5 March 2014 | shahkaal
Wonderful film and music
Kamal Amrohi's Razia Sultan is one of the most interesting historical films made in India. The story of the love between a 10th century queen and her slave general, what makes it especially interesting is the unconventional behavior and values of the primary characters, which makes the film seem campy at times, but which reflects the presumed historical context and values of the times.
The highlight of the film is the amazing music by Khayyam and beautiful song visualizations by VK Murthy. The language and lyrics are beautiful Urdu and Persian so requires repeated viewings by the modern viewer to fully understand and absorb the richness of the narrative. The sets and acting are also very high grade, especially by veteran Pradeep Kumar, who steals the first half in what was probably his best performance. Hema Malini and Dharmendra do a great job, as do some veterans like Sohrab Modi and Shahu Modak, in what may be their last roles. Special mention to the late Shandaar Amrohi whose portrayal of the dissolute prince Rukn-ud-din Firoz Shah is spot on for the character.
Khayyam's music, featuring a dazzling array of classical Indian instruments and voices, continues to be considered an all-time classic. The two songs by rarely recorded Kabban Mirza reach deep into the listener's soul. The classical Indian dances by dance maestro Gopi Krishna's troupe are also simply superb. The sets are magnificent and successfully evoke the historical period. Songs are filmed lovingly by the legendary cinematographer VK Murthy and are on par with the work he did for Guru Dutt on his classics - every song is a classic.
Now for the sad and shameful part, as the film took 10+ years to make and release, audience tastes had coarsened during its making and the released film was a huge commercial disappointment. Maybe as result of this failure, the Eros DVD print of the film is a dreadful "camera print" - poor transfer, terrible black transfers in the evening/night scenes, clipped images, unsynchronized sound, missing songs, and shamefully, the ~180 min film has been hacked down to ~140 min, causing huge continuity issues, muddled narrative, unresolved story lines and incomplete character arcs.
In spite of this shameful mutilation by Eros, the narrative is fascinating and demands repeat viewing by any interested viewers. I hope Eros, Hema Malini and/or the Amrohi family reads this review and publishes a complete and accurate remastered DVD print of this classic, so this labor of love is not lost to future viewers. The effort should not cost more than $10,000 if an original 35 mm print can be found.
Shahkaal weeps tears of blood for this lost classic - as a lyric in the movie says "khoon dil ka na chalak jaaye meri aankhon se" :(