Tajmahal
India 1963
Directed by M. Sadiq.


Indian DVDs are always full of surprises. This one delivered a subtitle-drop smackdown, after two hours of watching the grainy, washed out, scratched, occasionally green picture in desperate need of restoration, and following poorly timed subtitles that drifted as far away as five seconds after they were spoken, suddenly, at the dramatic climax of the picture, when the new Emperor Shah Jahan must pass judgement on the Queen after her many attempts throughout the film to kill him, there passes a heated exchange, at which point the subtitles disappear and don't come back for about 15 minutes. I suppose it hardly matters, the story couldn't be more straightforward. Shah Jahan loves Mehrunissa (Bina Rai), the Queen wants him to marry her daughter so she can be queen, and she plots against him with the evil prince (Jeevan, a wonderful mustache-twirling villain). She loses, he wins. After becoming emperor, his love dies and he builds a really, really nice masoleum for her.

TAJMAHAL is a much loved classic, and since another much-loved classic of the same vintage, Nagin, was so good, and Pradeep Kumar and Jeevan appear in both, my hopes were high. Unfortunately, the story here is pretty boring, and it all takes place in sparsely decorated palace chambers that look colorful but are obviously on a set, and anyway the Eastman color has faded badly. Only a few scenes take place outside, large battle scenes with charging men and elephants that only last a minute or two total. The short amount of time the footage appears makes me suspicious that it was "found" footage, from another production (watch enough Italian sword & sandal movies and you will become suspicious of this, too, since the practice is prevalent in those productions).

Perhaps TAJMAHAL would have benefitted from featuring the beautiful leading lady of Nagin (1954) as well. Instead we have Bina Rai, who uses a half-smile to display amusement, concern, and a host of other emotions. I kept wondering if she had a stroke, one side of her face was so expressionless.

TAJMAHAL is remembered mainly for its music, and rightly so. The songs by Roshan are beautiful. I think this movie would make a better soundtrack purchase than a DVD purchase.

Rating: Not Recommended (Not Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on December 01, 2004.


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