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Upperstall Review

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Sikandar

 

Hindi, Historical Drama, 1941, B/W




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The film is set in 326 B.C. when Alexander the Great aka Sikander (Kapoor) having conquered Persia and the Kabul valley descends to the Indian Border at Jhelum. King Porus (Modi) stops the advance with his troops. Sikander ignores his teacher Aristotle's advice and falls for a Persian woman Rukhsana (Vanamala). Fearing for Sikander's life she extracts a promise from Porus that he will not harm Sikander. In the battle with the Macedonian army Porus loses his son and is captured. An elaborate verbal duel follows in court when Porus is brought before Sikander. Impressed by Porus's valour, the two kings become friends. Sikander lets Porus go and withdraws from the Jhelum.



Sikandar was the greatest success of Minerva Movietone, which specialized, in historic spectacles. Its lavish mounting, huge sets and production values equals the Best of Hollywood then particularly for its rousing and spectacular battle scenes and was rated by a British writer as... "…well up to the standard of that old masterpiece The Birth of a Nation."

The film follows pure Parsee theatre using frontal composition and staging the narrative in spatial layers. Its dramatic, declamatory dialogues give both Prithviraj Kapoor and Sohrab Modi free reign to their histrionic proclivities.

It is easily Prithviraj Kapoor's best known performance. He makes a handsome, dashing Sikander and the film heightens his enduring reputation for playing royalty, enhanced further by his role as Akbar in Mughal-e-Azam (1960). He is more than ably supported by Sohrab Modi's portrayal of Porus. Vanamala makes a most beautiful heroine while the film sees the film debut of 'Lara Lappa girl' Meena Shorey.

The release of the film coincided with World War II at its peak and in India too the political atmosphere was tense, following Gandhiji's call to Civil Disobedience. Sikandar further aroused patriotic feelings and national sentiment. Thus though Sikander was approved by the Bombay censor board, it was later banned from some of the theatres serving army cantonments. However its appeal to nationalism was so great and direct, it remained popular for years.

It was revived in Delhi in 1961 during the Indian March into Goa.


Upperstall review by: Karan Bali aka TheThirdMan


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