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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Mehboob Khan's Epic: AAN - The Untold Story,Part I


AAN - THE UNTOLD STORY
by Nasir.

One Mr. Sayyad Mohammed Ali was renowned for his “Ilm-e-Jafar”. This is the science of numerology and it is said that through Ilm-e-Jafar the past and the future of a person or an incident or occurrence can be accessed and known. He was a sage who had spiritual insight and intuitive powers Many film personalities, including Mehboob Khan and Naushad used to consult him off and on. Madhubala’s father, Ataullah Khan, also used to visit him at his Mahim residence in Bombay.

When the story of AAN was completed, Mehboob Khan requested Sayyad Mohammed Ali to come to the Mehboob Studio to hear the story and give his advice and comments. At the appointed time, Sayyad Mohammed Ali went to the Mehboob Studio which was under construction. There he met Mehboob Khan. The story-writer, R.S. Choudhary, was also present in the Studio-room. Mehboob Khan made a motion of his hand and the story-writer began narrating the original story to Sayyad Mohammed Ali who listened with rapt attention, with his closed eyes. After the narration was over, Mehboob Khan looked at the pensive face of the Seer. He asked, “What’s your verdict?”

The Seer exclaimed, “Flop!” Mehboob Khan was shocked.

“So what should be done?” he asked the Seer.

“Make some changes in the story,” said the Seer. He advised:

“Keep the hero alive.” He was referring to the character Jai Tilak (Dilip Kumar).

“Kill one heroine.” This was the character of Mangala (Nimmi) that he was referring to.

“One thing more,” cautioned the Seer. “You must be careful. One heroine will meet with near-fatal accident.”

Mehboob Khan instructed the story-writer to make the suitable changes in the story. The main star-cast included Dilip Kumar as Jai Tilak of the Hada tribe; Nimmi as Mangala; Nadira as Princess Rajshree; Premnath as Prince Shamsher Singh; Murad as Bhaiji Maharaj. Camera work was by Faredoon Irani – the usual one with Mehboob Khan. Naushad was the Music Director and was assisted by Ghulam Mohammed. S.Ali Reza penned the dialogues while the story was of course by R.S. Choudhary. AAN was produced at the Central Studios.

Briefly, the real flashing point which sets the trend of the story by bringing all the lead actors are the challenges thrown in the arena. The duel between Jai Tilak and Shamsher; Jai Tilak taming the princess’s mare and riding her and then claiming the mare as his reward; the princess refusing to give the mare and her consequent hatred of Jai Tilak; the plea of Mangla before Bhaiji Maharaj that the mare should be given to Jai Tilak fairly and squarely and the acceptance of the plea, all this brings the characters in confrontation with one another. Jai Tilak is smitten by the fiery princess despite the fact that Mangala his childhood friend is head over heals in love with him, Shamsher falls for the rustic charm of Mangala whom he wants to deflower, Jai Tilak and Shamsher become sworn enemies, the princess snobbishly hides her feelings for Jai Tilak by sadistically having Jai Tilak whipped physically, while Bhaiji Maharaj is sought to be killed by his own brother Shamsher for not naming him as his successor but handing the kingdom to his subjects – the ‘Praja’.

One also finds the elements of sexual fetishism as the scarf of the princess makes the round from the princess to Jai Tilak, then to Mangala and back to the Princess and Jai Tilak’s bravado in facing the palace guards to get the scarf for himself, then actually entering the chamber of the princess and draping both himself and the princess with that scarf. The high passion is amplified in the colour of riots on the day of Holi against the song KHELO RANGG HAMAARE SANGG. Jai Tilak’s masochistic tendencies are also exposed when he takes the whipping and sings DIL KO HUWAA TUMSE PYAAR, AB HAI TUMEH IKHTIYAAR, CHAAHE BANAA DOH, CHAAHE MITAA DOH.....while tied to a post. This tendency is further exposed when he keeps the dagger as “Sharafat ki Deewar” or a partition of harmless intention in the wilderness despite having kidnapped the princess. The princess flings that very dagger on his back, seriously injuring him. Even later, when he survives, he gives her a gun so that she may shoot him. Anyway, this requires a separate article for a detailed explanation of the characters of AAN. During the climax of the story, Mangala dies saving her honour, impelling Jai Tilak to kidnap the princess in order to make a Mangla of her in which he finally succeeds. He also avenges Mangala by killing Shamsher in a sword-fight. The story ends with Bhaiji Maharaj handing over his kingdom to his subjects with the words, JAI PRAJA.

AAN thus topically highlighted the development of the independent India where the former princely states were asked or coerced into joining the Indian Union although at a price – the “privy purse”.

TO BE CONCLUDED:

NASIR

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