‘Suno ramzan ki dastaan’ (listen to a story of Ramzan) is a moving parable about a seven-year-old boy, who dies after keeping a roza during the holy month of Ramzan. A passing mendicant then revives the child on a day the traditional fast is to be broken, in what is seen as a reward for endurance in the name of Allah.

The story is narrated in Indian playback singer Mohammed Rafi’s omnipresent voice in the third adaptation (1973) of ‘Alam Ara’, India’s first full-length talkie film produced in 1931.

Film poster, Alam Ara (1931)
Film poster, ‘Alam Ara’ (1931)

The original, directed by Ardeshir Irani, was an also adaptation of popular Parsi play written by Joseph David. The film, that had Prithviraj Kapoor as one of the actors, is about the rivalry between the two wives of a king.

Alam Ara, which means ornament of the world, is the daughter of the kingdom’s chief minister General Adil (played by Kapoor). When a love affair between the general and one of the queens goes sour, the man is imprisoned and the young girl exiled.

In exile, the girl is brought up by gypsies. She returns to the kingdom and falls in love with a prince. Her father is released and the villain queen incarcerated. With their marriage, the film ends on a happy note.

It is a well-known fact that Alam Ara, which brought an end to the era of silent films, is silenced forever as no copy or print of the film is traceable anywhere.

Many believe the last trace of the film was lost in a fire at the National Film Archives of India (NFAI), located in Pune. A top NFAI official, however, has clarified the film was long lost before the institute started functioning in 1964.

The religious overtones of the 1973 film’s music are hard to miss, including in ‘De de khuda ke naam pe pyaare’ (give, in the name of Allah). The song, believed to be the first of Indian cinema, was first heard in the 1931 film.

And if the postscript to this YouTube link is to be believed, one Wazir Mohammed Khan sang ‘De de khuda ke’ and played the role of a fakir in all three versions of ‘Alam Ara’, including a 1956 production.

In the song, the fakir is begging for his fast to be broken. A woman offers him the iftaar meal she was going to feast on. The beggar leaves with his alms and as she is about to break her fast with water and salt, out of nowhere she sees sweets and fruits appear in her empty plate.

Eid Mubarak!

PS: *Also read from BuzzFeed — 9 Questions You Were Too Embarrassed To Ask About Ramadan

*On Twitter, I am @Ankush_patrakar

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