Along with Ghulami Nu Patan (1931)
, also made by Pune-based Agarwal Film, this is one of the few surviving silent films. It opens with shots of a hand distributing charity from a silver plate to a waiting crowd and tells of the good king of Magadh's fight with his evil ministers. The king is poisoned by his brother, the evil Kalsen and the infant prince Chandrapratab, smuggled out by the loyal sardar Satyapal, grows up in a forest to become the acrobat Hamir (Hamir) in love with his partner, the beautiful Saranga (Pawar, credited as 'Ambu'). Saranga is kidnapped by Kalsen's son Ramanaraj, described as 'the perfect libertine', but Kalsen takes her away from his son and attempts to seduce Saranga with promise of wealth. The fearless Hamir fights dozens of soldiers, in amateurishly staged fights, trying to liberate her. In the end Saranga, rejected by her lover for having been tempted by Kalsen's promises of wealth, dons a mask and turns into a Zorro-type avenger. Hamir is eventually recognised by the royal tattoo on his shoulder and restored to the throne as well as reunited with Saranga. A dramatic moment in the film is Hamir's wiles. The threatening seduction (rape) attempt is shown through a series of dissolves from the villain's face to that of the heroine. Other dissolves are effectively used to convey fantasies and desires, although the use of fades-to-black are used erratically, even within action scenes. One of the more technically elaborate scenes is Saranga's kidnapping, involving a trick bed descending though a trapdoor. The surviving version with NFAI is 8672 ft.
Suresh Chabria writes: ‘The phenomenal success of Douglas Fairbanks’ The Thief of Baghdad in 1925 launched the vogue for the stunt film genre that featured acrobatic heroes who took up the cause of downtrodden people against wicked royal usurpers. Another source of these stories was provided by the heroic Rajput tales of valour of western India, but the direct inspiration of the genre was certainly Hollywood.
Kalsen is the libertine and tyrannical king who poisons his brother and rules over ‘the kingdom of horror’. A loyal courtier Satyapal saves the prince but the child is lost. Years later he reappears as Hameer a circus acrobat, in the company of Saranga his ladylove, and her brother, Balbheem. The trio falls foul of the authorities. Saranga is abducted by Kalsen who oðers to make her his queen. Tempted by visions of luxury, Saranga almost succumbs when Hameer arrives and is disillusioned by what he sees. But encouraged by Balbheem he vows to avenge himself and is thereafter secretly helped by Saranga who appears as a masked avenger. The happy ending is inevitable.
Hitherto considered to be a minor film with some good camerawork, a revaluation has long been overdue. With its remarkable opening shots of the benevolent king’s hand distributing charity among his people, the extensive and eloquent use of dissolves and fades and the energetic staging of swordfights along huge staircases, ornate corridors and outdoor locations, the film exhibits exceptional élan. As the leering and debauched Kalsen, Daniel gives one of the great portrayals of a villain in Indian cinema. One almost enjoys watching him going about his unmitigated path of evil and self-destruction. The gamine Amboo retired from films after an accident. She returned in the era of the talkies as the legendary Lalita Pawar and went on to become the arch villainess and scheming mother-in-law of countless sagas in the next four decades’. From Suresh Chabria ed. Light of Asia: Indian Silent Cinema 1912-1934, New Delhi: Niyogi Books/Pune: National Film Archive of India, 2013, pg 49-52.