I always recommend people to see “Last Emperor” movie about Pu Yi, who was the last emperor of China. His rule was only in name and restricted to only the Imperial Palace (Forbidden City). The movie won nine Academy Awards including that for best picture and best director in 1987.
It depicts how Britishers manipulated the emperors of China in late 19th and early 20th century. The plight of an emperor restricted to just the palace, not allowed to meet the people or even to peep outside the palace is so poignantly depicted. It evoked an eerie comparison with our history of 1750-1857, during the twilight of the receding control of the Mughal Empire in India. Last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar was also confined to his palace (Lal Qila). His rule was only in name and its jurisdiction was limited to only the Lal Qila. The broader narrative of the two last emperors needs to be compared. Pu Yi and Bahadur shah zafar were both captives of their palaces. Both may have wanted to do some thing for their nations but were raised singularly unequipped to take over the emerging challenges. China was the action replay of subduing several proud nations with illustrious history including that of India. Bahadur Shah Zafar met with an ignominious death in exile in late 19th century.
Yearning to do something but utterly powerless. How British colonial masters destroyed the pride of nations subjugated by them.
However, Pu Yi’s end came in communist China. A nation trying to come to terms with its colonial subjugation in a violent revolutionary reaction. Eventually, the identity created by the communist china morphed into a resurgent China. Now we see China has bounced back! Is there any future for Muslims in India to bounce back?
I wish someone can produce a similar movie on Last Mughal Emperor. “Last Emperor” is one of the most beautifully produced epic. It is a must see to appreciate how the ethos is captured, highlighted by its exquisitely haunting music score. . It is worth the investment of time and effort in absorbing the great expanse of history of a great nation; Last days of the imperial china under British with intense military politics under which the control is being fought between British and Japanese super powers, and then reasserting itself into a communist China. It has a wonderful characteristic performance of Peter O’Toole, of none other than “Lawrence of Arabia” fame. He plays a role of a tutor that is similar, but not as prominent, as the one played by TE Lawrence in the fall of the Ottomon Empire. Peter O’Toole plays Reginald Johnston, who was the tutor of child king, and movie is based on his memoirs in his book.
For appreciation the movie must be watched with respect and without disturbance, in a quiet time and place. I watched it when it was released at Barton Creek Mall of Austin Texas with Imran Baqai, Nasir Rahman Khan, and others.
Has seen it several times since with my children.
An experience that you will never forget.
- Last Emperor of China and Mughal Empire of India
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