Cinema of the Week: YAHUDI (1958) : Persecution of Jews in ancient Rome

Cinema of the Week: YAHUDI (1958)

Persecution of Jews in ancient Rome:

When the Romans conquered the land of the Jews, they immediately recognized that there was a problem because the Jews refused to pay homage to Roman Gods. Rome gave in and exempted Jews from this requirement. Rome did this in part because the Jews had helped Roman General Julius Caesar win an important battle several years earlier. Soon Rome recognized Judaism as a legal religion, allowing Jews to worship freely. But Rome viewed the Jews with suspicion and persecuted them on several occasions and serious conflicts between Romans and the Jews began.

YAHUDI (1958) is believed to be a take-off on this 2,000-year old legend about the persecution of Jews. Ostensibly based on the Urdu poet, playwright Agha Muhammad Shah Hashr Kashmiri’s popular play, “Yahudi ki Ladki”, this is an unusual fare from Bimal Roy. Stylistically, it is also a stand-apart film because Roy had neither before nor after this attempted a subject that was alien to his sensibility.

YAHUDI is all about a vengeful Jew adopting an abducted Roman child, who grows up and unknowingly falls in love with a Roman.

The Movie:
An enraged Brutus (Nazir Husain), injured in a freak accident by jeweller Ezra’s – a Jew – (Sohrab Modi) young son Elijah (Master Romi) , orders his cruel execution by feeding him to hungry lions. In retaliation, Ezra’s servant (Ramayan Tiwari) kidnap Lydia (Baby Naaz), Brutus’s daughter. Ezra raises her up as his own by renaming her Hannah. She grows up to be a beautiful woman (Meena Kumari). Hannah comes to the assistance of Roman Emperor’s (Murad) heir, Marcus (Dilip Kumar), due to an accident with his chariot, and he is smitten by her despite of his forthcoming marriage to Brutus’s niece Octavia (Nigar Sultana) Unable to get her out of his mind, he dons a Jewish guise, calls himself Moshe, and dramatically befriends her and Ezra. He turns all his affections on Hannah much to Octavia’s displeasure. The twist comes in the form of a royal order. Marcus is to marry Octavia. Ezra and Hannah accuse Marcus of infidelity for which the punishment is death penalty but when once Hannah realises the intensity of punishment, she unconsciously invites the same punishment for herself. Ezra’s timely revelation about Hannah’s birth saves her from the gallows but in the meantime atoning for his own guilt Marcus blinds himself.

“YAHUDI” (1958) has the best artists ever. The hero Targedy King Dilip Kumar, Heroine Tragedy Queen Meena Kumari, are supported by Character Actors Nazir Hussain and Sohrab Modi and Music is composed by Greatest Music Directors ShankarJaikishen. It has a very good story line. And to top it all it is Directed by one of the Greatest Directors of 1950’s BIMAL ROY, Edited by Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Produced by Sawak B. Wacha. Yahudi is superbly crafted in every technical department. One of the major highlights of this Period Drama is the riveting camerawork by Dilip Gupta, especially in the areas of contrasts and shades to capture facial nuances, and a taut screenplay by Nabendu Ghose, amply supported by Wajahat Mirza’s dialogue.

Dilip Kumar is characteristically constrained in his performance, especially in the latter part of the film when he is blind though it also seemed to be beginning of his latter day mannerism, especially in terms of hand gestures and movement. Meena Kumari looks glamorous

YAHUDI is a tear-jerker melodrama & despite a contrived climax turned out to be a huge box office hit.

The Music:
The Movie has 7 melodious songs penned by Shailendra & Hasrat Jaipuri with the tilting Music of SJ as under:
1. Aansoo ki aag leke teri yaad aayi-Hasrat Jaipuri-Lata.
2. Aate jaate pahlu me aaya koyi –Shailendra- Lata.
3. Bechain dil khoyi si nazar – Shailendra-Lata, Geeta Dutt
4. Dil mein pyaar ka toofaan na samjhe koi naadaan –Shailendra- Lata.
5. Meri jaan meri jaan pyaar kisi se ho hi gayaa hai – Shailendra –Lata.
6. Ye duniya ye duniya haay hamaari ye duniya – Shailendra- Rafi.
7. Ye mera deewaanapan hai – Shailendra-Mukesh.

Shailendra’s lyrics and Shankar Jaikishen’s music contributed substantially to the success, especially the perennial hit Mukesh number, “Yeh mere diwanapan hai ya mohabbat ka qasoor, tu na pehchane to hai yeh teri nazron ka kasoor” It won Shailendra a Filmfare trophy.

Another hit, a sort of sensuous ‘item’ number, in the voices of Lata Mangeshkar and Geeta Dutt, involving the dancing sensations Cuckoo and Helen, “Bechain dil khoyi si nazar” picturised in an ancient Roman bazaar setting is unsurpassed in aesthetics as Dilip Gupta’s camera follows the dancers in loose trousers and patterned cholis. Unfortunately, the hit team of Shankar-Jaikishen never got repeated in another Bimal Roy production.

Here is the Youtube link to the song-“Bechain dil khoyi si nazar”-

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

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