With King Ranjit visiting him, King Sohat sees an opportunity to kill his young cousin and take over his kingdom. One of Sohat's henchmen fells Ranjit with a poisoned arrow, making it look like a simple hunting accident. Ranjit is taken to the home a healer who has withdrawn from society and lives in a simple hut with his beautiful daughter Sunita. Ranjit survives and love blossoms between between him and Sunita and they are soon engaged. Sohat now sees an opportunity not only to get control of Ranjit's kingdom but also Sunita as his own bride. On eve of Ranjit wedding, Sohat challenges him to a game of dice. Ranjit heartily agrees not realizing Sohat is using crooked dice.Written by
I suspect the number of (living) people who have seen this Indian silent picture may have gone up a hundred-fold in the course of the last few hours: London's Trafalgar Square was packed to capacity with what we were told was a 10,000-strong crowd, all present to see a free open-air screening accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra in the premiere of Nitin Sawhney's new score for the film. The turn-out was nothing short of incredible for any silent film, let alone for such an obscurity, and the event was clearly a wild success.
As for the film itself, it's a highly-coloured epic based on a classic Indian tale, and reminiscent of the works of the brothers Grimm or the stories of Scherezade. There is trickery and romance, rival princes, a wise hermit, a beautiful daughter unfamiliar with the outside world, palaces and jewels, henchmen and loyal followers, kidnapping, disguises and an army on the march. There is even the apocryphal cast of thousands -- with elephants! The new score is well done, and is in a sufficiently 'Western' style to be accessible to a European audience while containing an Indian flavour in the solo voices and instruments: the LSO performance was admirable, and was in fact the best live orchestral synchronisation I've yet heard. The actors are both good-looking (where appropriate) and talented, and there is some impressive wildlife footage at the beginning and sophisticated editing at the end.
What I didn't get, to be honest, was any sense of emotional depth: this is a simplistic moral or fairy-tale style story with a great deal of plot and little space for characterisation. It's all on the surface, and a very attractive surface it is too; but that's all there is. The film is entertaining and technically excellent, with lavish production values thrown into the bargain. It never got me involved on any more intense level, though.
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