Gulbadan (1960)

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Gulbadan (1960)
Cast: Musarrat Nazir, Ejaz, Nazar, Azad, Rangeela, Rekha, Sheikh Iqbal, Ismael Qamar, Nasira, Mehboob Kashmiri
Director:  A. Hameed
Nutshell:  Mildly entertaining magical fantasy adventure in the style of Arabian Nights featuring romance, music and some astounding special effects.

 

Gulbadan, a magical fantasy adventure, follows the misadventures of two common traders who are travelling with their posse when they are ambushed by robbers leaving the companions Shehzad and the loquacious Kamalu to fend for themselves in an intimidating forest in the middle of nowhere.

The roar of an adjacent tiger sends them into a panic and Kamalu bounds backwards spectacularly in a stunning display of Special FX that must have left audiences astounded back in the day.

Unfortunately, Kamalu ends up entangled in a net that had been spread out for the local Princess Gulbadan’s hunt and in order to avoid a potentially tricky situation Kamalu tells his “Girl Power” captors that Shehzad is the Prince of Turan and he the Royal Attachment.
Out of respect and shrewd diplomacy Princess Gulbadan plays host to Shehzad and Kamalu who waste no time at all in enchanting the locals with their good looks and charm.  The moment Gulbadan locks her eyes on Shehzad there is magic in the air – true love at first sight.  Within moments Shehzad and Gulbadan are singing sweet melodies to each other in their dreams; ESP clearly being a sign of true love.

Meanwhile Kamalu lays on the charm on Gulbadan’s assistant and all appears hunky dory until it is announced that the real Prince of Turan is due for a State visit.

Kamalu and Shehzad are exposed as simpletons and liars but after the initial stutter in their romancing, soon ruffled feathers are set right and everything soon smoothly back on track when another set of complications begin to arise.

In Nearby Jadoonagar, the evil warlord Akhar perpetually seeks Gulbadan’s hand in marriage only for his proposals to be refused every time, again and again.  Frustrated and humiliated he turns to his pet giant Ogre Tooth Fairy and sends it to fly off to lands yonder and kidnap the lady of desire; Gulbadan.

At first the Tooth Fairy Giant is deterred by an amulet given by the Pir Baba (Holy Man) but Shehzad foolishly removes it giving Toothy his moment to pounce.

There is much gloom and despair in the land and the forlorn Shehzad vows to free his beloved Princess from the clutches of the diabolical and lecherous creep of Jadoonagar who derives his might and power from a magical “Qandeel” (Torchlight) which is guarded day and night by three Skeletal Zombies.

There is another disgruntled magical Ambu who is fiercely against the dictatorship in Jadoonagar but try as hard as he does, his powers stop short of being able to destroy the Qandeel.

Shehzad and Kamalu are forced to face up to some terrible hair-raising situations along their perilous journey to rescue Gulbadan.  A deadly cobra bites Shehzad but fortunately the saintly figure of the Pir Baba keeps a kindly watch over them and acts like Glinda from The Wizard of Oz as a guiding light and a guardian angel, saving them from the brink of calamity over and over again.

All is virtually lost when Shehzad is blinded by the evil Akhar and poor Kamalu turned into a wooden stump, but despite these debilitating setbacks our dynamic duo remains undeterred in the face of increasingly insurmountable odds.  Meanwhile the defiant Gulbadan and her mother face execution for denying the marriage Akhar demands.

Meanwhile Ambu and his formidable “Nixshoo Makasha” chant joins forces with Shehzad and restores his eyesight.  Sadly, Kamalu remains a wooden stump, but a resourceful one.

Now, in one final push to try to breach the evil Jadoonagar’s fortress and dismantle the Qandeel, Shehzad is turned into a dove while Kamalu proves his worth as a wooden stump of remarkable talent.

However, in Jadoonagar, Royal blood is set to flow as the executioner is given his orders.  Surely Shehzad and Kamalu will be unable to save the day, or will they?

Performance wise Ejaz as Shehzad appears comfortable when he has to look dopey eyed into his leading lady’s eyes but isn’t convincing in other aspects of his role.  Throwing punches doesn’t come naturally to Ejaz who was starting out what was to become a highly successful career as a romantic hero especially in Punjabi films.  Alas his career was abbreviated when he was busted for smuggling Heroin to Europe and ended up spending years in jail, but that is another story altogether.

Mussarat Nazir was already an established star but has little to do but appear starry eyed and lost in love which she does with consummate ease.  Akhar the villain is suitably slimy while the Mother and other small bit roles are played more than adequately.   Undoubtedly the person who holds the film together though is Nazar the comedian in the role of the side-kick Kamalu.  This sidekick actually has for more screen time than the hero and it is his endearing performance that keeps the film moving along merrily.

The film has some pleasing and tuneful songs and is presented in a state of the art (for 1960) RCA Sound System which is proudly proclaimed in the advertising for this spectacular fantasy film from the renowned production house of the Kairanvi’s.  Gulbadan was directed by the seasoned A. Hameed (Bulbul e Baghdad, Jalan, Thandi Sarak) with music by Akhtar Hussain.  On the whole, a reasonably entertaining ride down memory lane thanks mainly to the efforts of Nazar and Akhtar Hussain’s tunes.