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1946 121’ b&w Hindi-Urdu d/p A.R. Kardar pc Kardar Prod. lyr Majrooh Sultanpuri, Kumar Barabankavi m Naushad lp K.L. Saigal, Kanwar, Ragini, Nasreen, Jairaj, Himalaywala, Nazir Bedi, Azoorie, Kesarbai, Anwari, Munir Sultana, Rehman, Peerjaan

Kardar’s costume drama set in Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan’s court is Saigal’s last film and the debut of new-generation set designer M.R. Achrekar (later associated mainly with Raj Kapoor) and lyricist Sultanpuri. The melodrama stresses the two motifs usually associated with Shah Jehan: his commitment to justice and the Taj Mahal, which he built as a monument of love for his wife Mumtaz. The poet Sohail (Saigal) writes a love song (Mere sapnon ki rani) in praise of the beauteous Ruhi, daughter of Rajput general Jwala Singh. The song becomes so popular that it seriously inconveniences its subject: some lovelorn youths disrupt her wedding procession and five of her brothers are killed. Shah Jehan adopts Ruhi into the royal court and offers her in marriage to the one who can create a work of art that ‘replicates heaven on earth’. Sohail wins the contest with the song Kar lijiye chal kar meri jannat ke nazare but she is in love with the Persian sculptor Shiraz (Jairaj). The dilemma causes a split between Shah Jehan and his wife, only resolved when Mumtaz, on her deathbed, asks the emperor to build a monument reflecting their love. Shiraz is to build the monument, but he must first experience a loss analogous to Shah Jehan’s loss of Mumtaz. And so, Ruhi’s father kills Ruhi: the distraught Shiraz then builds the Taj Mahal. Later, it is revealed that Ruhi is still alive as Sohail sacrificed his life to save her. Although Mughal historicals generally fetishise legends about royal masculinity (Tansen, 1943; Anarkali, 1928, 1935, 1953) this one goes further, gendering the segregation between personal and political spaces while contrasting declamatory dialogues and large-scale sets with a staccato, documentary narrative. The film includes Saigal’s famous song Jab dil hi tut gaya.