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Razia Sultan - An Ambitious Project But a Flop Nonetheless! (film only review)
Razia Sultan (DVD)
Member Name: anonymili
Razia Sultan (DVD)
Date: 03/02/13, updated on 06/08/13 (159 review reads)
Advantages: nice songs, nice cinematography
Disadvantages: Almost 3 hours of my life lost
The sultan dotes on his lovely daughter Razia as she is good natured, committed to the welfare of their subjects and also a good soldier. He has no interest in putting any of his sons in power after himself due to their bad behaviour and poor reputations, womanizing and boozing. Unfortunately there are people plotting in the background to ensure Razia doesn't take power including her step-mother who wants her own son or son-in-law to take the throne. The fact that Razia seems to be romantically involved with a lowly Abyssinian slave Yaqub only gives those that wish Razia's downfall even more ammunition.
Will Razia get to rule her people? Will the people ever accept a woman as their leader?
Hema Malini plays the role of Razia Sultan with grace and dignity. She carries herself elegantly throughout the film and looks a picture of beauty in every scene she appears in. Although she looked perfect as a princess, I wouldn't say her acting was anything particular to note.
Dharmendra looks very odd throughout the film as he is smeared in dark paint to make him look credible as a man of Ethiopian/Eritrea descent. Sadly I felt like laughing every time he appeared on screen as it just reminded me of the rather embarrassing black minstrels of yesteryear American TV, The Black and White Minstrel Show. I wasn't at all impressed by Dharmendra's acting in the film and the fact that I was wanted to laugh every time he appeared on screen.
I imagine Malini and Dharmendra were chosen for the leads in the film as they were Bollywood's darlings at the time having fallen in love with each other and gotten married in 1980 (although he was and still is officially married to his first wife).
Sultan Altamash gives the slave Yakut his freedom and gives him the title of Quwwatul-e-mulk (apparently meaning "chieftain" or "commander") for his loyalty to the Sultan's daughter as well as bestowing him with a fort and some land. You feel rather sorry for this proud but well respected Sultan whose son Feroz is a boozing rapist. He's trying to deal with matters of state when a woman comes to him in tears saying his son has kidnapped her daughter to have his wicked way with her. He tires of Feroz's doting mother who has spoilt their son to such an extent that he thinks it's acceptable to do whatever he pleases to women and constantly drink himself into a stupor. Can you imagine a ruler in this day and age taking matters into his own hands to physically go and rescue a girl from his wayward son? Pradeep Kumar plays the Sultan ably enough but there's some over-acting there which grates at times. Unfortunately this over-acting is prevalent throughout the film by pretty much all of the characters.
Parveen Babi plays the trusted friend and confident of Razia, who also happens to be the sultan's chief minister's daughter. Babi looks beautifully serene throughout her scenes and was a good choice for the role.
Rather bizarrely there's a scene in the film where the evil prince is riding his elephant around the kingdom and spots a young woman bathing in her back yard, he gets the elephant to break down the brick wall (?!) and kidnaps the woman in broad daylight and rapes her atop the elephant before throwing her to the ground from his carriage! I know this is supposed to be a historical film but scenes like this weren't really necessary to show just how far gone Feroz is. It did feel a lot of the scenes intended to show hardship and struggle felt more like scenes put in to drag out the length of the film.
There is no doubt that a lot of money was spent in the making of the film, what with all the beautiful location shoots and very expensive looking royal outfits. Not to mention the camels across the dessert scenes and the 100s of extras hired to play soldiers and subjects.
As someone of Indian origin I can't say I liked much of the behaviours portrayed of that era. These were barbaric times where people thought it acceptable to own slaves and rape women and kill people at the slightest whim. The laws of the land (such as they were) were quite unfair. Can you imagine you're a decent law-abiding person and your son has committed crimes including rape and murder that attract a punishment of public lashings (as the crime of murder wasn't proven) and then you have to take the majority of the lashings in his place as he's such a wimp that he can't bear his punishment?
I have to admit to also feeling quite uncomfortable with some of the racist behaviours portrayed in the film. For example in one scene when Yakut turns up to fight for the honour of the kingdom, the Khalil of Altunia turns him down saying "No! How can a Turk fight against a Negro!" and another character says "Balban has come here to tell you that our Sultan's ever increasing unreasonable favours on a Negro!" (a sentence I might add which didn't make much sense on its own)!
One of the redeeming features of the film was that it had some memorable songs in it. One such song was Ay Dil-ey Nadan by Lata Mangeshkar. This is a beautifully haunting lullaby like melody picturised on Hema Malini wondering around lost in the dessert. The editing of the actual scenes for the song were not too good to be honest, one can see Malini's hands and feet looking considerably darker than her face which made it look unnatural. Also the lip synching could have been done better (this applies to all of the songs in the film actually). I know Bollywood stars pretty much always have their songs dubbed but in Razia Sultan this was more obvious than most other films. Still I was saying how beautiful the song was, it's worth a listen to if you like classic Bollywood music. Jalta Hai Badaan is also a very catchy tune and is as easy to listen to as Aaye Zanjeer Ki Rasta, Tere Jeet and Hare Yana Vanna. The choreography by Gopi Krishna is worth a mention as it was delivered beautifully.
I found the film's length to be somewhat excessive. Even to tell a story as regal as this, there were quite a few scenes which could have easily been cut which wouldn't have impacted the story.
From what I know, the director of Razia Sultan, Kamal Amrohi, only directed 4 films in his career. I imagine the reason he directed so few was that he had a reputation for taking years to research his stories and this was also the case with Razia Sultan. Unfortunately for Amrohi at the time of this film's release it had been awaited for so long that it was rather a flop as it didn't live up to the public's expectations.
A little bit of background here regarding the Sultan of Delhi for those that are interested: the Delhi Sultanate period covered 5 dynasties mostly of Turkic or Afghan origin between around 1205 and 1525, finally being replaced by the Mughal dynasty. It is understood that the Urdu language was born during this time as a result of invading Persians, Turks and Arabs.
I understand that poetic license was used in the telling of the story of Razia Sultan. It was never actually 100% known whether Razia Sultan had an actual romantic relationship with her servant as depicted in the film or whether he was just her confidante and loyal servant as some believe. In the year 1236 Feroz and his power hungry mother were apparently assassinated but this is depicted differently in the film.
There are scenes in the film where Razia is sitting around relaxing with her female entourage quite indolently yet history shows she was supposed to be a busy and dedicated during her reign. In another scene she is shown to aim her arrow at and shoot dead a flying bird to show off to her chief minister just moments before she walks off with a tiger on a leash.
My DVD of this film is presented by Eros Entertainment/B4U World. I thought the transfer to DVD wasn't done very well and this marred my enjoyment of the film somewhat as there is a certain light fuzziness throughout which makes for a bit of a struggle to appreciate the grandeur of many scenes.
I have to say that I had to really concentrate on reading the subtitles when watching this film which made it more difficult to follow. I understand Hindi well enough not to have to totally rely on subtitles when watching a Bollywood flick but was unable to understand a lot of the dialogue for this film. Coupled with the fact that the subtitles weren't done very well (the level of English wasn't very good which made for some confusing subtitles) meant some of the dialogue didn't make much sense!
There are no real extras to speak, just a chance to advertise the company (Eros) and some other film trailers of that time.
Overall I wouldn't be inclined to give Razia Sultan any higher than 2 out of 5 stars. I struggled to stay interested to the end of the film as the story just seemed to drag on forever. The 2 stars I have actually awarded are for the scenery and music more than the story or acting.
Cast: Hema Malini, Dharmendra, Pradeep Kumar, Parveen Babi, Viyayendra, Ajit, Veena, Tajdar Amrohi, Sohrab Modi
Director: Kamal Amrohi
Producer: A K Misra
Music: Khayyam (although the DVD cover credits someone called Brahm Arenja of whom there is no information available)
Playback singers: Ustad Niyaz Ahmed, Asha Bhosle, Mahendra Kapoor, Jagjit Kaur,
Ustad Dilshad Khan, Ustad Fayez Ahmed Khan, Lata Mangeshkar, Kabban Mirza,
Sulakshana Pandit, Bhupendra Singh, Parveen Sultana
Cinematography: V K Murthy
Release date: 1983
Duration: 176 minutes
Summary: An epic film but sadly not up to standards!