Persecution of Christians in ancient Rome: Cinema of the Week-BAGHI SIPAHI (1958)-(Rebel Soldier)

by

Cinema of the Week-BAGHI SIPAHI (1958)-(Rebel Soldier)

Persecution of Christians in ancient Rome:

Christianity in Rome, in its earliest stages was clearly viewed as a political movement. Although it is often claimed that Christians were persecuted for their refusal to worship the Emperor, general dislike for Christians likely arose from their refusal to worship the Gods or take part in sacrifice, which was expected of those living in the Roman Empire. Christians suffered from sporadic and localized persecutions over a period of two and a half centuries in ancient Rome. Their refusal to participate in Imperial cult was considered an act of treason and was thus punishable by execution. The most widespread official persecution was carried out during the Great Persecution when the Emperor ordered Christian buildings and the homes of Christians torn or burnt down and their sacred books collected and burned. Christians were arrested, tortured, mutilated, burned, starved and condemned to gladiatorial contests to amuse spectators.

BAGHI SIPHI (1958) is a Love Story of a Christian girl and a Roman soldier who rebels the persecution of the Christians by a Roman Emperor. The Movie is inspired from the highly successful Hollywood Movie QUA VADIS (1951) (“Where are you going” in Latin). Somehow the Roman & Christian theme did not appeal to the Indian audience and the Movie bombed in the Box Office and has become obscure now.

The Movie:
BAGHI SIPAHI (1958) is a Movie Directed by Bhagwan Das Varma with Madhubala. Chandrashekhar, Ranjan, Gope, Nishi, Purnima, Om Prakash, D K Sapru, Mohana Cabral etc. in the Star Cast. It is in & out a RANJAN Movie.

The action takes place in an ancient Roman Kingdom, a period after an illustrious and powerful reign, during which the new corrupt and destructive Emperor RANJAN ascends to power and eventually threatens to destroy the Kingdom’s previous peaceful order. The main subject is the conflict between Religion. The characters and events depicted are a mixture of actual Historical figures and situations and fictionalized ones.

The film tells the story of a Military Commander, CHANDRASHEKHAR, returning from the war, who falls in love with a devout Christian, MADHUBALA and slowly becomes intrigued by her religion. Their love story is told against the broader historical background and its persecution by the Emperor Ranjan. Though she grew up Roman as the adopted daughter of a retired General, Madhubala is technically a hostage of Ranjan, Chandrasekhar persuades Ranjan to give her to him for services rendered. Though Madhubala resents this, but still falls in love with Chandrasekhar.

Meanwhile, Ranjan’s atrocities become increasingly more outrageous and his acts more insane. When he himself burns the Kingdom, he blames the Christians for it., Chandrasekhar goes off to save Madhubala and her family. Ranjan captures them and all the Christian people, and condemns them to be killed in the arena. Chandrasekhar is arrested for trying to save Madhubala. In prison, another Christian who has also been arrested upon a Sign of the Lord (The Cross), marries off the couple; eventually, he is crucified as an ironic twist at the whim of Ranjan’s guard.

NISHI, Ranjan’s wife, who lusts after Chandrasekhar, devises a diabolical revenge for his rejection of her. Madhubala is tied to a wooden stake in the arena. A wild bull is placed there, and a soldier must try to kill it with his bare hands, otherwise Madhubala will be gored to death. Chandrasekhar is tied to the spectator’s box and forced to watch, much to the horror of his officers, who also attend the spectacle. When all seems hopeless, the soldier is able to kill the bull. Hugely impressed by his courage, the crowd exhorts Ranjan to spare them, which the Emperor is not willing to do. However, Ranjan’s other aides vouch for the mob’s demands by putting their thumbs up as well. Chandrasekhar then breaks free of his bonds, leaps into the arena, frees Madhubala with the help of his loyal troops from his legion, and announces that his General at that moment is marching on to the Kingdom, intent on replacing Ranjan .

The crowd, now firmly believing that Ranjan is responsible for the burning of the Kingdom, revolts. Ranjan flees to his palace, where he strangles Nishi to death, blaming her for attempting to scapegoat the Christian people. Then PURNIMA, a palace slave who was once in unrequited love with Ranjan, appears and offers to aid him in ending his own life before the mob storms the palace. The cowardly Ranjan cannot bring himself to do it, so Purnima drives the dagger into his chest, weeping over his demise.

In all these melodrama, the pair of GOPE & MOHANA CABRAL, provide some Comic relief.

Finally Chandrasekhar & Madhubala are free and leave the Kingdom.

The Music:
Baghi Sipahi has some of the best songs composed by SJ, but unfortunately due to the obscurity of the Movie, the 8 melodious songs penned by Shailendra & Hasrat Jaipuri, did not become as popular as other songs of SJ.
1. Maan Bhi Le Dil Tu Apni Ye Haar –Shailendra-Lata.
2. Sama Ye Pyar Ka, Bahar Ke Ye Mele –Shailendra-Manna Dey, Asha Bhonsle.
3. Chinchan Pappulu, Chhui Mui Mai, Chhu Na Lena Mujhe – Shailendra-Manna Dey, Asha Bhonsle
4. Ruk Ja, Musafir Pal Bhar Hi Ruk Ja –Hasrat Jaipuri-Lata.
5. Dil Lagane Wale Mat Sun Meri Kahani –Hasrat Jaipuri-Lata.
6. O Beraham Tere Sitam Hum Pe Honge Kab tak –Shailendra-Manna Dey, Lata.
7. Aye Dilbar Dil Wale, Pyar Pe Marne Wale –Shailendra-Lata.
8. Sharab-E-Ishq Ke Aage Muskurati Zindagi Ko Chhod Ke –Hasrat Jaipuri-Lata.

In Spite of Good Music, the Movie flopped as in the same year it was pitted against another SJ Movie YAHUDI, starring Dilip Kumar, Meena Kumari, Sohrab Modi etc, on an anotherr Roman theme, Directed by Bimal Roy which became a Huge Hit.

Here is the Youtube link to my ATF song “Ruk Ja, Musafir Pal Bhar Hi Ruk Ja” picturized on Purnima where you can see women carrying Crosses & torches and bowing in front of a big Cross behind her as a sign of their belief in their religion-https://youtu.be/FmcxIUx612c

Venkata Raman G's photo.
Venkata Raman G's photo.
Venkata Raman G's photo.
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