A filmi noir murder mystery starring the lovely Kumkum and the even lovelier (to my eyes) Feroz Khan, with fantastic music by Usha Khanna: how could it possibly go wrong? Well, here’s one way: our hero and heroine are squeezed into the plot around IS Johar, who uses the story as an excuse to don various silly (and occasionally racist) costumes and play the fool. Don’t get me wrong, I love the man—but it is kind of a waste of Feroz and Kum Kum. Also, the script is a total mess.
Also, someone (not me) should write an essay one day about the ambivalent presentation of the police in Hindi cinema. They are never *quite* embraced as people who can be trusted to do what they should (and in later years of course they are outright corrupt). I guess in a film culture where the hero is everything, the police will always be sidelined. Here, politically correct noises are made about going to them as it’s the right thing to do, but they are accompanied (and outperformed crime-solving-wise) by IS Johar and Feroz every step of the way (and they disappear altogether for large portions of the story).
Ah well. The boredom inherent in watching a film that makes no sense was interrupted periodically by things like Feroz in a Beatles wig dancing with Bela Bose. Actually, there is a good deal of Bela herself in this movie, which is never a bad thing. I’ve said it before, and I’m saying it again now…plot can be overrated as long as you have your finger on the FF button.
Ashok (IS Johar) is a private detective and friend of Vijay (Feroz Khan). I am instantly enchanted by Ashok’s decor:
and his Crime Board:
He’s clearly a busy man. Two rapes, four murders and five abductions—and those are just today’s crimes.
Vijay’s wealthy girlfriend Asha (Kum Kum) is celebrating her birthday with a big party, where two other would-be suitors are also in attendance: Jagdish (Madan Puri) and Rajan (Roopesh Kumar). Rajan never gets much to do in the movie, although Jagdish, being Madan Puri, has a slightly bigger and more villainous role to play. He’s pretty sure that he has an edge over Vijay in the romance stakes although Asha makes her dislike of him clear.
Jagdish wants Asha’s father, Rai Sahab (Murad) to invest in a scheme of his. Rai Sahab puts him off and goes upstairs to his office. He calls his best friend Dosani (? Help!) and tells him that he approves of Asha’s preference for Vijay and plans to announce their engagement, and that another long-standing wish of his is about to be fulfilled.
Minutes later, Rai Sahab is shot at his desk by a mysterious assailant, who grabs a sheaf of papers from Rai’s desk and flees. Rai Sahab says to Dosani “the guest list is in Patna” with his last breath before expiring. The police break in through a window along with Asha’s three suitors and her best friend Bela (I never do find out Bela Bose’s character’s name) because the office door is locked from the outside. Rai Sahab had earlier asked Asha to lock him in when she left his office, which made no sense at the time—and never does—but serves as an excuse for Asha to act guilty and lie to the police, making them and more importantly Vijay suspicious. Most importantly, it sets her up for some spurious blackmail. It’s that kind of film.
Yes, it certainly has, Asha! Why she can’t just tell them the truth escapes me (but is maybe explained by that ambivalence about the police inherent in Hindi cinema and possibly Indian life in general).
And now: time for a lunatic rock-and-roll number! I can’t believe my eyes, and sit bolt upright in my chair. Here it is (I can’t find it online) for your delectation, with screen caps. Lots of screen caps.
Feroz is grotesquely tanned (in color, I am positive he would be orange) and wears the most ill-fitting and cheesy wig I have ever seen (and that’s saying something). Bela makes her entrance dressed as Miss Kitty from Bonanza before doing a strip tease down to a fringy crop-top leotard thing.
Much shimmying and shaking and convulsing ensues and I am astonished by the power of the glue holding everybody’s wigs on. The nightclub audience joins in, screaming at the top of their lungs, while a tall, slender gori does a half-hearted twist.
I love the way Usha Khanna sings this song, too, it’s so delightfully amateurish, perfectly in keeping with the insanity onscreen.
At the end, I have to pause the film to catch my breath. Then I have to watch the song another three or four times before I can move on. Seriously, it has to be better than crack. Just as addictive though.
Ashok now begins his investigation in earnest, which involves comic disguises and scenes that drag on way too long. It’s like the director went for lunch but forgot to say “Cut” first.
I forgive it all, though, when I see the final result: the Murder Chart.
It’s just so darned CUTE!
Bela (who is now being romanced by Ashok) has discovered that Asha is hiding something, too, and Ashok sends her off in disguise to find out more.
Asha is paying out large amounts of money to a mysterious shadowy figure who always threatens to tell the police about the key she had to her father’s office door, and also makes vague threats on Vijay’s life. I want to shake her for falling for it. Also, I don’t know what Kum Kum did to her hair and makeup people, but they seem to have hated her.
She’s a pretty woman, and I’m pretty certain that she doesn’t NEED makeup applied with a giant Sharpie. In any case, she refuses to tell Vijay what’s wrong and continues to follow the blackmailer’s instructions, which always involve a needless amount of skulking about and a large cast of extras.
Vijay finally gets fed up with her lack of communication, breaks off their engagement, and hits her. BOOOOO! (There is no apology forthcoming either, since she clearly deserves it. Arghh.) Now the police show up again, having been absent for a good hour or so.
Ummm…okay. Mostly they are interested in what Rai Sahab’s last words were, which his friend Dosani can’t recall.
Who killed Rai Sahab? One of Asha’s rejected suitors? A completely random element who isn’t introduced into the story until the last minute? What was Rai’s “second wish”? What does “the guest list is in Patna” mean, anyway, in case Dosani does remember it? Will Vijay find out who is blackmailing Asha? Will he forgive her (or more importantly, will she forgive him)?
If you want to know then maybe you can tolerate this disappointing movie. I don’t regret sitting through it, but except for the cracktastic song described above, I don’t need to see it again. All the songs are good, and young Feroz is v. handsome; and if you are a Kum Kum and Bela Bose fan (I know you guys are out there!) you might enjoy it. Otherwise, it’s very silly and not very well written, and it squanders the talents of those in it. It’s dumb. There, I’ve said it. Dumb.