This is one of my favorite films: I love it unconditionally and without reservation and, needless to say, without a shred of objectivity. I will never forget the joy with which I first watched it, a joy that has never diminished, and the love it gave me for Shammi (also undiminished). Shammi Shammi Shammi! I had seen him in a few other films and liked him okay; but this—this sent me tumbling head over heels, never to recover. His charm and chemistry with Asha Parekh stunned me (and so did she). This is also the first Vijay Anand film I saw, and of course I’ve gone on to love a lot more of his work, too. And can I say any more at this point about my Helen worship? I think not.
So what do I say about this film, that many have already pontificated on (in some cases, hilariously)? Where do I even begin? For one thing, I am not sure I can really pin down what captivates me so. I watched this again with Beth last evening, and we agreed that there is almost nothing we would change (there is ONE thing I would change, and I’ll get to it). Even silliness which might irritate me elsewhere I find enchanting here.
There is just an intensity about the whole movie that I love, and it is palpable from the very beginning.
I don’t think I need to cover the plot, other than to say that Rocky (Shammi) is a drummer at a hotel in Mussoorie when a visiting girl named Rupa (Sabina) falls from the third floor to her death.
There is speculation that she committed suicide when Rocky did not reciprocate her feelings, and her sister Sunita (Asha) decides to track him down and Make Him Pay. Of course she meets Rocky on her way, and though she doesn’t know who he is, his obnoxious antics don’t endear him to her. The first half of the film takes us through their battles and blossoming romance. Rocky soon knows everything, but he keeps his identity from her. The story is punctuated by glimpses of Iftekhar lurking, wreathed in cigarette smoke, to keep the mystery alive; but it’s not until Sunita and Rocky are in love that it is brought to the fore.
Still, Rocky and Sunita’s relationship has plenty of excitement and intrigue to keep us going until then. And the songs! Everyone knows that RD Burman’s songs are incredible, and the way they are picturized breathtaking. And of course, there’s Helen.
Which brings me to the ONE thing I would change: Laxmi Chhaya has a reasonably good role as Sunita’s best friend Bela—BUT. She doesn’t have a dance. “Aaja Aaja” is a song made for her trademark style, too! It’s not that I don’t love Shammi and Asha in it, they are spectacular and cracktastic—BUT.
Wouldn’t Laxmi look PERFECT right in there next to Asha?! I *die* at the very idea.
Instead she hangs with the hockey team (Sunita’s friends), as awesome as they are, on the sidelines:
It is a Criminal Waste of Laxmi.
If I had to pick an all-time favorite Shammi song from any of his films, it would probably be “Tumne Mujhe Dekha.” He performs it so beautifully, and Rafi sings it with such feeling, that I usually dissolve into tears. I have read that Shammi returned to the sets to shoot this song after his wife Geeta Bali died, which has no actual bearing on anything but adds to the poignancy of this already heartfelt song.
When we do finally get to the mystery, it’s suspenseful AND mysterious! I was totally surprised by the ending the first time I saw it. Plus we are treated to Iftekhar as the Inspector, Premnath as Rocky’s champion-in-love, Prem Chopra lurking, a jealous Ruby (Helen) and the man in whom my obsession for character actors was born: Rashid Khan.
Seeing him in this, a light bulb in my head went off. I knew I had seen him before, and I had to know his name. Had to, and I stayed up way past my bedtime figuring it out! So you can thank him and Teesri Manzil for the Artist Gallery on here!
Since that first watch, I’ve learned that Rocky’s friend and co-conspirator is played by Salman Khan’s father, half of Salim-Javed, and Helen’s now-husband, Salim Khan:
I see a little of Arbaaz in there, but not much Salman or Sohail.
So we have an intense fast-paced story, great music (songs and background score both), spectacular sets and scenery, lots of trivia, and a fabulous cast. What else could I possibly want? Oh—superb cinematography! I love the way shots are framed and lit.
Wah! to NV Srinivas for his camera work, and to Vijay Anand for his editing and direction.
Actually: wahs! all the way around, to everyone involved. Nasir Husain produced this, great entertainer that he was, and he spared no expense on the details. Many elements are borrowed from Alfred Hitchcock and it’s such a treat for me to see an old favorite blended so perfectly with my “new” love. I will never get tired of watching it, and most especially Shammi in it: he is charm and grace and wit personified. I am a fan of Dev Sahab too, but I’m glad he walked away from this one. It is a classic and memorable Shammi vehicle, not to be missed at any cost.
Updated: I was fortunate to be able to see the half hour of scenes which are missing from the dvd; I detail them here.