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Zubeidaa (2001)

6.2
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Ratings: 6.2/10 from 1,119 users  
Reviews: 18 user | 15 critic

Zubeida, an aspiring Muslim actress, marries a Hindu prince to become his second wife. Her tumultuous relationship with her husband, and her inner demons lead her to a decision which has fatal consequences for them all.

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(original story and screenplay), (dialogue)
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Mandira Devi
...
Raja Vijendra Singh (as Manoj Bajpai)
Rajit Kapoor ...
Riyaz Masud (as Rajit Kapur)
Surekha Sikri ...
Fayyazi (as Surekha Sikri-Rege)
...
Suleiman Seth
Farida Jalal ...
Shakti Kapoor ...
Dance Master Hiralal
...
Rose Davenport
Ravi Jhankal ...
Girivar Singh
Smriti Mishra ...
S.M. Zaheer ...
Sajid Masud
Harish Patel ...
Nandlal Seth
Seema Bhargava
Parzan Dastur ...
Young Riyaz (as Parzaan Dastur)
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Storyline

The film begins with Riyaz (Rajat Kapoor), Zubeida's son setting out to research her life, and to meet the people who knew her. The story is thus told in the form of memories/reminiscences. Zubeida is a Muslim actress, who's career aspirations are thwarted by her film-producer father (Puri) who looks down upon a woman in acting. He arranges her marriage to her friend's son, but that breaks up after the birth of her son. Zubeida is now back at her parent's home, sad and depressed. Rose (Lilette Dubey) her father's mistress tries to cheer-up Zubeida by taking her out. On one of these outings, Zubeida meets Prince Vijayendra (Victor) Singh of Fatehpur (Bajpai). Quite taken with her, the Prince woos and marries her. Zubeida, now the 2nd wife of a Hindu prince, leaves her son behind with her mother (Sikri) and comes to live at Fatehpur. Here she meets the much older Mandira Devi (Rekha) the Prince's first wife, learns about the etiquette of being a Rani, and of the duties her husband has ... Written by Amodini

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The Story of a Princess


Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »
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Details

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Release Date:

19 January 2001 (India)  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

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Color:

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The jewelry worn by Karisma Kapoor and Rekha in the film actually belonged to the Jaipur royal family. Both actresses were told to be very careful when wearing it. See more »

Goofs

The events of the movie are happening in the 1950s, around the time of decolonization, yet the prince Victor appears to be flying a 1982 model of Cessna 172. See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Guru (2002) See more »

Soundtracks

So Gaye Hain - 1
Lyrics by Javed Akhtar
Music by A.R. Rahman
Performed by Lata Mangeshkar
See more »

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User Reviews

A Rich And Resonant Historical Romance, Though It Ends Up Feeling Incomplete
24 September 2007 | by (London, England) – See all my reviews

Shyam Benegal is an international award winning film director who made his name in the 1970's with films, such as Anker (1974), that focus on controversial subjects involving the examination of fraught, complex social and cultural relationships. These films tend to concentrate on the lower rungs of Indian society. Zubeidaa is a refreshing update in this mode of film-making, as Benegal transfers his name-making qualities to a subject at the higher end of society.

It is the story of a young man, Riyaz, who goes on a journey to discover what has happened to his mysterious mother, absent for as long as he can remember. What he discovers is reenacted in scenes set not long after independence, as the naïve but headstrong young Zubeidaa is scandalised by her romance, and subsequent marriage to Prince Vijayendra Singh of Fatehpur, head of a grand Hindu ruling royal family. As a middle class Muslim divorcée with a child by another man, her relationship with the Prince is naturally complicated by socio-political and religious factors.

But not only does she become entangled in the politics of the royal circle around the Prince, particularly in her relationship with the Prince's first wife, Mandira Devi, she also gets caught up in the larger politics of India. The film is set during a time not long after Independence, a time of change and uncertainty for the traditional ruling class of India, which still laid claim to about a third of the country.

Though it is clear that this film is much more than royal watching, having such a subject naturally supports a lavish treatment, which Benegal ably supplies, as well as making the film's content rich in nuance and resonance, handling its mature romantic storyline gracefully, and skilfully embedding it into its larger historical context.

The characters are generally very well developed with empathy and without judgement or cliché. The acting matches this. Karisma Kapoor captures the strength and naivety of Zubeidaa with aplomb, and Rekha is authoritative and understated as the enigmatic Mandira Devi.

The only problem I have with the film is Zubeidaa's grown son, Riyaz. Riyaz is imperative to the film, since the viewer follows him on his journey of discovery. Seeing great characters through the eyes of other characters is a useful fictional device, most successfully utilised in Scott Fitzgerald's novel, The Great Gatsby. Nick Carraway's character is revealed by his journey in discovering Gatsby. However, in Zubeidaa, Riyaz stays enigmatic while discovering his mother, and even, at times, comes across as anodyne, feeling more like a biographer looking into an interesting episode in history, not a son trying to find his mother. Rajat Kapoor, playing Riyaz, does not manage to rise above his character's failings. And so, unfortunately, the film ends up feeling incomplete.


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