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Set in the India of the British Raj. All the Indians are portrayed as untrustworthy, plotting to overthrow their British masters. The only 'loyal' Indian is Prince Azim who tries to warn the British of the impending revolt by tapping out messages on the Drum of the title. Written by
Steve Crook <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Very un-PC and jingoistic but still quite fun at turns
In colonial India, the natives live happily and peacefully under the kind rule of their British masters. Representing the bond between the two nations, young Prince Azim befriends several of the British officers. However his uncle Ghul is less welcoming of the British and has dark plans to slaughter them and raise a rebellion among the tribes of the hills.
Some critics have pointed to the fact that, if this film were made today, it work spark outrage and be roundly condemned. This view ignores that, when the film was first screened in India in the late 30's, it sparked riots among the populace. However, the statement is true as well as being null and void, for there is zero danger of this film ever being made now! The plot is very pro-Empire and it is brazenly flag waving for the British. Looking back now, the film is laughable in it's depiction of it's characters. The British are kind and loving to all the Indians they encounter, while the Indians love them in return; those that don't are, of course, shifty and untrustworthy.
This is rather insulting if you think about it too much - I must admit I wasn't offended but then I am neither English or Indian and know little of the history that is clearly being twisted here in favour of propaganda. The film does have a nice vein of good humour to it though that prevents it being too heavy, while the battle scenes are of the `up'n'over' school of filming. The plot itself is too simplistic and can't keep the charade up - especially now that it will be clear to most viewers that it isn't a fair telling.
The cast are good, but again, there's no way that an `Indian' film would be shot today in Wales with the majority of the cast in blackface! The standout actor is Sabu. True his character is a little too good to be true but he has cheeky attitude and he is good fun throughout - just a shame his character seem to vanish for about a quarter of the film. The villainous Massey is also good fun and I enjoyed his performance. The British (namely Livesey and Hobson) are very stiff, although they do get the more heroic roles towards the end.
Overall this film is worth seeing as we will hopefully not see quite it's like again. The film is un-PC in casting, script, plot and characters, while the history it claims to tell is nothing more than a flag waving exercise that rightly started angry riots in Indian when it was shown there. However it is worth seeing for the period, the glorious (for the time) Technicolor and an amusing and fun performance from Sabu.
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