Noor Jahan (1931)
Director: Ezra Mir.
Starring: Hadi, Jamshedji, Jillo, Mazhar Khan, Mubarak, Vimala Vasishta.
a Mughal empress (1577-1645), 20th and favorite wife of Emperor Jehangir (1605-27)
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
A long caravan comes across the desert. In the town a man helps his very upset wife to a place where she can lay down. The leader of the caravan stops and runs back to the master of the caravan. He tells the master to come with him to see something unusual. In front of the caravan is a baby wrapped in a blanket. Beside her is a cobra who seems to be protecting the baby. As the men approach the baby the cobra leaves. In town the man explains to his hostess that their three day old daughter got lost in the desert storm. The caravan arrives in town. The master asks if there is any woman available to feed the baby girl? Yes, there is, says the hostess. A woman is here who just lost a baby girl. It turns out that the baby girl is the lost baby. The mother and father are very relieved to have their child back.
The master tells the father that the cobra was guarding the child. This, he says, is a sign that she will be very fortunate in life. He asks the father to name her Mehrunisa and he also tells the father that he should come with him to Hindustan. They will go to Lahore and then on to Agra where the liberal and benevolent Akbar is the ruler.
Akbar goes to see his mother, Hasrat Miriam Makani. He asks where his son Shaikhu is. Mother says he came and went. Akbar goes to his wife Jodhabai and asks her if she has seen Shaikhu.? Yes, she has and now he is in the garden. The Emperor finally finds his son.
The Emperor asks Khan-e-Azam where is Todama?. The man comes in saying he was delayed because some merchants have just arrived from Mirzapur. He reviews some of the Emperor's father's past history. Mughal Emperor Humayun was defeated by Sher Shah Suri and went to Iran. There the monarch of Iran looked after him, but there was another man who help Humayun regain his throne: Khwaia Mohammed Sharif, the Wazir of Iran. Now his son Mirza Haiyat Baig is homeless and has come to the Emperor's doorstep. Mirza comes before Akbar. Akbar gives Mirza an estate and an annuity.
After the meeting with the Emperor, Mirza rushes to his wife to tell her their difficulties are banished. Dad believes their daughter Mehrunisa brought them this good fortune.
Shaikhu and Mehrunis are now young adults. In the huge gardens of the palace women dance in joy. Mehrunisa sings an ode to spring. Prince Shaikhu wants to meet the poetess of the song that everyone seems to be signing. He is told that the poetess is Mehrunisa, the daughter of Mirza. The Prince tells his very nervous servant to find this Mehrunisa. He'll give him two days to find her. If he fails, on the third day he will be hanged.
The nervous assistant goes to his girlfriend, Dilruba, the royal dancer, to tell her what the Prince told him. Dilruba tells her boyfriend that she will save him. She will have her friends call Mehrunisa and tell her to meet them at the royal Nishat Garden. The Prince works on a poem, but gets stuck on a line. Mehrunisa provides the words for the next line. The Prince is delighted. He jumps up and sees Mehrunisa. He guesses that she must be the poetess Mehrunisa.
After meeting Mehrunisa, the Prince says he feels so strange. Someone says that the Prince is in love. The Prince shouts: "Who said that?" It was Dilruba. She sings and dances about his being in love.
The Prince's grandmother is old now. She has asked Mirza's wife to come see her.
The news of the day is that the Pathans of Iraq have rebelled again. And Hasrat has suggested to His Majesty that he should send the Prince and Man Singh to fight the Pathans. Hasrat seems to be after the Prince's life. But Prince Shaikhu hears the women outside and he rushes over the the balcony. He sees daughter Mehrunisa with her mother going to see his grandmother. Grandmother meets Mehrunisa for the first time and takes a liking to her. The Prince comes in to greet his grandmother. But grandmother reminds him that he has already said hello to her. Then grandmother sends the two women away saying that if the Prince came to see her for a second greeting, he must want to talk about something very important. The Prince, however, is not happy to see the women leave.
Her mother and Mehrunisa go to see the Queen. Shaikhu shows up to wish his mother a good day. His mother says this is the second time he is greeting her. And she, like grandmother, asks the two women to leave because she thinks the Prince has something very important to tell her.
The Prince follows the women to see the Emperor. But he doesn't want to pop in on the Emperor so he hangs back. But the Emperor spots Shaikhu. He tells him to come over to him. Meanwhile, the women leave. The Emperor tells his son that the Pathan rebellion is picking up force and the Prince must be ready at all times. After the Prince leaves, his father asks himself: "Shaikhu, when will you change?"
The arrival of the monsoon season will be celebrated in Nishat Garden. Again the Prince tells his assistant to arrange a meeting for him with Mehrunisa. If he fails, on the third day he will be hanged.
The monsoon celebration begins with dancing. Mehrunisa is asked for a song of spring and she sings one. Shaikhu arrives at the celebration. Dilruba has the women play hide and seek. She blindfolds Mehrunisa and helps her walk until she bumps into Shaikhu. She does so and she puts her arms around his neck saying she has caught the thief. Shaikhu hugs her back and she realizes that this is not another woman. She takes off her blindfold and begs the Prince for his forgiveness. She tells him she made a mistake. The Prince says his heart is pounding for another such mistake. Mehrunisa tells him that there are many obstacles in their way as a couple.
Mehrunisa finds her dad talking with a man who tells him that he should be the Commander of King Akbar's armies or at least a governor. She asks her mother about the man and she tells Mehrunisa that he is Ali Khan, a famous soldier. Mehrunisa is worried.
Shaikhu comes to Mehrunisa and virtually forces her to promise to meet him at night in the Nishat Garden. At night they meet. He wants to hold her, but she is a bit shy and uncertain. He signs a song of love to her. She sings about love to him. Mehrunisa sees a man run by and tells the Prince that someone was watching them.
People start noticing the relationship between the Prince and Mehrunisa. A group of concerned royals say they see the hand of Mirza Haivat behind this love. Today the daughter rules over Saheb-e-Alam's heart. If matters reach the wedding stage, Mirza will rule the nation. The Prince overhears some of their conversation and comes to challenge them. He tells them they will soon be asked to fight and they should be ready. He leaves. Some of the men say they will end up fighting the Prince.
The spy reports to the Emperor that Shaikhu is a dear pampered son. The Emperor concocts a little plan of marriage. The spy tells Mirza to leave Agra until the wedding is completed. And he stresses that this must be kept quiet Mirza goes to his wife and tells her that they have to get Mehrunisa married. From around a corner Mehrunisa listens to the conversation. Mom mentions the name Ali Khan. Her husband likes the idea. They have to leave for Fatehpur today.
The Prince waits for Mehrunisa, but she is a no show. He wonders why didn't she come? But Mehrunisa seems to have vanished. Shaikhu says that this is all a conspiracy of Alam and his cronies. Then the Prince learns about a rumor that Mehrunisa will marry Ali Khan. Ali is in charge of the royal horses, and he has 2,000 cavalry under him.
Khan Qutbuddin, Governor of Guiarat, requests an audience with the Prince. They are old pals. Qutbuddin says that he heard about the troubles with the Pathans and has come to offer his help to the Prince. He brings a new rifle with him and gives it to Shaikhu. Shaikhu says he will invite Ali Khan to a tiger hunt and there he will shoot him. On the hunt the Prince sees Ali Khan on top of another elephant and prepares to shoot him. But Shaikhu hesitates to fire. Then, all of a sudden, a tiger grabs one of the beaters. Alil jumps down from the elephant and jumps onto the tiger. He is able to strangle the tiger to death with a stranglehold around his neck. The beaters all greet Ali as a hero. Shaikhu is very impressed and awards Ali with the title of Sher Afghan.
The royal army is going to attack the Pathans. The Emperor appoints Shaikhu as the commander-in-chief of the army. Raja Man Singh will be his second in command and his chief advisor. The force will leave tonight. In private the Prince says he will not do it. He gets his buddy Qutbuddin to promise he will find Mehrunisa and protect her. He also asks Qubuddin to keep him informed.
The army is now on the march. The Emperor tells Qutbuddin that he is pleased with the work he has done in Guiarat. He makes him the Governor of Kandahar. Then he tells Qutbuddin that there is to be no mail sent to or delivered to Shaikhu.
The royal army attacks a fortress. Shaikhu is told that the Royal army is victorious and their foe is fleeing. The Prince says he already knows this. What he really wants to know is if there is any news from Agra? No. A saddened Prince says that his friend Qutbuddin let him down. He dreams of Mehrunisa.
Ali Sher Afghan marries Mehrunisa. The royal army takes another fortress. The two armies meet in the field. In the middle of the battle, the Prince runs to receive a messenger from Agra. He learns that the moment he left, Qutbuddin was sent as Governor to Khandahar and Mehrunisa married Sher Afghan. And Sher Afghan has been given the post of Governor of Bengal and will be sent to Burdwan. The Prince is very upset over the news. More news arrives: the fort is taken!
The Prince tells Man Singh to go back and tell Emperor Akbar that his son has rebelled. He has revolted against the Emperor's unfair rulings and judgment. He also tells Man Singh to tell Khan-e-Azam and his brigade that one day Salim (Shaikhu) will dig his claws into their conspiracies!
Sher Afghan shows Mehrunisa their new palace. She thinks the place is a little over the top. Her husband admits the place is very expensive, but he will do anything for her.
The Emperor is told the news that his son has rebelled. He has taken the army to Allahabad and plans llater to wreck havoc in Agra. The Emperor blames himself for his wayward son. He tells his staff to call the army back from Punjab and send messengers to the Governors of Bengal and Bihar to keep their armies ready. Akbar swears that Shaikhu will meet the same end as any other rebel.
Sher Afghan tells his wife that he has to take his army to Allahabad. Mehrunisa asks him why? He says that the rumor is that Shaikhu went crazy for some girl. He says he hopes it won't come to fighting between father and son or the name of the Mughal Empire will be mud.
The Emperor will be leading the army himself. He says goodbye to his mother, but she is very upset about the upcoming family war.
Shaikhu gets the news that the royal troops have left Agra with the Emperor leading. The Prince says he will face the royal troops across the Ganges River. But the news arrives that grandmother is coming to see Shaikhu. He goes out to meet her. When they meet she asks him why does he torment his father so? As she talks on Shaikhu repents. Grandmother says she will stop the war, leave it to her. Shaikhu goes with her.
Father and son reunite. They hug each other. But Shaikhu is still upset. Dilruba tells him to try and forget about Mehrunisa, but Shaikhu says this is virtually impossible.
It is the first wedding anniversary of Mehrunisa and Sher Afghan. Dilruba comes to dance for them. She sings a tale of unrequited lover. One of the lines of the song says: "Even if I die of love, don't tell anyone!" The lyrics upset Mehrunisa. Later she tells Dilruba to tell the Prince that she is married now and she asks that he doesn't do anything to turn her heaven into a hell. When Dilruba sees Shaikhu she gives him the news. He says he will bury his feeling deep inside his heart, but he will always love Mehrunisa.
The Emperor learns that Sher Afghan is cheating the treasury. The man admits to his wife that he did spend some of the monies on her. He starts looking for ways to save money. He has 5,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry. He tells his advisor Jaffar Baig to reduce those numbers! But Baig says he should be increasing the number of his troops. Akbar is ill and can't last much longer. He reminds Sher Afghan that Sher Shah Suri, called the King from Bengal to Karnataka, built this mansion and that man made the Mughal Emperor run for his life to Iran.
Akbar is on his deathbed. Shaikhu is there with him. The Emperor dies. There is a new Emperor: Emperor Nooruddin Jehangir (aka. Shaikhu). The new Emperor forgives those who have schemed against him. He says there are a few new rules. One of them is that no landlord should grab the land of the farmers. Another is that free health services will be granted to the poor. Finally, a bell will be placed in a prominent position and anyone in the kingdom with a grievance can ring the bell and asked to be heard.
The new Emperor learns that Sher Afghan has not been sending in any taxes. And the man dreams of becoming the King of Hindustan. The advice is that the Emperor should crush the renegade. But Nooruddin won't do it. Merchants comes to see the Emperor. They tell them that Sher Afghan and his minister Baig have cheated them. Now they are broke. The emperor sends Qutbuddin to Bengal. He is to check on the truth of the accusations against Sher Afghan. If he is innocent, Qutbuddfin should return, but if he is guilty, Sher Afghan is to be brought back to Agra alive.
Sher Afghan is afraid now because Qutbuddin is coming with the royal army. He reproaches Baig for telling him everything would be all right. Baig tells Sher Afghan that Qutbuddin is here to murder the Governor. Then he tells Sher Afghan to get his wife to tell him the love story of Shaikhu and Mehrunisa. Sher Aghan slaps the man to the ground.
Sher Afghan does not go to see Qutbuddin. He asks Mehrunisa her opinion and she urges him to speak with Qutbuddin because the man must be filled with suspicions. Her husband tells her that he has his own suspicions. He goes to see Qutbuddin. But Baig is already speaking with Qutbuddin. He claims that he tried to stop Sher Afghan's traitorous plans. And now he wants to be rewarded. Sher Afghan arrives. Baig is arrested.
News arrives to Mehrunisa that Qutbuddin murdered Sher Afghan. Mehrunisa in turn blames the Emperor. She goes to Agra. A woman dressed in black rings the bell. The Emperor comes out to see who is ringing the bell so late at night. He talks to the woman who tells him that now she is a widow. Somebody deceived her husband with the aid of the state. Her innocent husband was killed. The Emperor demands to know who did it? He will be punished no matter how high his position. She says that her husband was Sher Afghan and his killer is the Emperor.
The Emperor realizes that the woman in black is none other than Mehrunisa, He tells her that he never wanted her husband hurt. She doesn't believe him and says she has come to clear her husband's name. The Emperor tells her that her charges will be answered in court.
In court Mehrunisa tells the judge that the Emperor always considered her husband an obstacle to his dreams. He said that she would have no other and if there were such a person his life would be a short one. The Emperor gets upset by the nastiness of the charges and decides not to defend himself. The judge warns him that this silence must be taken as guilt. As the judge prepares to announce the sentence, the call is made for the judge to hold it. A witness is here to testify as to what happened. It is Baig. He was there when Sher Afghan with his men met with Qutbuddin and some of his men. Sher Afghan started spouting off treason making Qutbuddin very angry. The tension built until the two men started fighting with swords. Sher Afghan killed Qutbuddin. Both sides start fighting each other within the tent. Sher Afghan is fighting well, but Baig throws a knife into the big man's chest.
Baig says he turned the two men against each other, but he didn't' think both would be killed. The judge says he absolves the Prince with honor of the murder of Sher Afghan. Now one of the Emperor's key men asks the judge what should be Mehrunisa's punishment for trying to malign the Emperor? The judge says that the Emperor can decide her fate. But the Emperor doesn't punish her, he rewards her. He gives her Sher Afghan's estate and Zeenat Mahal to reside in when she is in Agra.
Mehrunisa's parents talk to her. They tell her that the Emperor has sent a marriage proposal. But Mehrunisa says she won't marry because of her grief for her husband. Dad has to tell the Emperor, who says that he will still love Mehrunisa.
Mother prays for God to heal her son's heart. Now he has stopped eating. He can't even perform his executive duties. She becomes so upset and angry that she goes to see Mehrunisa. She scolds Mehrunisa. She says: "I have come to see if Mehrunisa is a woman with a beautiful heart or a lifeless stone." Mother tells Mehrunisa that she gave her wound upon would. She tortured her. Mehrunisa says if that is true the Emperor's mother should punished her. Mother asks how can she punish the young lady? It is Mehrunisa who is punishing her. She says: "No man has ever tried a man's love so severely as you do. Such arrogance! Such pride!" Mother warns Mehrunisa: if anything happens to her son . . . But mother admits that she cannot hurt Mehrunisa. So she starts to beg Mehrunisa. Mom says she wants Mehrunisa to pray about this and listen to what her heart tells her.
Mehrunisa does pray about the matter. She lays in bed thinking.
The Emperor spends another restless night. He half awakens and thinks he sees Mehrunisa in the room. He slowly realizes that it must be Mehrunisa. She tells him: "Salutations to the greatest emperor of our times who forgot the whole world for a mere slave girl." He goes to her and he hugs her.
In front of the court, the Emperor and Empress make an appearance. He says the Empress will have the new title of Noor Jahan and she will be involved in affairs of state. Mehrunisa puts her hand on her husband's shoulder. She looks very happy.
Good movie and good love story between the Prince and Mehrunisa. The only thing that really bugged me was the seeming ease with which Mehrunisa married Ali Khan. She had told the Prince that she loved him, but then she becomes so over-the-top in love with Ali Khan. And then she has the nerve to accuse the Prince (now Emperor) of killing her husband. She actually takes him to court. She seemed a little too two-faced to me. And she didn't really have to suffer for her betrayal of the Prince. At least she could have been sad about marrying Ali Khan. But no. And she didn't even apologize to him after the trial. Oh,well. (Of course, the film doesn't mention that Noor Jahan was only one of twenty wives, even if she was the Emperor's favorite.)
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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