuz (the imperial-looking Veena) is saddened by her husband’s behavior and prays for him to see sense.
Parvez tries to get his people together to fight Halaku, and after many ups and downs, he is reunited with his beloved.

Films in those days did not bother much about authenticity and Pran had to wear obviously fake eyebrows and get oriental eye make-up. However, his Halaku was not totally evil, he did have some redeeming traits.

Halaku did exist, and in his time attacked many kingdoms in West Asia, though the story of the film was fictional. To make it watchable were the pleasing Shankar-Jaikishan songs, like Aaje ke intezaar mein, Dil ka na karna aitbaar koi and Aji chale aao (Helen and Minoo Mumtaz’s dazzling dance number.

The many historical films made back then were seen for what they were—movies, meant for entertainment, not as keepers of any community’s pride or honour.

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