Koi ho bhes, shaan-e-sultani nahin jaati.
No matter the guise, the glory of royalty doesn't fade
with concealment of its eminence (within kingly instinct).
While I cannot vouch for the absolute accuracy of this marvelous couplet by legendary Urdu poet Jigar Muradabadi (1890 - 1960) -- it's been a while, my memory fails me, and search engines aren't helping much with the specific poem that carries this -- it is probably a fitting poetic expression nevertheless, that is a microcosm of what Kohinoor Baba (Dilip Kumar) must feel in this gem of a film (pun intended).
This article suggests Muradabadi served as mentor to Hindi cinema's very own lyricists Majrooh Sultanpuri and Shakeel Badayuni, the latter the poet for Kohinoor. And that's integral to any discussion on the film (initiated by me, at least), because if I had to pick one (and only one) song from Hindi cinema that's my all-time favorite, this would more than likely be it. (Vocals: Mohammad Rafi; Lyrics: Shakeel Badayuni; Music: Naushad Ali)
It exudes purity, eloquence, indeed sheer excellence, including in the segment of the film immediately preceding. It has soul. Independent of caste, gender, and material wealth. Soul. Rooted in religion and universal in applicability. Soul. Carrying an uncanny ability to nourish the power of thought. Here's Rafi singing it live (low quality audio and video, but worth checking out).
I'm just glad and excited the song led me to the film, because there is much, much more to the S. U. Sunny-directed Kohinoor. As much a fairytale as any other film, it tells the story of Prince Devinder (Dilip Kumar) who flees a kingdom to whose throne he is the rightful heir for fear of death. Of course, there is a princess -- Princess Chandramukkhi (Meena Kumari) -- from another kingdom with whom he shares love. And of course, there are those (like the ever-unreliable Jeevan) in both kingdoms whose lust for power, wealth, and woman makes it near-impossible for our prince and princess to unite. But wait. There's also an intriguing love triangle (Kumkum is almost always up to something interesting) and sacrifice in the name of love that'll keep audience guessing until the very end, with a big question looming -- will the prince and his throne survive?
It's an epic in its own right, the lightheartedness through two-thirds of which caught me off-guard by quite a bit. And 'off-guard' is exactly what I was before the ravishing Meena Kumari, who did a fine job balancing the unequivocal and the comic. She's simply stunningly beautiful. Please feel free to share recommendations other than Pakeezah (1972). Until then...a 'Haaye Allah' in record time ;)
The music is the shining star in all of the subtle but classy glitz and glamor that accompanies this true fairy tale. It retains the narrative within, and that is where its value is most evident. So whether it's a fantastic Holi song in Rang Lo by Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar to kick things off, or songs that appear much later, e.g. Zara Mann Ki Khivadiya Khol (Rafi), Dhal Chuki Shaam-e-Gham (Rafi), and Dil Mein Baji Pyaar Ki Shehnaiyyan (Lata), it's a treat all over.
My other favorite from this soundtrack is the immortal Do Sitaaron Ka Zameen Par (Rafi and Lata again), which captures the initial meeting of the lovers and is beautifully choreographed under [what we can assume is] a moon and starlit sky, true to the lyrics. I think it's a matter of sheer poetic brilliance to analogize the world with a bride:
Koi Pyaar Ki Dekhe Jaadugari (Rafi and Lata) follows, and is beautifully picturized as well. Chalenge Teer Jab Dil Par by the best duo in the business once again is one I'd never listened to, but found wonderfully well-integrated. Like the other songs, it is extremely well-written. I have hardly seen many movies from the era, but it couldn't have been common practice to have a rotating base (or even the camera trick, if that's what it is)!
The film is full of unexpected delights, such as commentary on loyalty...
...with respect to pets.
And a villain who isn't shy to smile (it's Robert from Amar Akbar Anthony (1977)!).
Beat the quality of this presentation, ye social-networking, face-loving, web ;)
She's checking out something very interesting.
You see, the film is tremendously self-aware, and for the better.
Among the other highlights are Mukri (this would be just as funny without the subtitle), whose character is extended to the prince's loyal companion while in the enemy's abode in disguise.
A special appearance by Tun Tun, sprightly as ever. (I wonder how this would be perceived nearly five decades later.)
A well packaged entertainer it certainly is, which makes up for its length. I've mentioned Meena Kumari, but Dilip Kumar is quite remarkable in this as well, of course. With melodrama, comedy, and sword fights, as a prince and as a saint, his effortless depiction of each speaks to his versatility. One could go on and on about this film, but it's probably best to save it all (and there's plenty) for you to discover. Its grandeur had me wishing we could see all the hard work that went into the art direction, in color.
Movie rating: 4/5 (Excellent)
Meena Kumari...here I come :)
Music rating: 5/5 (Phenomenal!)
Also see: Kohinoor (1960) at Dances on the Footpath
The Urdu word 'kohinoor' is derived from the Faarsi (Persian) term 'koh-e-noor' which means 'peak of illumination' (literally, 'mountain of light'). When both definitions are applied to parts of this film and most definitely its music, one can see why the title is hardly out of place despite the theme bearing no direct semblance (the indirect will always be there) to the more popular Kohinoor, of which you can read more here. (It was also in the news a couple of months ago.)