Chandralekha (1948)

Run Time - 207 min.  |   Countries - India  |  
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One of Bollywood's most famous and expensive films, this lavish work -- directed by S.S. Vasan -- was the first Tamil film to get nationwide distribution. The film centers on the intense rivalry between the pious and pure Veer Singh (M.K. Radha) and the villainous Shashank (Ranjan). The two brothers are both in love with the beautiful Chandralekha (T.R. Rajkumari) and their spirited competition for her hand soon becomes equated with the mantle of power over the kingdom. Following a complicated series of events, Veer Singh and Chandralekha become circus performers. This does not stop Shashank from eventually kidnapping her and forcing her to wed. She agrees to the nuptials only if there is a drum dance at the wedding. Each of the numerous drums at the ceremony houses one of Veer Singh's soldiers who leap out at the end of the number, and in one of the longest sword-fighting scenes in world cinema history, vanquish the villains. Featuring dance scenes that would make Busby Berkeley weep and some extremely catchy musical numbers, this film set the standard for the Bollywood Spectacular.