Sikandar (Alexander the Great) (1941)
Director: Sohrab Modi.
Starring: Sohrab Modi (King Porus), Zahur Raja (Amar), Shakir (Aristotle/Arastu), Meena Shorey, K.N. Singh, Vanamala (Rukhsana).
Alexander the Great's conquests in North-Western India. 326-225 BC (in Urdu language with English subtitles)
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
One day in the year 327 B.C. when the Greek flag was flying over Iran.
In public the people shout long live King Arastu (Aristotle). He takes his seat on his throne, but notices that the seat next to him is empty. He asks a guard named Ukar why is the seat next to him empty? After all, what work does Alexander have today? Ukar says he does not know. Nor does Unani know. King Arastu gets angry and adjourns the assembly for he will not speak today.
Alexander calls out for a pretty woman named Vaxlin. The woman asks him again not to call her Vaxlin because her real name is Ruksana. He says this is her Unani name. After all, when he himself came to Iran they named him Sikandar. He keeps after her, but she keeps retreating from him. He says to her: "I swear. Your naughtiness is also your beauty."
Arastu comes to see Alexander and tells him: ". . . if you want to conquer the world, first conquer yourself. And if you want to conquer yourself, protect yourself from the world of a woman. A woman is the biggest weakness of a man. The man who enters a woman's world gets destroyed." He leaves.
The words of Arastu seem to have upset Alexander. Ruksana can see that he is upset. She sets upon his head, her gift. A crown made of flowers. He tells her he cannot wear her gift. She asks who was his visitor that reduced his interest in Ruksana? It was Ustad Arastu. She asks what did the man tell him and Alexander answers: "That we should save ourselves from the world of love." Furthermore, he said that woman is the biggest weakness of a man. Ruksana gets angry and says that Arastu is 100% percent wrong. "A woman is the biggest strength of a man. . . . A man's life is incomplete, a woman completes it." She gives him a liquor drink, but he throws it out. This makes Ruksana very angry. Alexander says that the liquor was meant to make him forget the two statements made to him by Arastu, but he said a third thing: the man who enters the world of a woman, gets destroyed. Ruksana counters by saying that Arastu has defamed the superiority of women. She says that in front of women, Arastu does not exist at all. Ruksana says that she will show that Arastu is just as susceptible to women as any other man. She says she will go to the garden of the master and when she claps her hands, Alexander will see a different Arastu. Alexander laughs at the very idea of Arastu giving into temptation and this makes Ruksana even angrier.
Out in the garden, Ruksana sings a song to attract Arastu's attention. She also dances a bit for the man.
Meanwhile, Alexander is leading a cavalry charge at the enemy. "And thus the armies of Alexander marched from victory to victory till they reached the banks of the Jhelum -- then known as Vatista."
An Indian agent rides hard to his King, the King of India. He says that Sikandar has crossed Sindh. The King asks if King Ambi did not try to stop Sikandar? No, King Ambi surrendered. The King asks Prince Samar about this and the Prince answers: "Probably he wishes to attack our kingdom with the help of Sikandar." The Prince says that the Indian army will be triumphant. He says that each Indian soldier will take on four soldiers of the enemy. The King tells the General to prepare the army for action. He then tells Pradhan to let the Kings of Abhisar, Kalkot and Kulot know of the situation that they might unite to face their common enemy.
Prarthana, the sister of King, says that a foreign king will never rule over India. She warns her brother that he is not acting out of the right reasons. He is concentrated mostly on saving his own life, "And the one who loves his life, cannot do anything in life." He asks her what he should do. She tells him to join hands with King Puru to fight Sikandar. The King says that's impossible, so Prarthana tells him to join hands with Sikandar and behead Puru. She adds that Puru is very brave and will risk his life for the sake of the nation.
The King wants to join with Sikandar to get rid of Puru. Prarthana says if he does this, she will no longer be his brother. The King is outraged at this. She makes it worse by saying that she will go live with Puru, who is India's true friend. She believes that her brother's actions will just enslave India to Sikandar.
The forces of Alexander are excited about the news that Takshila's King Ambhi has agreed to surrender. [In 326 BC, Alexander invited all the chieftains of the former satrapy of Gandhara, in the north of what is now Pakistan, to come to him and submit to his authority. Ambhi, ruler of Taxila, whose kingdom extended from the Indus to the Jhelum, complied. But the chieftains of some hill clans including the Aspasioi and Assakenoi sections of the Kambojas refused to submit.] Alexander is pleased with himself, saying: "Today we've achieved our first victory against India."
A group of natives sing a song. Ruksana enjoys the singing and dancing. A woman notices that Ruksana is a foreigner here. She offers her some refreshments. The woman tells Ruksana that today the village is celebrating the festival of Rakhi in their country. [The Rahki bracelet symbolizes love and an emotional bond between brothers and sisters and reaffirms the familial relationship.] The only set back is that their maharaj has no sister with whom to participate in the festival. That gives Ruksana an idea.
A messenger tells the King of India that a foreign woman (Ruksana) wants to speak with him. The woman speaks with Prince Samar. She tells the Prince that the King and Queen have told her to tie a Rakhi to the princes. She gives a Rakhi bracelet to one of the princes. He tells her to put it on him, but she tells him he can put it on himself.
The King of India asks the foreign woman if she is the daughter of that land where King Dara reigned? He says he was a friend of Dara and regrets that he couldn't help him. Ruksana says she brought a gift that she hopes the royalty will accept. She wants to give him a Rahki bracelet. At first he doesn't want to accept it. She tells him not to forget that she has come from Iran with the hope that she will make King Puru her brother. So Puru lets her put the bracelet around his wrist. Now Puru wants to give her something in return. He tells an aide to giver his sister 1,000 coins and a palace. She then says the reason she came here was to protect Sikandar from all dangers.
Puru sends a response to Sikandar that he will come meet Sikandar on the battlefield with a sword. This pleases Sikandar.
Puru says that Sikandar attacked them because he thought they were small and weak. The man claims that he will conquer the entire universe. Puru says it is the duty of everyman to oppose anyone who says he will conquer the entire universe. He urges the other kings to unite with him to oppose Sikandar. They sing a song that India might win on the battlefield.
Ruksana prays in song that both Sikandar, her love, and Puru, her brother, might both live.
Sikandar is mad because Puru's army has not let Sikandar's army move ahead. King Ambi tells Sikandar that he will get the army moving. That's what Sikandar wanted to hear and is so pleased that he gives King Ambi the Unani name Amphis. Now Sikandar expresses his desire to see this Puru fellow personally before he fights against him. He adds that he has decided to go across the sea.
A message comes from Alexander to Puru. The message says that Alexander wants to conquer the world. But he has a soft heart and does not want innocents to be killed unnecessarily. King Ambi and his friend bent their heads in front of Unan and saved the peace of their regions. If Puru surrenders to Alexander in the same way, the Indian kingdom, strength and pride will remain as it has been. The only tribute he must pay is 200 elephants; 2,000 Hindustani swords; 20,000 gold eggs; and pay an annual tax. If Puru agrees to this, then there will be no interference in Puru's rule. Furthermore, if a third country attacks Puru, Alexander's army will help Puru.
Puru rejects surrender. He will not act like a slave and bend before the great Sikandar and kiss his hands. He wants the messenger to tell Sikandar that he has insulted King Puru and this insult will be answered by the sword.
The messenger says that Puru wouldn't and couldn't say these words to the face of Alexander. It seems that Puru has realized that the messenger himself is actually Sikandar. So Alexander pulls off his fake beard. He smiles and tells Puru that he has sharp vision. Alexander says that Puru must at least acknowledge his opponent's courage for facing him like this. Puru asks what if he throws Sikandar in jail or has him murdered right now? Alexander replies by asking Puru what will the world think of Puru if he kills the great Alexander? Puru replies: "You are ruining the peace of the world. . . Wherever you go, destruction follows you." He asks Sikandar: "What wrong has my India done to you?"
Puru finally tires of talking and tells one of the princes to take King Sikandar cross the sea with full royal protection. Alexander says he has saluted no one on his campaigns, but now he salutes Puru for his bravery. Prarthna sings a song. Young Prince Samar comes to tell her about a dream he had the other day involving her. Prarthna plays a little hard to get. She grabs a flower and throws it on one of his feet. Prarthana leaves as the elder prince's mother and brother arrive. Mother asks if the woman said yes or no to him? Brother says that Samar is blushing. Mom says she told the Emperor that the girl is fit for their son.
Villagers sing a song. A pretty young woman named Surmaniya sings a song criticizing the thief Sikandar for trying to steal India away from those who love her. She urges the men of her village to sign up for the fight against Sikandar.
Sikandar is moving his troops across the sea to attack Puru. The warning goes up on the Indian side of the sea.
Puru tells Amar to take a group of 2,000 warriors out to meet the invaders. If it is Abhisar's force, then welcome them. But if it's Sikandar, fight him.
Amar and his men go to battle. He sees that he is facing a huge army of men. In fact, it's so large that he figures it has to the the forces of Sikandar. He decides to attack Sikandar. Amar is killed in the fighting. At the palace his mother cries over her son's death. Dad says that he's very proud of his son. Alexander declares that Amar was a very brave soldier and salutes him.
Puru asks his new sister if she is rooting for Sikandar's victory? She says no. She only prays that Sikandar is not killed. Puru promises her that Sikandar will not die by his doing: Amar's brother objects to this saying that Sikandar killed his brother Amar and all his 2,000 warriors in just one night. Why shouldn't Puru kill this monster Sikandar? Puru says he regrets not being able to come to the defense of Iran against Sikandar, but he will help his Iranian sister Ruksana because the bracelet she put on his wrist represents the unity of Iran and India against men like Sikandar. Puru now leaves for the battlefield.
Indian men receive the call to go to battle against Sikandar. The leader of each army speaks to his troops to inspire them to fight to the death.
The battle begins. The Indians use their elephants well in the battle. But after a while, the repeated spearing of the elephants reduces their numbers. The two cavalries run directly into each other.
And again the two armies run at each other. It's hard to tell if anyone is wining. Puru throws a spear from atop his elephant and kills Sikandar's horse, but he refuses to throw a spear at the downed Sikandar. Puru is hit by some object and holds his throat with his hands. He continues to fight on. A man on horseback rushes to tell Alexander congratulations, he has won the day. [Alexander crossed the Indus and fought and won an epic battle against King Porus, who ruled a region in the Punjab, in the Battle of the Hydaspes in 326 BC.]
Puru now has to face Alexander. Alexander praises his bravery, but Puru calls Sikander cheap and arrogant. Nevertheless, Sikandar remains in good humor and frees the king. He then gives all the regions he won around Hajaspus to Puru. He goes on to say that the people of Unan will know the Indian King as Porous. [Alexander appointed Porus as satrap, and added to Porus' territory land that he didn't previously own. Choosing a local helped him control these lands so distant from Greece.]
There is a night of celebration in India. A celebrant says: "Today our country and king's prestige are saved." A man in the crowd objects that if this were a real celebration, the palace would be all lit up. But the palace sits in total darkness.
Porous himself knows he was defeated and feels the defeat deeply within his heart. And history will not note that Puru had a chance to kill Sikandar but did not do so because of his promise to Ruksana. He calls himself a fool for making the promise in the first place. On the other hand, Porous believes that if Sikandar pushes his forces farther into India, there he will meet his defeat. Ruksana says that Alexander will not go across the Bias River. Mother comes in to say that not only will Sikandar cross over the Bias River. He will reach the Ganges River.
Alexander's forces say that Porous killed half of Alexander's forces. Rumors run wild through the ranks of Alexander's military. Ruksana is one of those telling the troops to tell Alexander that they want to go home and will not march forward any more. Alexander, however, says he's ready to march once again. And he doesn't really objects when Porous tells him, he will not help Alexander defeat other Indian forces. What he wants is for King Ompus to have his sister Prarthna marry King Porous's son Samarpal. And now the two Kings will be relatives, despite the fact that the two Kings don't actually like each other.
Alexander now hears his men shouting that they won't continue forward.
Ruksana is in the garden with Arastu. He says that her spirit has rejuvenated him and he wants to marry her. He asks her if she could love him? Ruksana really starts laughing heartily. He starts to leave, but she stops him. She whispers to the older man just how much here love is worth. At first the older man says that's impossible, but then reconsiders and says he will meet her demand. This makes Ruksana very happy and she claps her hands together many time to bring out Alexander. It turns out that her demand was that Arastu run around the garden acting like Ruksana's horse. Alexander yells at Ruksana to stop her nonsense. She says in disgust: "Woman is the biggest weakness of man."
But Arastu is not yet defeated. He tells Alexander that if a woman can fool a wise, old man such as him with his great many years of experience, just imagine what she could to a foolish, young man. The old man leaves. Alexander says to Ruksana that he is hers, and she is his, but he won't face her again until he defeats India.
Arastu is leaving for home saying he has given all he has to Alexander. Now Alexander will proceed to India. The soldiers sing as they pack for the move and start their trip. Alexander goes to the statue of the god of war and asks him permission to go ahead on the battlefield. Porous and Ruksana come out to watch the ceremony. A big black bird flies over the ceremony. At first Alexander is happy about the bird, but then the bird flies directly overhead and casts a black shadow on the offering that Alexander brought to the god. The holy man says that the god is angry at Alexander and he is not granted permission to proceed on India. Alexander is terribly upset. Ruksana comes up to him to console him. Alexander realizes she is there and he embraces her. The soldiers shout out long live Alexander.
The holy man says that since Alexander embraced the woman under the visage of the god, Alexander is now married to her. Alexander seems happy about it. He says now he will divide his forces into two parts. One part will go home under the leadership of an army commander and the other will go with Alexander using the Iran-Iraq route. The men cheer the news.
Alexander and his wife now stand on the deck of the ship that will take them across the sea. The pair sing a song.
Joining in on the singing is the couple Prarthna and Samarpal.
Good movie. The Indians give much of the credit for turning around the armies of Alexander to themselves and their King Porus, but the film does mention too the fact that it was the revolt of his own soldiers that turned Alexander around to leave India. The film also gives a lot of credit to an Iranian woman named Ruksana for helping Alexander's troops to decide to mutiny. Alexander had married a Bactrian woman Roxana (Roshanak in Bactrian) to cement relations with his new satrapies. In 323 BC, Alexander died in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II, in Babylon, at age 32. In many cases in the film, the Indian names are different from the English names. Both Vanamala (as Ruksana) and Sohrab Modi (as King Porus) gave good acting performances.
Patrick L. Cooney, Ph. D.
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