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Revisiting the classics

Hundred years of Indian cinema have been celebrated with much fanfare in the country with an anthology of four short Hindi movies helmed by talented young filmmakers and a unique festival curated by a film archivist in New Delhi.


Prithviraj Kapoor plays Alexander the Great in Sikandar

Taking these celebrations forward, the National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA) has collaborated with the National Film Archive of India (NFAI) to start NCPA Flashback wherein every month, India’s glorious past is revisited through a selection of rare classics.


The poster of Sikandar

NCPA Flashback has been started to give movie lovers a chance to watch classics, which changed the face of the country’s movie scene. As a result, path-breaking movies such as Raja Harishchandra, Devdas starring KL Saigal, Achut Kanya starring Ashok Kumar and Sant Tukaram, which aren’t easily available for viewing, have been selected. The effort is to create awareness among people about the rich cultural heritage of Indian movies.

This Friday, Sohrab Modi’s 1941 film Sikandar, starring Modi, KN Singh and Prithviraj Kapoor in pivotal roles, will be screened. Based on Alexander the Great’s life, the two-hour-15 minute movie is set in 326 BC when Alexander aka Sikandar (Kapoor) descends to the Indian border at Jhelum with his Macedonian army after conquering Persia and the Kabul valley. There he encounters King Porus of Punjab (Mody) who stops the advance with his troops. Sikandar ignores his teacher Aristotle’s advice as he falls for a Persian woman, Rukhsana. Fearing for her lover’s life, Rukhsana goes to Porus’s court and extracts a promise from him that he will not harm Sikandar. In the battle with the Macedonian army, Porus loses his son Amar and meets Sikandar face to face. After an elaborate verbal duel, the two kings become friends and Sikandar withdraws.

This movie was released in India at a time when the country was striving to end the British Raj and the Second World War was still on. Its strong nationalistic contents (a mother blesses her battle-bound son to be stabbed in the heart and not in the back) compelled censors to initially ban the film from running in military areas. But the movie was released later and went on to become a box office success. It was also made available to a larger audience with its dubbed Persian version.

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