Puja Miri Yajnik
‘Mahal’ is a Hindi-language horror-romantic-mystery film, released in 1949. It is written and directed by Kamal Amrohi, in fact being his directorial debut. It is produced by Ashok Kumar and Savak Vacha. The innovative cinematography is by Joseph Wirsching.
A young man, Shankar, played by the legendary Ashok Kumar, moves into an old, abandoned palace. As he looks about him, he is amazed to see a portrait hanging of a man who looks exactly like him. The mysterious gardener, who is the only other person he sees in this huge palace, tells him of a tragic love story associated with the place.
The film is a pathbreaking one, introducing, in a sense, a gothic horror to Hindi films. Shankar hears a woman’s voice and senses strange movements in the vast grounds of the place. He sees a form in the distance and goes closer… as he approaches, she disappears. Here appears the ethereal Madhubala, as she plays ‘The Spirit’. I thought the casting deserves a lot of credit, as each actor brings the extra touch to their personas and makes the viewer feel their emotions.
The film’s music, of course, went on to become hugely popular, with exceptional compositions by Khemchand Prakash and lyrics by Nakshab Jaarchavi. The awe-inspiring voice of Lata Mangeshkar enchants the audience; it is said that viewers wrote in, inquiring about the name of the singer of the song ‘Aayega Aanewala’, as in those days, records carried the name of the character and not the singer.
The film has a fantastic ambiance; the beautiful, waif-like ghost, with her soft, haunting voice. The handsome stranger slowly gets convinced that he has stumbled upon a place associated with his past life. The gardener frightens you with a voice that spells doom. There is also a tragic, broken-hearted wife somewhere along the story. ‘Mahal’ is the essential cult movie; a film made with passion and genius. One cannot help being impressed by the super-talented team, brought together by a visionary director. A must-see for all film lovers.
Disclaimer: The above review solely illustrates the views of the writer.