Hmm, which one would I choose – Princess Chandramukhi (Meena Kumari) or Rajlakshmi (Kumkum)? That would be a tough one. They’re both in love with Dilip Kumar’s character, Rajkumar (or Prince) Devinder Bahadur. Meanwhile, he is clearly destined to be with Chandramukhi, since he’s a prince and she’s a princess and this is not one of those stories in which people are setting out to abolish class and caste (though there are a couple of good references to those issues, if you can catch them). Plus, she is the more beautiful, considering especially the way she is decked out all through the film. And she is feisty! (Or alternately feisty and weepy – only Meena can do that so well.)
But Rajlakshmi is a terrific, highly spirited dancer with a total devotion to her art (enhanced by many talks with her Shiva statue), and she loves to dance to Devinder’s music (that is, to Naushad’s music – especially when Mohammed Rafi is singing).
Anyway, it might seem at first as though it wouldn’t be bad at all to be in the prince’s place here, but there are a few problems that he needs to solve, because not everybody is happy with his existence, least of all the official in one kingdom who covets the princess and the official in the other kingdom (that is, his own kingdom) who wants to prevent his ascension to the throne. (Part of the reason for that second problem is that said official has been the temporary ruler while the kingdom waited for the prince to reach the right age to take over. And now, if he has to give up that power, he would much rather see his own son occupy that throne. It gets a bit more complicated, but I’ll skip over the details. There are good, detailed plot summaries around, like the one that I found here.)
So, Devinder ends up facing a few big challenges, which keeps the suspense and the sword fighting going for a few hours. In fact, there are a couple of scary moments here when you might think that this light swashbuckling movie will turn tragic, but in the end, it turns out to be much lighter than, say, Yahudi (where one very bad thing did happen that doesn’t really happen here).
And all along the way, the performers are a true delight to watch. I think Dilip is as good here as I’ve seen him anywhere. I find Meena Kumari to be wonderful to watch, when she’s comic and when she’s tragic.
In sum, this is one well done film starring Dilip Kumar and Meena Kumari that might actually brighten up your mood for the day.
P.S. Some might recall my posting songs from this film for quite a while. This was one of the first classic Bollywood soundtracks that I got into, and I’ve loved the dances for a long time too. But now I’ve finally seen and heard all that in the context of the movie, and I’m glad I have.