indian cinema heritage foundation

Chandralekha (1948)

  • Release Date1948
  • GenreRomance, Drama
  • FormatB-W
  • LanguageHindi
  • Run Time170 min
  • Length5675.70 meters
  • Number of Reels17
  • Gauge35 mm
  • Censor Certificate Number2561, 934
  • Certificate Date05/04/1948
  • Shooting LocationGemini Studios, Madras
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Prince Veer Singh runs into a beautiful woman named Chandralekha when he is out roaming one day. There is an instant spark between them and both part ways deeply captivated by each other. But the Prince refrains from telling her his real identity and instead poses as a common soldier to her. Chandralekha lives with her father who is a sculptor in the city. As their flirtations continue, trouble starts brewing in the kingdom in the form of the younger Prince Shashank. Shashank has no claim on the kingdom and yet demands to be given the reins. When his demand is rejected by the King he leaves, but not before throwing a knife at his older brother. Shashank has managed to gather rebel forces who are willing to assist him in his bid to capture power. One night his army storms the city and sparks off a civil war. During this raid Chandralekha’s father is fatally injured. The traumatised Chandralekha is asked to leave for her own safety.

One day Shashank’s forces accost a group of musicians with whom Chandralekha is travelling. Shashank is enamoured by Chandralekha’s beauty and forces her to dance for him. He tries to have her captured but the clever Chandralekha outwits his guards and escapes. Shashank’s army attacks Veer Singh’s camp at night and lays waste to his forces. Veer Singh is captured and imprisoned in a cave by Shashank. But Chandralekha witnesses his imprisonment and is determined to free him. She stumbles upon a circus troupe and requests them to help her. One performer in particular, Sundari, understands her helplessness and convinces the others to help her. Veer Singh is soon freed and reunited with Chandralekha. In gratitude Chandralekha becomes a performer with the troupe.

Veer Singh lives in disguise in the circus troupe for some time. He is still in contact with a trusted lieutenant with whom he is planning a coup. Shashank in the meantime has crowned himself King and sent men to search for Chandralekha. One day his men do find Chandralekha but she manages to escape with Veer Singh’s help. She cannot outrun them for long and she is finally captured. While in captivity Shashank attempts to force himself on her but she faints. Sundari arrives in the palace disguised as a shaman and offers to cure Chandralekha of her fainting. When she is alone with Chandralekha she reveals herself as a spy of Veer Singh’s and asks Chandralekha to pretend to be in love with Shashank.

Following Sundari’s instructions, Chandralekha tells Shashank she will marry him, but requests a drum dance before her wedding. When Shashank sees Chandralekha’s amorous transformation he is overjoyed. He instantly agrees to organise the drum dance at her request, unwittingly falling into a trap. When the spectacular drum dance reaches its crescendo Veer Singh’s soldiers emerge from the drums to engage Shashank’s forces. Shashank attempts to flee with Chandralekha but is confronted by Veer Singh. After the longest sword-fight in Indian film history Shashank is overwhelmed and captured. Chandralekha finally learns Veer Singh’s true identity as the people welcome back their rightful King.  

Five years in the making, this epic is the first time a Madras studio has attempted an all-India distribution. Its spectacular success encouraged other southern studios like AVM and Prasad to follow suit.

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