Thursday, October 17, 2013

Raaj Kumar Week: Madness and Melodrama in Mere Huzoor (1968)

Welcome to the final installment of Raaj Kumar Week . . .  Mere Huzoor (1968).

Yes. I am also sad to see your week end so soon.

If all I did was look at screen caps from this film for the next week, I think I would be ready to marry the art director of this film and have his children. The sets, the costumes, the lighting (good lighting is one of the joys of my existence, both inside and outside films). And speaking of lighting, the variety of antique colored-glass chandeliers alone (one of my favorite pieces of decor in classic Indian films) might have been enough to keep me hooked.

Why always . . .

. . . the upper . . . 

 . . . left corner? I wish I knew. 

Unfortunately, the film is far more satisfying visually than emotionally, despite its fairly strong cast and intriguing story.

Yes, Mala Sinha. This is also exactly how I looked after finishing this film. 

Wait, you want a plot summary? You are welcome to go here, and here for a longer, more detailed discussion and breakdown of the plot elements.

But for now, all you really need to know is that once upon a time, in the temptation-filled courtyards of Lucknow, a misunderstood Nawab (Raaj Kumar) and a feckless Urdu poet (Jeetendra), vied for the affection of the same upright (yet feisty) Muslim woman (Mala Sinha), little knowing how how miserable they were all about to be.

This film may not have been very satisfying in it's ultimate conclusion (*spoiler* it goes the way of a morality play, when it could have been so much more), yet I did find the journey strangely satisfying. Whereas I often feel I know where a story is going . . . I really didn't know this time . . . and I was consistently intrigued by the character's choices and reactions.

That's exactly what I have decided to do with you, Mere Huzoor. Embrace your madness.


























But who am I kidding? This movie is really about the eye candy--and the chance to indulge in several hours of vicarious melodrama and visual catharsis. Normally I am all about capturing subtitles, but I didn't care to so much in this film, interesting dialogue moments or no. The visuals are that good. (And if you don't want to spoil your first watch with a sneak peak of some of the most striking visuals, read no further.)

I mean, really.

The eye candy . . . (The costumes alone) . . .


We are feisty females, and have very little trouble overwhelming the men in our lives. Until our lives overwhelm us.

The indulgent melodrama . . .




























The visual catharsis . . .




























The eye candy . . .




























The indulgent melodrama . . . 




























The visual catharsis . . .




























The eye candy . . .




























The indulgent melodrama . . .




























The visual catharsis . . . 



And on and on and on forever. If you embrace the madness, you might even find yourself enjoying the ride. The film was more haunting than it should been, given its flaws, and I think I will require some more processing time . . . and potentially unorthadox processing tools.

For example, I usually feel that following action (upon which YouTube is practically built) to be next-to cinematic blasphemy--but somehow I found myself watching the film again, this time muted, using this haunting Sufi-poetry-inspired number (by Afghan singer, Sediq Shubab) as the background music (you can try it it if you like . . . starting the film  somewhere around 2:38:53).

Even some of the camera angles . . .

 . . . seem to be telling a similar story. 

For whatever reason, the pacing of the most dramatic scenes perfectly fits the beat of this piece, and I realized how wonderful this film could have been given slightly better plotting and music. Really, this story COULD be very moving, but I think that (as a viewer) when one starts to guess *Spoiler* that things are not going to end well, it's all too easy to pull back and distance oneself from the characters. But to be honest, even at a distance, I was kind of moved. (The Sufi song I mentioned doesn't end very well either, yet one realizes through it that there is a certain beauty to be found in fatalism and sorrow.)


As for Raaj Kumar. . . I don't know how much I would have cared about the story if it hadn't been for his character. Jeetendra gives a decent performance (although he is far better at the early flirtation than the later weepy drama), and Mala Sinha warmed my inner drama geek's heart with her old-school emotive style (full-steam-ahead-wide-eyed-throw-oneself-upon-the-furniture-at-the-least-sign-of-trouble style) . . . but if it had just been the chronicle of their characters' courtship and subsequent marital troubles, I would have never gotten through the story.

His character has some interesting motivations, but Raaj gives the Nawab a lot more oomph and layers (in my subjective opinion at least) than seemed to exist in the script alone.

Sure, he smokes eloquently (as usual):


And he's technically playing the playboy aristocrat again:


As usual he is not very believable when he "sings" (I haven't seen it in his films much, and when I see it, I realize why). However, for whatever reason, his fake instrument playing is surprisingly convincing compared to a lot of what I've seen in Hindi films. It makes me wonder if he actually dabbled in the piano, sitar, etc.



But still . . .  he adds so much more to this role by letting us see into the reasoning behind the Nawab's choices. . . which are kind of complex when isolated and deconstructed.














Rather than giving off a fatalistic, self-destructive Devdas-vibe (which could have been all too easy), he portrays a complicated man caught between disparate loyalties and loves . . . who indulges in small passions, while completely forgoing the great ones. Which is why, when his character's choices grow more extreme towards the end, we can forgive him, because we have seen his moral arc, and understand it . . . even if we don't particularly agree with it.


Thanks for a lovely week (and a half) Raaj Kumar-ji . . .

2 comments:

  1. This movie has been sitting in my pile of "To Watch" movies for a long time - some how I can't get myself to have a go at it mainly coz of Mala Sinha. My older sister (who knows my taste) told me to avoid coz she feels I will not like it. My sis knows my intense allergy to melodramas. The songs in Mere Huzoor are quite good though - i have seen one or two on a songs DVD. A colleague is urging me to see it at least once - lets see if i will ever get to it

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  2. I understand how some could be turned off by melodrama. For whatever reason, I have a high tolerance for it when I so choose. I liked Mala Sinha, but I totally see how she could rub one the wrong way (kind of the way I feel about Meena Kumari). Madcap mania (like that of many films from the 80s on) is sometimes my allergy . . . esp. when forced to watch by myself, lol. This film is really good on a certain level, and completely unsatisfying on another. I quite liked it--but I don't know if I could ever love it. If you do get to it, let me know what you think.

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