Article Hindi

70 years of Badal (1951): Swashbuckling revenge saga of an Indian Robin Hood

Premnath plays a vigilante who robs from the kingdom’s evil jagirdar to give back to its poor citizens in this action adventure by Amiya Chakrabarty.

Sonal Pandya

One of the early Hindi features inspired by the legend of Robin Hood, Amiya Chakrabarty’s saga of revenge, Badal (1951), turns 70 today. The swashbuckling adventure, with a lot of homages to Hollywood, starred Premnath as the vigilante with the heart of gold, with Madhubala and Purnima as the two young women in love with him.

Chakrabarty’s film featured action, romance, comedy, revenge and drama, beginning with the death of Badal’s father at the hands of Jaisingh, who works for the ineffectual evil jagirdar. Badal and his family, like many others in the kingdom, can’t pay the exorbitant lagaan (taxes) set by the jagirdar in the king’s absence.

The jagirdar and Jaisingh fill their pockets while the poor die hungry. Cremating his father alone, with only his friend Myna (Purnima) by his side, Badal is despondent until his friend Himmat (Agha) suggests revenge.

Thus, with his origin story in place, Badal becomes a fearsome rebel who robs from the jagirdar and his lackey to give back to the poor. There is a reward out for his capture, but no one seems eager to turn him in.

Agha, who is mostly used for comic relief in the film, captures the jagirdar’s daughter Ratna (Madhubala) as she returns home to the kingdom. Badal pretends to be Bagha, a brave citizen, to free her and return her to her father. Along the way, they fall in love.

However, once she finds out his real identity, she rejects him, not knowing the extent of her father’s cruelty. In the second half, the love triangle graduates to a quadrangle as Jaisingh wants to marry Ratna.

Badal attempts to make heroic rescue and is caught, but the badshah makes a welcome appearance to save the day.

Premnath and Madhubala were paired opposite each other for the first time here. They later acted together in Aaram (1951) and Saqi (1952). According to the book Madhubala: Her Life, Her Films by Khatija Akbar, the co-stars briefly dated before moving on.

Premnath is muscular and lithe, dressed grandly in costumes like a star in a Hollywood film. The actor was later often featured as the second hero with stars like brother-in-law Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand. In Badal, he easily takes the lead as the charming Robin Hood-like outlaw.

Purnima, grandmother of present-day actor Emraan Hashmi, actually has the meatier role than Madhubala as the self-sacrificial friend who silently pines for Badal. Myna even has a fiery confrontation with Ratna, alerting her about her father’s crimes and the reality of the kingdom.

Much of the film was filmed on indoor sets, recreating hidden lairs and a grand palace. The credits boast of a ‘cast of thousands’; veteran producer Yash Johar got an early credit for working on the film’s publicity.

According to an article in The Hindu newspaper, the film had a spectacular opening at Delhi’s New Amar theatre. The posters for the film, featuring its stars, were plastered on the sides of local rickshaws, with men announcing the film’s arrival at the theatre. The theatre itself had special cut-outs of Premnath and Madhubala.

The publicity seems to have helped as the action adventure had a silver-jubilee run at the theatre and ended up among the top 10 films of 1951. Its success was aided by Shankar–Jaikishan’s music, with lyrics by their trusted collaborators Hasrat Jaipuri and Shailendra. They roped in Lata Mangeshkar and Mukesh to sing the memorable songs like ‘Unse Pyar Ho Gaya’ and ‘Do Din Ke Liye’ which were mostly picturized on the actresses.