Showing posts from April, 2014

The Prisoner of Zenda strikes again: Bandie

Bandie, a 1978 remake of The Prisoner of Zenda, probably works better as an artifact than as a film. Its components seem excellent or at least intriguingly oddly chosen on paper, but they don't add up to much—and certainly not into much that needed to be made in the first place. For starters, hero Uttam Kumar had already been in a Bengali version of The Prisoner of Zenda, Jhinder Bondi*, way back in 1961. While not a perfect film, it has its pleasures: the music is superb, the location filming in Rajasthan is suitably royal, and the shades of swagger and ego bandied about by Uttam and adversary Soumitra Chatterjee are scrumptious, even if just in a meta, Bengali thespic nutshell sort of way. As in the recently discussed Sikandar, it's also possible that being filmed in black and white has helped Jhinder Bondi age more gracefully, its visuals still relatively dignified.
There is nothing dignified in Bandie (which is not a complaint). However, its campiness, which may owe to its…

Sikandar (1941)

Epically epic! Not terribly high in historical accuracy, but wonderful to behold and thoroughly thought-provoking about empire and political virtue from pre-Independence India. Sikandar manages to be completely entertaining while still indulging in lesson-dispensing from Aristotle (Shakir),
who is surprisingly in Persia with Sikandar (Prithviraj Kapoor) and Rukhsana (Vanamala) as the film opens,
and Puru (director and producer Sohrab Modi),
who debates the value of war with various other kings. It'd be so easy for a film like this to be ponderous, with too much throne-room ego-clashing and not enough fighting, but Sikandar rolls along merrily. It helps greatly that the music (both songs and the background score, by Rafiq Gazhnavi and Mir Saheb), sets, and costumes overall are a delight. Both Puru and Sikandar have capes that could double as tents for their armies. Backdrops are clearly painted, but the palatial architecture and furniture are lush and full.

The lighting and oth…