Anarkali (1953)   




Director:     Nandlal Jaswantlal.

Starring:    Bina Rai (Nadira), Pradeep Kumar (Shehzada Salim), Kuldip Kaur, Ruby Mayer (Rani Joda Bai, S.L. Puri (Raja Man Singh), Manmohan Krishna (Parvez), Noor Jehan (as Nur Jehan), Mubarak (Shahenshah Jalaudin Akbar).

 Shahenshah Jalaudin Akbar, grandson of Babbar and son of Humayun, rules Hindustan justly, but has big problems with a rebellious son in love with the gypsy Anarkali


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

Not every memorial of love is a Taj Mahal.  She fell in love with Salim taking him to be only a soldier.  She did not know the soldier was the Crown Prince of Hindustan. 

Nadira (later named Anarkali) sings a love song that catches the attention of Emperor Akbar who is passing by the area.  He approaches the singer who asks him:  "Who are you?"  He explains to her that her voice drew him to her.  Nadira does not like him.  She tells him that he looks down on her as if he were an emperor.  But then a man reports to the Emperor:  "Your Majesty, we have looked everywhere for Prince Salim."  With this Nadira runs over to the Emperor and pleads for mercy.  She did not know he is the emperor.  The Emperor dismisses her worries.  He wants to hear her sing.  But she tells him that she can only sing when she is with her beloved.  The Emperor wants to know where is her loved one.  She replies:  "Do not challenge those in love, Emperor."  The Emperor says that the man must be afraid of him.  He adds:  "Lovers do not return."  So she sings a love song to plead for her lover to return to her.  Prince Salim hears her and comes back.  He hides behind some trees so the Emperor will not recognize him.  (Nadir is a gypsy and therefore a commoner.)  The Emperor is so pleased with her singing that he grants her any wish.  She only asks him for the pomegranate flower in his hand. 

Later the Prince sits on the bridge with Nadira.  After a while he returns to court.  Gulnar, who is in love with the Prince, grabs him and tells him that his father is mad at him.  The Prince has an injury to his leg and his mother notices it immediately.  But it is only a scratch says the Emperor.  He wants to toughen his son so he asks Raja Man Singh. the boy's uncle, to take his son with him on his sojourn to Kabul.  Mother says that her son will go to the battlefield and display his true valor. 

Nardira sees the troops ride out on their sojourn.  She runs out to look for her soldier.  She shouts:  "Soldier!  Where are you?"  The Prince wants to go to her, but Raja Man Singh forbids it.  Nadira begins a never-ending search following the separation.  She goes with a caravan in search of her soldier.  Meanwhile, the Prince is in agony, very tormented by the separation.  The caravan is attacked and Nadira is taken captive.  She is taken as a slave and has to perform for slave buyers by dancing for them.  She sings a song asking for her love to come to her, to save her.  It looks as if she is going to be sold to a stranger, but the Prince shows up and pays a very high price for her.  She does not recognize him because he wears a veil over the lower part of his face.  In camp he approaches her and she tells him to leave her alone. He tells her he will marry her, but she says he may as well strangle her.  He keeps torturing her with this pretense, but he finally reveals himself.  They embrace.

Raja Man Singh shows up and sees them embracing.  He is not at all happy at what he sees.  The Prince has to go with him.  He asks his maternal uncle not to say anything about what he saw.  He replies:  "What I saw cannot be excused!"  The Prince explains that the woman is Anarkali, the name given to her by the Emperor.  Uncle says that if he does not cease the affair immediately he will be arrested and the girl will be killed for driving him to rebellion.  The Prince and his Uncle draw their weapons and start to fight.  This is ended by the arrival of some soldiers, who are told by Uncle to arrest the Prince.  The Prince looks very dejected. 

The Prince goes into battle alongside his uncle.  At night Anarkali awakens and calls for her soldier.  She says:  "I can't live without him."  Meanwhile the Prince has fallen into a strange unconsciousness that the doctor cannot cure with any of his medicines.  This upsets his father and mother.  They call to Anarkali to sing for their son.  As she sings he stirs a bit.  Anarkali suddenly realizes that the Prince is her soldier.  As the singing continues he awakens.  The Emperor tells her that she has saved his son's live. But Anarkali now only wants to leave and does so.  But they send for Anarkali again, because the Prince wants to see her.  They ask Anarkali why she is acting like she is grieving.  She tells them that her love has become too powerful for her, that he has gone too far away from her. 

Later Raja Man Singh speaks with Anarkali alone.  He accuses her of daring to ensnare the Prince in order that she might become the future Empress of Hindustan. The Raja tries to give her money to go away, but she refuses the offer.  She says that the Prince has betrayed her.  She says if it is a crime for the poor to fall in love with the rich, then it should also be a crime for the rich to use the poor as their playthings.  Gulnar later comes to her and tells her to leave right now.  The Prince has forgotten her she says.  Anarkali responds:  "No, he loved me."   Gulnar just laughs at her:  "A Prince falling in love with a nomad?"

The Emperor throws a big celebration for the recovery of his son.  Anarkali is supposedly ill and cannot attend the festivities.  But then she suddenly shows up.  She will dance for the Prince.  But the Prince is too ashamed to even look her in the eye.  He keeps lowering his eyes when she looks his way.  She faints.  The band play on until she recovers.  She starts the dance again and tries to move the Prince with her song.  The Emperor is absolutely thrilled at her performance.  He makes her a royal courtesan and gives her a huge piece of jewelry.  The Emperor tells the audience that Anarkali's love is in the audience and asks that he stand up.  "If his love is true, I want to see him."  After a long pause the Prince finally stands up.  Anarkali runs away again. 

Anarkali is distraught.  She says about her relationship:  "Deceit.  Betrayal. Lies. . . . Only despair and darkness."  She wants to go away with her mother, but her mother wants to stay at court.  So Anarkali tells her that she will have to pay for her love of comfort with her daughter's life.  Mom relents and agrees to accompany her daughter.

The Prince's assistant, seeing how badly the Prince felt, has the Prince give him the letter he wrote to Anarkali.  He puts the message in his pet deer's collar and sends him to Anarkali.  Anarkali reads the letter and is encouraged that the Prince still loves her.  She stays at court.  At seeing Anarkali still at court, Gulnar is furious and wants to know why Anarkali is no longer going away.  She sends a spy to find out by following Anarkali. 

The Prince comes to see Anarkali.  She runs from him.  He asks her for her forgiveness.  She replies:  "You have played with my love."  He answers by saying he has not played games with her love.  He adds:  "I'm your slave."  She talks about actions speaking louder than words and so the Prince starts to stab himself.  At this Anarkali relents and they reunite.  In the morning the Prince leaves her, but tells her that he will return. 

The Prince's uncle comes to see Anarkali again.  He asks why she has not left yet.  She says that she changed her mind.  This infuriates Uncle who says:  "You are a slave and Prince Salim cannot marry a slave."  He then tells her that if she stays, she is risking her own life. 

At night the Prince takes Anarkali out on a fancy boat.  Under orders from Gulnar, a bunch of men in many boats try to encircle the Prince, but he manages to escape.  Since meeting together proves difficult, the Prince and Anarkali send carrier pigeons with messages back and forth to each other. Gulnar decides to send her falcon after one of the pigeons.  Gulnar reads the message, but finds it hard to believe.  Anarkali and the Prince are together?  Gulnar is so angry that she now wants vengeance on the Prince and Anarkali.  She decides to kill Anarkali by feeding her to the Prince's lion. 

Gulnar shows up at the meeting place where the Prince is waiting for Anarkali.  (She changed the meeting place by changing the love notes between the couple.)  But when the Prince discovers the ruse he tells Gulnar:  "You aren't even the dust on her feet."  Then Gulnar threatens the Prince.  She says there is no telling what a scorned woman in love might do.  She will expose his love secret by showing the Emperor the love notes her falcon has intercepted.  Now she tells the Prince that she hates him.  And she hates Anarkali:  "She has snatched everything from me."  Meanwhile, Anarkali is looking for the Prince. 

The Prince is so angry that he decides to feed Gulnar to the lion.  Gulnar starts screaming.  Anarkali follows the sound and sees them.  She tells the Prince that true love does not involve bloodshed.  She does not want to see Gulnar fed to the lion.  After a long pause, the Prince releases Gulnar.  Gulnar then begs for Anarkali's forgiveness.  (But what rational person could believe Gulnar?)  Anarkali and the Prince leave, while the Prince's assistant makes Gulnar give him any love notes she has on her. 

The Prince tells Anarkali that he will tell the Emperor about their wedding plans on the man's birthday.  Gulnar still plots against Anarkali.  She has her servant pour a poisonous liquid into Anarkali's bathing pool.  Anarkali takes a bath in the pool.  When she dances before the Emperor she falters and becomes dizzy.  She drops down to one elbow.  The Emperor is scandalized and orders that Anarkali be taken into custody.  The Prince appeals to his mother to intervene with his father on his behalf.  But the Emperor will not budge.  So now the Prince plans to rescue Anarkali from imprisonment.  He tells Anarkali and she tells him that he is talking rebellion.  Soon the Emperor learns that his only son with his men are descending on the palace.  The Emperor says he will go and placate the Prince.  He shakes his head and says:  "For the sake of a slave, he wants to fight his parents?"   Uncle is to prepare the troops to meet the Prince if necessary.  His sister begs uncle not to fight against her son.  But he has to follow orders.  Then mom begs the Emperor.  He relents saying:  "Very well, Queen."  Then he says that he will battle his son alone. Now the Queen is torn between son and husband.  But the Emperor tells her to pray for her son since he is the only heir to the throne. 

The Emperor on his elephant confronts his son and his troops.  The Emperor stands up in his elephant chair and tells his son to kill him with the spear he has in his hand.  But the Prince will not do it.  After a pause, the Prince throws down his weapon. 

At court the order is given to present the offenders.  Prince Salim and Anarkali are brought into the court.  Anarkali is charged with treason, ensnarement and rebellion.  The Prince responds to this by saying he has no parents.  Uncle begs for the lives of the two young people.  He explains that Salim rebelled out of and for love.  He then begs the Emperor for mercy for Salim, but not for Anarkali who tried to ensnare him.  The wise men of the court all agree with Uncle.  Anarkali's mother then asks for mercy for her daughter.  She says:  "If love is a crime, then we are all criminals."  The real offense her daughter committed is one of falling in love with a person of a higher social class, not rebellion. 

When it comes time for the announcement of the sentence, the verdict is guilty and the punishment for both young people is death.  Later the wise men and uncle seek an audience with the Emperor.  They beg him to reconsider his decision.  The Emperor gives some excuse about living up to his ideals of honesty, integrity.  One would think it was all about the Emperor, not the defendants.  Uncle is so turned off that now he talks about the Hindu Rajahs rebelling against Moslem rule.  But then the ever-changing mother of the Prince comes to her husband's defense. 

In his cell, Gulnar visits the Prince.  She confesses that she revealed his secrets to his father.  Now she feels guilty that he will be executed.  She adds:  "I'm in love with you too.  I can't live without you.  I'll go insane."   The Prince has her forcefully removed from his cell. 

On the day of execution, mom says goodbye to her son and then faints.  The order is given to have the executioner cut off the Prince's head.  But the executioner refuses to perform the deed.  This infuriates the Emperor.  He asks others to step forward to volunteer to execute the Prince, but no one comes forward.  The Emperor refers to this as a "silent rebellion".  He asks Uncle to do the deed, but he also refuses.  So the Emperor decides that he will do the job himself.  But when it comes time to use the huge sword, the Emperor cannot kill his own son.  He has him released. 

Prince Salim immediately starts to look for Anarkali.  He finds out that she is going to be buried alive.  He sets out to find her.  The infuriated Gulnar shoots an arrow into the Prince's chest and he falls from his horse.  He grabs his knife and throws it at Gulnar.  The knife reaches its mark and Gulnar drops dead.   The Prince slowly gets back on his horse to continue searching for Anarkali.  She is currently being walled within a structure being especially built around her.  By the time the Prince reaches Anarkali the construction is finished and everyone has left.  The prince embraces the structure.  He starts banging his head against it.  He then falls to the ground.

A final note from the producers of the film.  The film has no basis in reality at all.  It is a legendary romance. 


Pretty good movie.  I am noticing a trend however in many of these love stories.  A lot of very inspiring shorts speeches about love, devotion and loyalty accompanied usually by a lot of songs.  My wife did not like the movie.  It's hard to adjust to Indian music which sounds strange to our ears.  I told her the movie had at least a pretty good story.  It's just that they make the stories so complicated.  The lovers overcome one problem just to be confronted with additional problems.  This makes the story seemed too long and drawn out.  The film, after all, is more than two hours long. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



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