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Gul Bakavali (1961) – Review

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Review

This new Pakistani release commands attention as being the vehicle for introducing color into local films and perhaps nobody is more conscious of this fact than the director, veteran Munshi Dil. A minor proof of his extreme cleverness is that the film opens with a color sequence and ends with a color sequence; if you want to see the colors, you have to see the whole film. A hard bargain.

Those who think that they know all about the legend of ‘Gul Bakauli’ under-estimate the writer’s (Munshi Dil) ability to ‘discover’ new details. Mercifully, however, he is content with only a few surprises. The flower is most probably a flower, Bakauli is a fairy because she occasionally displays wings; and Tajul Maluk a prince who must get the flower to restore the eyesight of his father. The story moves all right. Tajul Maluk’s brothers go in search of the flower but lose their freedom over `chauser’ to Dilbar, the prostitute who lives in a palace. But she cannot deceive Tajul Maluk because the cat over whose head the lamp is placed is but a stuffed skin (to be fair, it resembles a cat), and he can dispose it of simply by asking for a proper lampstand. However, the prince and his companion must proceed towards their destination. They just walk into the cave of the jin who guards Bakauli’s garden. In the cave there is a statue the sight of which reminds the prince’s companion of the need to fall in love. The jin is also there but he can see only what the director wants him to see. However, it transpires that the statue is really the cousin of Bakauli turned into plaster by the jin because she would not love him. While a love triangle develops in the cave, Tajul Maluk can wander into Bakauli’s garden and accomplish his mission of getting the flower and Bakauli’s ring with the help of a jin. (This jin is apparently without a master and it is only at the end of the film that one finds him attached to the court of Bakauli’s father). On his way back Tajul Maluk falls a prey to his brothers’ intrigue. That results in a trip to the under sea world, the purpose of which is a lecture on conjugal propriety. This the prince delivers with the fire of a born demagogue, and then returns to the surface. Meanwhile his brothers have reached home and restored their father’s eyesight with the stolen flower.

The story rolls on . . . Tajul Maluk wins the love of Bakauli but soon, discovers that she is a subject of Raja Inder. This King punishes her by turning her lower half into plaster. Dilbar comes to dance on flames and there is no reason why the King should not grant her wish (which is nothing but reprieve for Bakauli). But Munshi Dil thought otherwise. He has been in the game too long to forget that his audience is all, Muslim. Bakauli will have her freedom but not before Noor Jehan’s singing of a prayer has demolished the idols around.

This is the story. However, the events have secondary importance in Director Munshi Dil’s scheme; the first thing is his methods of presenting theatre on celluloid. One cannot fail to observe it, each and every frame is stamped. The way he simplifies matters is simply staggering. What are the characters after all but like loose clay in the hands of the director. And he works according to a system. The first thing a character must do is to introduce himself or herself. Then there are the requirements of box-office elements — comedy, romance, speeches sense and nonsense all are apportioned footage. Whoever the characters may be they have to follow the footage allocation. And what is experience worth if one cannot turn a jin into a clown and the clown into a giant-killer! One cannot ignore the very deft use to which Munshi Dil puts his knowledge of Agha Hashr’s plays and Shauq’s ‘masnavi’. The camera ? He condescends to its use without hiding his disdain for it. And any way who cares for black-and-white photography in a film half of which is in colors? It is indeed astounding how firmly his technique has repulsed the assaults of time. Some credit, however, must, go to the public, those great patrons of 1919 vintage.

The film has a respectable cast — most of the players are veterans in their fields. They do not fail their fans — color cannot spoil them and they all dress well. The one without a costume is Nazar and the only thing left for him is to act which he does, much better than he has been doing lately. The public will, of course, laugh at all the funny things (which the film has in abundance) and enjoy the dancing and singing; the menu is made for them.

Year – 1961

Language – Urdu

Country – Pakistan

Producer – Q.Zaman

Director – Munshi Dil

Music Director – Safdar

Box-Office Status – Hit

Cast – Jamila Razzaq, Sudhir, Ilyas

Miscellaneous Information – The film had few sequences in color, making it the first partially colored film of Pakistan.

Songs List

Song
Year
Singers
Music Director(s)
Lyricist(s)
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