Suraj (1966)

Author: Dr. Mandar V. Bichu
Year: 1966
Director: T. Prakash Rao
Music: Shankar- Jaikishan
Cast: Rajendra Kumar, Vyjayantimala, Ajit, Johnny Walker
Watching Suraj is like entering a time warp. It is a typical over-the-top costume drama from the South which practically defines what the masses lapped up in the 1960s.
The plot goes somewhat like this. A loyal servant is wrongly accused and punished by the king for the theft of a golden necklace. Hurt by his humiliation, the servant turns into a bandit, abducts the infant prince and switches him with his own son. Even with the switch, nature wins over nurture. The real prince grows up to be the hero, a golden-hearted bandit and the bandit’s son grows up to be the villain, a dark-hearted prince. But when a spirited princess of a neighborly state, going under the guise of the royal maid, falls in love with the hero, fate is about to spring many surprises and change the future of many interlinked lives. Will vengeance succeed in its dark designs? Or will goodness finally triumph over evil?
This is a dramatic (and melodramatic!) tale packed with crowd-pleasing and fantastic elements like loyalty, injustice, vengeance, switched identities, romance under disguise, royal excesses, bandit bravery, comic relief, sword-fights and animal stunts. There is a splash of bright colors in the photography capturing the grand palaces and colorful flora and fauna. There is catchy music full of blockbuster hit songs (Baharon phool barsaao, Kaise samjhaaoon, Titlee udee, Dekho mera dil machal gaya and Chehre pe giri zulfen). And last but not the least, there is a star pair with nice chemistry (Rajendra Kumar and Vyjayantimala).
Amongst the other actors Ajit as the stylized evil prince, Gajanan Jagirdar as the wrongfully accused servant-turned-bandit and Johnny Walker as the hero’s jester friend leave their impression. The latter-day top heroine Mumtaz appears here in a minor role as the princess’s maid, who is made to assume the princess’s identity.
Don’t expect any subtlety in Suraj. Director T. Prakash Rao has pulled out all stops to deliver a formulaic swashbuckling potboiler, which counts amongst one of the most successful films of the 1960s. The film may seem outdated today but its music (which won three Filmfare awards; S-J as best composers, Hasrat as the best lyricist and Rafi as the best singer) has still remained appealing as ever.

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