Keemat (1973)

keemat

How could something that begins with this screen possibly be bad? Dharmendra as James Bond Agent 116! A great many more title screens follow, with more good news: Padma Khanna, a very young Rekha, Prem Chopra in a blond wig and pink rimless glasses—ooh! my man Ranjeet!—Jayshree T, Rajendranath, Agha, KN Singh…the list goes on. I settle happily in my chair, looking forward to some stylish and loony shenanigans. But I’m in for a little surprise.

The first half of the film has a much grimmer aspect than expected, with a stern message about the perils of the city for young women looking for a better way of life. We are treated to (realistic) scenes of life for the underprivileged—a drunken father beats his wife as his children look on; a girl looks longingly into a shop window at a sari┬áthat she can’t afford. In a stroke of genius casting, too, Ranjeet is the man taking advantage of these girls and their dreams. Despite his sartorial handicap (early 70s, not his fault):

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he is charming and smooth-talking (yes I know I’m biased, but trust me—he is).┬áThe script is well-written and logical at first too (except for a strange foray into Death By Face Cream) and quite straightforward about the painful consequences of being sucked in by promises that are too good to be true.

Then about halfway through, the story begins to unravel into crazyland. It’s not majestically crazy, though, but a more simple kind of nutty—and yes, the fact that I even make that distinction scares me a little. What I mean, though, is that it doesn’t devolve into such madness that it seems like a different film altogether—the segue is more subtle than that, and the overall effect is kind of wonderful. We get to move from depressing but entertaining film to just plain entertaining, without feeling jarred. Let’s take a look, shall we?

In Bombay, young women from lower and middle class families are disappearing in droves and the police are unable to help their distraught families. We get a glimpse into the nefarious goings-on when we meet pretty Nanda (Padma Khanna). A simple girl in a sari, she catches the eye of bad guy Pedro (Ranjeet) one day, and is soon transformed.

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Promising her an exciting life of luxury and travel, he romances her, gets her hooked on drugs, and then forces her into a life of dancing and prostitution to support her habit. He also poses as some sort of employment or travel broker, and lures groups of young women into signing on with him for “work” in Paris, London, Rome. The police are alerted about one of these groups and pursue the boat in which they are taken away—but find nobody except the crew there when they board it.

The police informant is a dancer named Nagina (Jayshree T), and she is murdered when Pedro discovers her duplicity—with her own jar of poisoned face cream.

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The Indian secret service is called in to help the police, and Agent 116—Gopal (Dharmendra)—is given the case. He goes diving in the area where the boat was searched, and makes a grisly discovery.

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The girls on the boat had been jettisoned from it and drowned. Pretty gruesome stuff so far! Gopal gets some information from a bereaved father about one of his daughter’s friends: Nanda. Gopal goes in search of Nanda, and his efforts come to the notice of another young girl also looking for Nanda—her sister, Sudha (Rekha).

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(I had to include this screenshot just for the irony: she is reading “Adam & Eve” magazine with Amitabh on the cover.)

They track Nanda down at the same time—her working name is Maria (no Hindu names for such characterless girls!). Gopal poses as one of her customers, and notices Nanda’s distress at seeing Sudha in the restaurant where they meet, although she denies knowing her. When Nanda takes him back to her place, he confronts her about her obvious needle tracks. Pretty racy for 1973!

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Before he can get any information out of her, a couple of goondas and a woman (Indira Bansal) we’ve seen with Pedro arrive; the woman takes Nanda away as Gopal fights off the goons (pretty easily) (he IS Agent 116 after all).

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With Nanda missing again, Gopal goes to see the editor of a college newspaper (Aag) which has been publishing reports about the disappearing girls. The editor takes Gopal to meet the reporter who has been writing the stories, just as the reporter takes a fatal plunge.

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Will this carnage never end? Gopal spots the assailants as they saunter casually out of the building a few minutes later, and follows them to Pedro’s luxurious hangout. He beats up five or six of Pedro’s henchman effortlessly, and confronts Pedro himself.

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He gets nothing out of Pedro, however, and is forced to escape by fooling them all into thinking that the building is surrounded by police (it’s pretty funny). Police Inspector Deshpande (Satyendra Kapoor) and his havaldar Pandurang (Agha) have also discovered Pedro’s identity and want to arrest him, but Gopal points out that they have no proof of anything. He also doesn’t think that the buck stops with Pedro and his men, and he wants to catch the big fish. Or rat, as the case might be.

His plan now is to wait for Pedro and the gang’s next move, but in the meantime he’s got company. Sudha comes to meet him and begs him to help her find her sister. He refuses—but Nanda calls him (Pedro’s next move) and begs him to meet her; she wants to tell him everything, she says. Sudha listens in on another extension.

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Gopal suspects a trap, but of course Sudha goes there anyway in a cab, and faints when her driver is shot and killed. Once Gopal has dispensed with his would-be assassins he calls the police and asks Deshpande to find a safe place to stash Sudha.

Deshpande’s idea of a safe place?

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I’m thrilled to see Rajendranath, who plays…Rajendranath—an antiques dealer. An extremely cute drunken song for Rekha follows too.

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Gopal and the police put a story in the newspapers about a car accident and three victims. Pedro sends one of his men to check on the bodies, and the guy recognizes his colleagues and also the body of Gopal.

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But of course Agent 116 isn’t dead.

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He now hatches a plan with Sudha: she will pose as an innocent girl and sign up with Pedro’s next batch. Gopal will be able to track her and hear her conversations thanks to a transmitter hidden inside a ring that he gives her. What can possibly go wrong? Oh yes—they also fall in love in about two seconds, although it doesn’t seem terribly central to the plot.

Above all, I totally *love* Rekha’s daisy earrings and Spare Hair!

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Sudha and the other girls are taken by boat to an island underground fortress policed by stern women in Nazi-like uniforms. The girls are forced to strip and don little baby-doll nighties, and the chief warden steals Sudha’s transmitter ring. Sudha leads an attempt to escape, which is quickly thwarted.

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Without the ring, can Gopal find Sudha in the underground maze? Can he even get past the numerous armed guards stationed around the perimeter of the island? Where is Nanda? Is there any hope that she won’t have to die at the end? What happens to all these girls? And who is the big Boss? Well—on that last, I can’t help but give you a glimpse of what waits.

Shakti Maan (Prem Chopra) has one of the most strangely benign and hilarious lairs I’ve come across yet. He sprawls on a blue velvet sofa surrounded by dogs in the middle of a very large room with a shiny floor.

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This floor is kept shiny thanks to the torpid efforts of about four or five nightie-clad prisoners.

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He entertains himself by throwing these apparently starving girls cookies now and then, rousing the dogs’ interest and freaking out the girls.

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It’s…nutty, as I said at the beginning. And schizophrenic: the serious beginning really becomes purely silly by the end—but *maybe* it managed to scare a few naive young ladies out of throwing in their lot with unsavoury characters. We can only hope. And in any case, it’s good fun. If nothing else, there’s lots of *pretty* to look at!

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40 Comments to “Keemat (1973)”

  1. Memsaab, another highly entertaining review. Of /course/, young women in the big city are kidnapped and taken to an island hideaway where they’re forced to scrub floors while wearing nighties–didn’t your parents warn you about that?

    BTW, I barely recognized Rekha in the screencaps. Someday you’ll have to do a post on your 10 favorite drunken songs…

    • Heh :) It was such a funny film, the beginning was very realistic in terms of how a young woman could be talked (or charmed) into situations where she then had no control over her life. But once they headed for the island (even a little before then) it was just pure masala. I do love all the many variations on villain lairs and quirks there are in Hindi cinema. Prem Chopra was totally cuckoo in this one, but not that effective!

  2. Oh my God, I’ve seen this movie! Totally blocked it out until now! But the lair brought it back to me! I love the fact that Ranjeet and Padma are sharing a sugar cube – so much better than snorting powdered sugar as they do in phoren.

    On a sidenote, I wonder why so many of the spy movies are called Agent So-and-so? It gives them a particularly Spy vs. Spy tinge.

    • Lairs have a way of staying in one’s memory when all else about the film escapes…I just love that Padma and Ranjeet are IN it, period. A lot!

  3. WAs this movie with or without whisky?
    I think, I would have needed at least a bottle

  4. My mother told me about that… scrubbing floors in nighties!

    I didnt listen obviously cause I am still in my pajamas and scrubbing the kitchen floor after dog and Huband and kids have tracked dirt in from the backyard. Husband is also sitting on the couch with dog!

    This movie is about my life. Except for Dharmendra. But then he is too old now anyway.

    • You mean Ranjeet has addicted you to drugs and then forced you to dance in nightclubs? And “entertain”?

      The baby-doll nighties were just insane. Have no idea what kind of person could dream that up…oh wait…never mind, I do.

  5. This movie had a good song sung on a giantwheel no? I cant recollect the words right now.

    • Jayshree’s dance was on a big round thing, although I’m not sure it rotated. I was sort of disappointed in the songs, given the great dancing talent in the film—it was mostly wasted :(

    • The song on Giant wheel you refer is from ‘Kahani Kismat ki’ starring the same pair..the song is :”arre rafta rafta dekho”, a chart-buster song of Kishore those days with many languages thrown in…

  6. I love that last screen cap… Dharmendra looks gorgeous. As for the rest of the film, I’ll take your word for it!

    • I’d seen this film before, I think when I was in the mood for something really OTT, and this wasn’t quite it…so I just felt disappointed then. But on this rewatch, I really liked it! Was highly entertained.

  7. I think I have seen this movie. But I cannot recall anything. Perhaps I am confusing it with some other movie with similar sounding name ( Yakeen perhaps).

    But this movie sounds interesting.

    • LOL! There are a lot of films that have similar names, and all the same people, and basically the same plot. I can’t keep them all straight either. I liked this, although the songs were sort of “meh” (in my opinion)…

  8. Ravikant Nagaich must have really liked using those names for his film heroes. Jeetendra’s character in “Raksha” (1981) was also called Gopal, aka Agent 116. This film sounds way better though!

  9. Hi,

    The clip in the fifth frame intrigues me. Obviously I haven’t seen this movie, only curious because 1982’s SAMRAAT was rather the one widely publicized as first Indian film going underwater. But then, ANMOL MOTI (1969) needs a check too for a similar claim.

    Indeed a brilliant site and really nice (/unique) reviews! Will be coming back…

    Cheers

  10. I think the underwater scenes were filmed through the glass wall of a tank, not actually underwater. That’s what it looked like, anyway. Perhaps it doesn’t count?

    And thank you! :-)

  11. Dharm looks really handsome in that last screen cap. Thanks for a good write up. Seems your write up is more interesting than the movie itself – I think i will give this movie a miss.

  12. In 1970s, Mithun da began to be cast in such roles in the C grade movies where he acted. I recall that in one of the movies he played a secret agent. His car had the words SECRET AGENT written in big bold letters, so that every one could be aware that he was a secret agent.

    I think that the moviemakers thought that “secret” means “smart” or something similar.

  13. Dying to see this now!

  14. The Mithun da movie where he played secret agent gun master G-9 was “Suraksha”, I think.

    • Oh great!!! I’ve been planning to get that one anyway! because, well, how can I miss a film where Mithun da plays someone called Gunmaster G9????

  15. I could NOT help sighing on seeing that last shot of Dharmendra’s, D-R-E-A-M-Y!

  16. OMG! This has been on my to-watch list for ages – and those screen caps of Ranjeet are doing nothing but bumping it on UP! Mmm…

    Speaking of which, I re-watched Sharmilee this weekend and (esp. after reading your review) was struck by how much it reminded me (a bit) of a gender-reversed Rab Ne… :)

  17. Yes, Ranjeet is hot. Dharam is garam. It’s well worth watching :-)

    Re: Sharmilee, I guess it is a little bit. I always feel vaguely guilty for liking Sharmilee so much, though, because of the whole “good girl” “bad girl” dichotomy (it doesn’t stop me from watching it repeatedly though!).

  18. OMG – where on earth did you dig this one up? Garam Dharam as a secret agent? Ranjeet as a smooth-talker (and not ripping clothes off some girl)? Rekha in daisy ear-rings and having a ring-transmitter? I NEED to find this film (and every other one of Dharam’s “spy” thrillers)!

  19. MMemsaab – Sharmilee’s story was written by Gulshan Nanda – a popular hindi story writer. A number of his novels were made into successful hindi movies – kati patang, ajnabi, jheel ke us paar, sharmilee, khilona, pathar ke sanam and a few other 60s oldies – can’t remember the names.

    Of course the end was changed in the film in quite a few films like Khilona, Ajnabi etc. The books had more realistic stories and endings.

    Of

  20. sorry for some reason the first half of the comments box is not clearly visible on my screen – hence the typos and double words!

  21. Gulshan Nanda has written the screenplay for several films I like (or they are based on his novels)…it’s my understanding that he was a writer along the same lines as Barbara Cartland et al? :-) which is probably why I like his stories!

  22. I would rate his writing at a much higher calibre than Cartland although you could say his books belong to the same genre ie romance.

  23. Memsaab…remember the Director Ravikant Nagaich…he has given numbers of action movies in seventies..starting from Jeetendra(Farz) to Govinda(Duty) even made Raj Babbar & Late Smita Patil to act in an action movie’Shapath’.

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