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Updated: November 11, 2010 17:04 IST

Yahudi (1958)

SURESH KOHLI
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Dilip Kumar in the film
THE HINDU Dilip Kumar in the film "Yahudi".

STARRING Dilip Kumar, Meena Kumari, Nigar Sultana, Sohrab Modi, Anwar Husain, Minoo Mumtaz, Helen, Cuckoo

Ostensibly based on Urdu poet, playwright's Agha Muhammad Shah Hashr Kashmiri's popular play, “Yahudi ki Ladki”, this unusual fare from the Bimal Roy stallion is believed to be a take off on a 2,000-year old legend about the persecution of Jews.

Stylistically, it is also a stand apart film because Roy had neither before nor after this attempted a subject that was alien to his sensibility.

A tear-jerker melodrama, despite a contrived climax turned out to be a huge box office hit, Shailendra's lyrics and Shankar Jaikishen's music contributed substantially to the success, especially the perennial hit Mukesh number, “Yeh mere diwanapan hai ya mohabbat ka qasoor, tu na pehchane to hai yeh teri nazron ka kasoor” (It won Shailendra a Filmfare trophy).

Another hit, a sort of sensuous ‘item' number, in the voices of Lata Mangeshkar and Geeta Dutt, involving the dancing sensations Cuckoo and Helen, “Yahudi bechain dil ko ek nazar” picturised on a bazaar set in an ancient Roman setting is unsurpassed in aesthetics as Dilip Gupta's camera follows the dancers in loose trousers and patterned cholis. Unfortunately, the hit team of Shankar-Jaikishen never got repeated in another Bimal Roy production. Another gripping song is the Geeta Dutt solo, “Duniya se dil laga kar.”

One of the major highlights of this period drama is the riveting camerawork by Dilip Gupta, especially in the areas of contrasts and shades to capture facial nuances, and a taut screenplay by Nabendu Ghose, amply supported by Wajahat Mirza's dialogue. The story: an enraged Brutus (Nazir Husain), injured in a freak accident by jeweller Ezra's - a Jew - (Sohrab Modi) young son, orders his cruel execution by feeding him to hungry lions.

In retaliation, Ezra's guys kidnap Lydia, Brutus's daughter. Ezra raises her up as his own by renaming her Hannah. She grows up to be a beautiful woman (Meena Kumari) for whom the Roman prince Marcus (Dilip Kumar) flips, pretending to be a commoner who is also unwilling to get converted. The twist comes in the form of a royal order.

Marcus is to marry Brutus's niece Octavia (Nigar Sultana). Ezra and Hannah accuse Marcus of infidelity for which the punishment is death penalty but when once Hannah realises the intensity of punishment, she unconsciously invites the same punishment for herself. Ezra's timely revelation about Hannah's birth saves her from the gallows but in the meantime atoning for his own guilt Marcus blinds himself.

Though Roy was famous for closeness to authenticity in terms of characters and costumes, he totally seemed to ignore these aspects in group scenes, or song and dance picturisation. And he was amply criticised. For instance, using of a mixture of Roman and European apparel as ecumenical as well as colourful pan-Indian costumes even in the black and white era etc.

Dilip Kumar is characteristically constrained in his performance, especially in the latter part of the film when he is blind though it also seemed to be beginning of his latter day mannerism, especially in terms of hand gestures and movement. Meena Kumari looks glamorous.

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