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.
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."