indian cinema heritage foundation

Laila Majnu (1940)

  • Release Date01/11/1940
  • GenreRomance, Drama
  • FormatB-W
  • LanguagePunjabi
  • Run Time162 mins
  • Length4419.6 meters
  • Gauge35 mm
  • Censor Certificate NumberC-20924/Calcutta
  • Certificate Date03/10/1940

Laila is the daughter of Ameer Sarvaar. She is in love with Kais, the son of Ameer Umri. Unable to dissuade Laila from seeing Kais, Ameer Sarvaar moves to Mecca. Kais follows her to Mecca and roams the streets chanting her name. People take him to be ‘Majnu’, or insane, and throw stones at him.

The King of Iraq sees Laila on a visit to Mecca and decides to marry Laila when he sees her. Ameer Umri, on the other hand, pleads with his erstwhile friend Sarvaar to save his son. Sarvaar agrees to their union on one condition: Kais must prove that he is not insane. A test is conducted and Kais emerges successful. Just when the marriage is to be performed, Sarvaar receives a proposal from the King of Iraq asking for Laila’s hand in marriage. Sarvaar changes his mind and marries her off to the King. Laila leaves for Iraq and Kais wanders aimlessly in the desert.

The King has a mistress, Zareena, who agrees to help Laila. Repenting his rash decision, the King sends Laila back to Kais. The lovers are set to meet in the desert, but they are driven apart yet again by a raging sandstorm.

The film is based on the legendary story of unrequited love titled Laila Majnu. Said to be of Arabic origin, the story has fuelled the imagination of many across the world. It was adapted again for the Indian screen in 1953, starring Shammi Kapoor and Nutan, and in 1976 with Rishi Kapoor and Ranjeeta in the titular roles. All of these films were made as period pieces set in Arabia.