Bhoot Bungla (1966)

This Mehmood movie is a total hoot. I can’t believe I hadn’t seen it before, although I have seen all the songs and the songs really are the film. They dominate a story which deftly blends horror and comedy, managing to be suspenseful and funny—not a combination I’d think would be easy to balance. It doesn’t always work smoothly, but is so much fun that it doesn’t matter.

I sometimes complain about the “entirely too much of Mehmood” phenomenon that blights a lot of mid-sixties Hindi cinema, but here he seems mostly content to be part of a great ensemble cast that includes the maestro behind the fabulous music, Panchamda himself. Possibly it helps that he directed as well, which may have kept him too busy to hog center stage: he clearly worked very hard on crafting this! The romance with heroine Tanuja is tepid, but again it doesn’t matter: romance is not the point. Plus she is lovely as usual, and such a good actress that it’s always a treat to see her.

She plays Rekha, who has grown up in a household comprised of her father and his two brothers. Her father (Moni Chatterjee) is the eldest; the other two include mad Ramu (Nana Palsikar) and Shyamlal (Nasir Hussain). They live in the family mansion, which has a lurid history. The brothers’ uncle was murdered fifty years earlier, and his wife then disappeared with their son—this unfortunate threesome’s portrait still hangs on the wall. And indeed, everything associated with the haveli is creepy. Ramu is terrified of the servants, and I don’t blame him one bit. The housekeeper Lakhiya resembles a zombie, and the gardener sports a rictus of protruding teeth and a crazed glare.

Even the postman who comes to deliver a telegram to Rekha’s father, informing him of her impending arrival (she’s been away at school), is creepy.

On his way to pick up Rekha from the airport, her father is killed when his car crashes into a guardrail. She is met by Shyamlal, who had gone to the airport directly from his office, and they wait for him for some time before driving home. On arrival, they are given the grim news of his murder by Inspector Sawant (Jagdish Raj). When poor crazy Ramu is murdered later that night, Shyamlal and Rekha have reason to be worried and the Inspector suggests that they shift to their apartment in the city for the time being.

Safely established in Bombay, Shyamlal calls up Rekha’s girlfriends and asks them to take her out and cheer her up. Thank goodness he does, because they goad her into accompanying them to a song competition which Rekha has apparently won for some years running.

I say thank goodness because this gives us some very solid entertainment in the form of two songs and a high-tech Applause Meter.

Maybe that should be Appppplaaaussseee Meetteeerrr.

Rekha sings first, the very pretty “O Mere Pyar Aa Jaa” which gains her a score of 95 on the AP.

It’s the highest score ever at the competition—but it’s not over yet. A gang of boys from the Youth Club, led by Mohan (Mehmood) have something even more special to offer: the Twist (“Aao Twist Karein”)!

This culminates in the usual Frenzy of Fabulousness, with everyone except a pouting Rekha on their feet by the end in a bone-jarring exhibition. The Applause Meter explodes, and I rewind to watch the whole thing again. There is nothing—nothing!—on earth like the Hindi Movie Twist.

But Mohan feels bad that he has cut Rekha’s nose and stolen her thunder, so to speak, and he is pretty smitten with her too.

She is sadly not a great sport about it either, and in true Hindi heroine fashion snubs him royally when he tries to make it up to her. She also ends up in her family’s haveli with her gaggle of girlfriends one night after their car gets stuck in the rain, and they are horrified to see evidence that someone (or something) is occupying Rekha’s locked room in her absence.

She now begins to get threatening phone calls from a man who says she’s going to be dead soon, and she and Mohan are finally brought together one day when he picks her up and dusts her off after someone pushes her in front of a double-decker bus. Thoroughly frightened by now, Rekha confides in him about the death threats and the rumors in the village about her family home being haunted. Mohan tells her that his Youth Club was formed to help others.

We find evidence of their helpful spirit first-hand in the scene which prompted me to finally snag this film. Terence “Ted” Lyons told me that he played the drunk who breaks the violin belonging to a poor blind beggar, prompting Mohan and his friends to intervene and leading to a “West Side Story” type of gang dance-off to the tune of another beautiful song: “Jago Sonewaalon Suno.” Here’s the famous Ted! I think he is so handsome:

and here’s an unfortunate (but funny) subtitle-gone-wrong from the song (“log”=people in Hindi, but this translator preferred the more direct approach):

The song itself is really poignant, a plea for action in the face of indifference (still relevant!).

In any case, hooray for the Youth Club! They further endear themselves to me when, realizing that Mohan has fallen hard for the lovely Rekha, they vote unanimously to strike off the top rule(s) in the Youth Club’s charter.

Mohan himself has become suspicious of Shyamlal, Rekha’s uncle, and so have the police. As Rekha continues to receive menacing phone calls (never in her uncle’s presence, though) and becomes more and more terrified, Mohan decides to investigate the “haunted” haveli. Youth Club members put their names in a hat for the honor of accompanying him, and the unhappy “winner” is Stocky (Rahul Dev Burman).

What follows is probably the best song and dance sequence involving skeletons and the Twist EVER. Okay, also maybe the only one, but that’s irrelevant. What matters is that you find it online and watch it, NOW.

Who is behind the murders of Rekha’s father and crazy Uncle Ramu? Is it Shyamlal? Why is she being threatened? Can Mohan and his friends help save her? Will the police be any use at all, for once (actually: yes! Yay Jagdish Raj!)?

The story is a bit uneven at times, but moves along at a good clip. Tanuja is wonderful as the increasingly terrified Rekha and just absolutely gorgeous. Mehmood and his friends are lots of fun too, and made me laugh on more than one occasion. (What is it with Mehmood and his penchant for drag? Discuss!)

But this film is really all about the songs. They are gems, every single one, and the dancing and choreography (courtesy of Suresh Bhatt) is just fantastic. It simply does not get any better!

More eye candy:

I think the “Aao Twist Karein” song may be another Ted Lyons extravaganza, although I’ll have to verify that with the Man himself since there’s no band name on the drumset. But the guitarist second from the left I’ve seen with him before, and the drummer—although hard to really see since he’s in constant enthusiastic motion—looks like him. (Updated to add: his son informs me that it is not him on the drums, although he says that the instruments probably all belonged to Mr. Lyons as they were difficult to come by back then, and he often lent/hired them out to people.)

Speaking of which, Terence sent me a recent photograph to share with you all. He is still so handsome, with the same smile! And I will be eternally grateful that he prompted me to get this film—I love it!

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81 Comments to “Bhoot Bungla (1966)”

  1. This is an all-time favorite! I love the “aao twist karein”- beautifully plagarised (an oxymoron!) from Chubby Checker’s “Come on lets twist again.” And LOVE the sequence with mehmood and RD with them going into the bhoot bangla and its dancing ghosts. and Tanuja never looked better To me, this is the best kind of movie :)

    • Oh Aao Twist Karein is so much better than Chubby Checker (and I love Chubby Checker)…

      Tanuja looked beautiful and was great as usual. This is just totally fun time-pass. The songs are now stuck in my head, but I don’t care :)

  2. I’m laughing my head off at the pudgy skeleton person. Too funny. However, the film looks like major fun. And you’re right, Mr. Lyons is still very handsome!

    I think I need a copy of the Youth Club Rules for our rec room. I’m pretty sure it’s necessary. But I’m keeping the Lovers Get Out.

    • It is major major fun. And LOL@keeping the “Lovers Get Out”…I just DIE when I see these kinds of things in Hindi films. “No women allowed! Lovers get out!”…And the guys so easily convinced each other that it was a stupid rule :D

  3. Mehmood was one of a kind. Something to scare the ladies – he DID NOT tell Tanuja what was going to happen at the bus stop scene, instructed the driver to brake well in advance, and got someone(himself?) to push Tanuja. You bet your ass she was scared for real. :)

  4. >…and watch it, NOW.
    I ddddid. =:-O

    Thanks memsaab for this lovely review. It seems to be quite twist ridden. :-D

    PS: please solve my mystery at Filmi Index (even if its not as thrilling a mystery as that in Bhoot Bangla)

  5. RD was convinced that he did “bakwaas acting” in this film! (He says so in a documentary – I think the one on Kishore Kumar) What do you think?

    This one’s been on my to-watch list for a loooong time – you just bumped it up!

    • He wasn’t so bad! He wasn’t required to do much except look scared and ham it up with Mehmood, which he handled quite well. I can’t believe you haven’t seen it before!—makes me feel better at my negligence of it :)

      • I actually did enjoy that hammy scene where the two of them first go into the bhoot bangla – RDB was so much fun!

        And I have a connection to this film: my mother used to sing O mere pyaar aaja as a lullaby to me when I was a baby!

  6. Loved the songs in the movie. I thought the story was not too bad either though it could have been a bit tighter. On second thoughts, a “tight” editor may have chosen to drop the skeleton (bhoot) dance as being extra – and that would have been a SIN. I tell you, when I saw that skeleton-dance sequence, my eyes popped out. I could not believe they could even do this in the 1960s in India, it looked just so brilliant !!! Some camerawork and choreography !!! And RD Burman is so cute and funny in his somewhat small role.

    • Story had some holes, and was a bit choppy at times juggling the comedy-suspense. But it really did hang together much better than it might have, and was just so so so entertaining. And a total treat to see RD.

  7. Very often I get this dvd out just to watch the musical numbers! Now I need to watch the entire movie again!

    And how wonderful that Ted Lyons sent you a recent photo. I sure hope he will share more info in the future.

  8. Ranbhir Kapoor is president of a similar club in the recent “Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani”–one of many such filmi organizations? Or is it just an offshoot of the Little Rascals’ He Man Woman Haters Club?

    Thanks for all Ted Lyons and Hindi twist info! Your people live for this…

    • There was probably some sort of “youth movement” going on at the time. I think they had the same sort of thing here, hai na? Although I am too young to remember it, of course ;-)

  9. Ooooo Mehmood starrers are so great, because he’s allowed to indulge in all the silly antics that he’s only given 10 minutes for in a regular movie! I really liked this film and i can’t help but not do the Twist at random spurts in time because of the Ao Twist Karein song, and especially due to Teddy’s band and his exuberance!

  10. Wow Ted Lyons is handsome indeed – thanks for sharing the latest picture with us. Who knows I might bump into him if he is living in Sydney!

  11. Good Ole Bhoot Bangla. I loved the signature bhoot bangalaaa tune a lot. RD at his best. The songs are awesome, and the movie too !

  12. Btw folks this movie was Mehmood’s aka Bhai Jaan’s directorial debut, and I feel he did a excellent job. I ensure I see/collect all his movies, it does not matter what it has to offer.

    And chip of da ol block Tanuja ,looks lovely in her Audrey Hepburn inspired look.

    And Panchamda as Tocky, does it remind yu of Jughead Jones the foodie !!! And Chuckie Finister (for being a chicken) .), the 2 rolled into 1.

    Cheers

    • Oh, it does have an “Archies” feel, at least Mohan and his friends do. Wish Mehmood had directed more and maybe acted less ;-) Although I do find him very funny sometimes, and to be fair it isn’t his fault if other directors made poor use of him…but I will look up his other directorial efforts because Bombay to Goa was lots of fun too :)

      • Pls check out these as he was the Director in these –

        Dushman Duniya Ka (1996)

        Janata Havaldar (1979)
        Ek Baap Chhe Bete (1978)
        Ginny Aur Johny (1976)
        Kunwara Baap (1974)

        With the exception of number 1, rest were quite well done, in fact he made the audience ‘cry’ in the others, well almost !

        Pyar Kiye Ja he did a fab job with Mumtaz, imagine Kishoreda, Om Prakash ji and Bhaijaan together ! He got the Best Comedian Award for this and Om Ji was also nominated for the same in the same category.

        And if I may add, a forgotten movie PATI PATNI where he played as Pashupati Pachisiya with Sanjeev Kumar, Nanda, Johnnybhai and Om ji, music was superb also by Panchamda ofcourse.

        He fakes himself as a Classical Music Master on request of Om ji, by trying to teach Mumtaz. What a rollicking affair.

        Cheers .)

  13. Here is the clip where R D Burman talks about Bhoot Bangla, Jago sonewalo and his “bakwaas” acting..

  14. Lovely review (as always), Memsaab! As for that subtitle faux pas, I think it’s less of a gaffe and more of a nod to the English idiom “sleeping like a log” (as in the Beatles’ song ‘A Hard Day’s Night’). Humorous all the same (intentional or not).

  15. Amin Sayani, who I have a minor cursh on, also appears in Bhoot Bangla. i love his radio voice. I saw this movie through the haze of half-sleep and got the impression that it was a B-grade movie. Now with so many people liking it, I’ll have to see it again if it shows up on youtube. I remember those phone calls–that and the bangla were quite scary.

    • Who did Amin Sayani play? Was he the announcer at the competition? Do tell :) And do watch it, it’s lots of fun. And scary too :)

      • Yes, the incomparable announcer.

        • Ha! Now see, I had no idea who he was and didn’t remember he had introduced himself by name—-but I remembered his voice :) Very lovely “radio voice” (better than having a good “radio face”)…

          • i guess he is related to Bhisham Sayani who is prob the biggest radio or TV narrator ever

          • actually i am wrong it was ameen sayani himself who hosted binaca geet mala, one of the most popular radio show, bhishm sahani was balrsj sahani’s bro an actor.

          • Bhishm Sahni did act. But he is much better known as one of the doyens of Hindi Literature. The landmark tv series “Tamas’ wa adapted from one of his novels, and he featured in it as an actor too

          • @ Vinny: You are thinking of Amin Sayani’s elder brother, Hameed Sayani, who passed away long back. Hameed earlier used to compere “Bournvita Quiz Contest” on radio, and after he died, Amin took over the duties. In fact, for those who do remember the show, the initial intro saying “Bournnnnveeeta Quiz Contesssst” was always in Hameed’s voice.

            Apparently, Hameed had an ever better “radio voice” than young Amin.

  16. I love this movie! It was one of the first DVDs I bought when starting my collection, mostly because I loved the songs and also wanted to see RD act. I also got Pyar Ka Mausam for the same reasons, but never got around to seeing that. I wish RD acted more though, it would have been major fun to see him in the role of Bhola in Padosan as was originally planned. Alas, we’ll never know how that might have turned out and how it might have altered the course of his career.

    I think this weekend I’ll definitely have to make some time to rewatch Bhoot Bungla!

    • Apparently RD himself didn’t think he could act :) Although as I said, I quite loved him in this. Pyar Ka Mausam is an unfortunate film, in that it should be good but isn’t. And yes—him in Padosan would have been a hoot and a half!

  17. Wouldn’t “Be Good, See Good, Do Good” be more musical (alphabetical)?

  18. I saw it last summer, since everybody was recommending it so hard. You are right Mehmood is very much bearable here. But was sort of disappointed with BIG Loopholes in the story. But it was a hoot to see Mehmood in drag once again and that also so elegant. In present times he would have got a special float for himself at the CSD Parade!
    So you have noticed his penchant for drag as well, huh?

    Tanuja looks just great.
    And thanks for the Ted Lyons hint, have to dig out my VCD out of the sedimentation.

  19. Agree completely with your review, “Bhoot Bangla” is FUN! Not only are the songs fabulous, but the background music as well. As a matter of fact, bits of it seem to have been reused in “Teesri Manzil”.

    Thanks to both Mr. Lyons and you for sharing his photo – what a dapper gentleman.

  20. ‘drag’ was considered something to laugh at. So as a comedian Mehmood thought it was the best bet, :-D

    Ted’s picture is heart warming.

    • Well….Mehmood really LOVED doing drag. And he was good at it. There’s nothing wrong with that!!! but it does make me wonder if he wore women’s clothing off-screen as well. Not that it’s any of my business, or that there’s anything wrong with it! I personally think that women’s clothing is far superior aesthetically to men’s. So if he liked dressing up like a woman, good for him.

      And I totally *heart* Ted. He is such a gentleman.

      • Actually I shouldn’t have used the word ‘drag’ as it didn’t even exist then (not sure if the word is generally known in India).

        I meant the dressing as a woman for a joke.
        Rajendernath did that in several films too. :-)
        Jab pyar kisi se hota hai comes to mind.
        I Doubt they did that in real life. It would have been news!!

        • Yeah, all the comedians (and some heroes) did it for laughs on occasion…but I think Mehmood dresses up like a woman in EVERY SINGLE ONE of his movies. I can’t think of one where he doesn’t (at least not in his heyday).

  21. For all the “comedy act” he played out see on screen, Mehmood had a serious side to him also, which he sometimes showed through movies he directed/produced.

    I have seen Kunwara Baap, Ginny Aur Johnny and Dushman Duniya Ka.
    I liked all of them, though DDK is quite depressing and KB is a tearjerker in its own way.

    If I am not mistaken, all of them have a personal Mehmood angle.
    DDK is about drugs – I think it is a story of Mehmood’s own son getting ruined by drugs.
    GAJ has something to do with Mehmood’s daughter ?
    Am not sure about KB but it was a sensitive movie at a time when Bollywood was largely Rajesh Khanna eye candy.

    I also remember Mehmood’s Sabse Bada Rupaya made in the mid-70s. It was Mehmood’s way of telling the world that “in good times you have many friends, in bad times they all desert you”.

    Vinod Mehra was a longtime friend of Mehmood – and acted in many of his movies. I remember a timepass movie with both of them – Do Phool. Lovely, freak-out song (picturised twice in the movie, both times timepass :-) ). “Ma ma ma maaf karo…”

    While on this, and since we are discussing Vinod Mehra, I remember a very cute (though not very well-known) movie of his – with Moushumi Chatterjee in the mid-70s. It was called “Do Jhoot”. Really sweet movie, with very nice songs. :-)

    • Mehmood the sensitive artist actually rocks.
      Kunwaara Baap might seem melodramatic to modern sensibilities but was straight from the heart – his son got polio and Mehmood was stricken with guilt at not vaccinating him. It also has a wonderful line picturized to a kid and a cow eating from a rubbish dump – “Insaan ho ya jaanwar, hain mere desh main sab barabar, mere desh ka kya kehena” (Man or animal, all are equal in my country – what higher praise can I give my country).

      Sabse bada Rupaiya’s title song came about when he realized none of his children wanted to work for a living. So, “neither father nor mother, the whole thing is that, money is the best.” :)

      • The title song of Kunwara Baap – Mein hoon ghoda, yeh hai gadi, meri rickshaw sabse nirali – was a melodious song. The movie had several messages including how honest and hard work always pays and that even a poor rickshaw guy has so much empathy for a fellow suffering human being. Another melodious song from the movie is “aari aa, neendiya to leh chal kahin, door yahan se door.

        As Raja and Sunil have pointed out, the movie was very much relevant when it was made and is a good one

    • Without doubt Bhai Jaan was a thinking artist, he was def influenced by things happening around him…. and talking about his friends and loyalists, check out MAZAAQ from 1975, a crazy caper, hilarious, it had-

      Vinod Mehra
      Moushumi Chatterjee
      Mehmood
      Aruna Irani
      Iftekhar
      Master Bhagwan
      Asrani
      Kanhaiyalal
      Agha
      Mukri
      Paintal
      Shubha Khote
      Viju Khote
      and a special appearance by-
      Basuda Chatterjee

      And ofcors Panchamda as the MD. 2 crazy numbers-

      paagal zamaane mein is paagalkhaane mein and

      samjh ke moti teri jab ungali hogi tedhi

      The move came out on a VCD a few months ago. good for a w/end see.

      Cheers .)

    • Thanks for the recommendations…he was a very busy guy! I have his biography, read it some time ago and remember feeling that like many funny people he was fundamentally not a very happy person. In any case, I agree that he was a very good director. Even with an uneven story like this one, his skill at putting everything together shows, and his attention to detail is stellar :)

      • Oh yeah Memsaab if you get an opport and if you have not seen it before, do check out Bhai Jaans Chhote Nawab (1961), I will remember this movie for 2 reasons, and every time I see it, it just asks for being seen again.

        1. The genius Panchamda came into his own being with absolute blasters,his first phillum. Thanks to Bhai Jaan who bought him in. The story is that if Guru Dutt had stuck to his promise, a movie called “Raaz” would have been RD’s first movie. Unfort this got shelved despite a few songs were already canned by Panchamda. That was history and down came this one. See Panchamdas range with numbers like-
        “Ghar aaja ghir aaye”, to the peppy “Matwali aankhon waale”, or the full of life “Aaj hua mera dil matwala”.

        Add Rafi Sahebs ‘ilaahi tu sunle hamaari dua’ by Rafi Saheb, Bhai Jaan singing with his his beloved father dying on his bed. It is so emotive and it will bring tears to your eyes. The lyrics, composition, singing, Direction, performance, one word -Superb.

        And yet another peppy number ‘jinewaale muskurake jee khushi ke jaam’ by Latadi and Rafi Saheb. And the kiddie number ‘aam chum taam chum’ by who else Rafi SAHEB. Here Bhai Jaan playing with his buddies all toddlers, using a tricycle and what not.

        There are 2-3 more super tracks with classic base. Sung by Lata di and also one featuring the versatile Shamshad Begum and Rafi Saheb.

        Perhaps yu can check the music album and let us know on your Blog what yu think about this brilliant composer.

        2. Bhai jaans acting as he is the hero, how he transforms from a Naive, milk-drinker, childlike Chhote Nawab to the high society dude.

        Yu have our under rated beloved Ameeta as the heorine and Jhonny Bhai playing Captain Kanchan along with our super co stars-
        Helen
        Anwar Hussain
        Nazir Hussain
        Minoo Mumtaz
        Achala Sachdev

        Oh one may say I am biased with oldie goldies and everything to do with it, but yeah why not .).)

        Cheers .)

        • Hey Ash, Mehmoodbhaijaan? Aapke asli ke ristedaar hain kya? Curious.

          • Oh Sunil bhau I wish I was .).) but haan jitne bhi hamare co stars hain from 1930’s and to late 70’s, they all became a ‘part’ of your family and life. I started being a part of them when I was.. what .. 8 years old, and today I am only 58 years young .), so there yu are !

            Seriously me and my buddies from that era still think them as one of us, just as we think about our close family members the same way.. so much is their influence in our lives.

            If yu see the Ramu Kaka response from the Bloggers, yu can see how close they were to him as an example, only they could not place a name on him. And there are so many more……

            Cheers .)

          • Makes sense, thanks!

      • Now I know there’s a Mehmood biography, I must buy it!

  22. Memsaab :)
    I happened to land up in your blog searching for some info on ‘raat aur din’ and stopped here for very long time. A bit astonished and a bit amused :)
    Well, only observation I’d like to make is that you don’t seem have gone through Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor, Guru dutt eras?
    I have gone through all your posts either

    • I actually have seen pretty much all of Guru Dutt’s films and a great many of Dev Anand’s early films, and I am not a huge fan of Raj Kapoor (I know, *sacrilege*)…but I saw them before I started writing this blog so they haven’t gotten up here. Yet. I hope to catch up some day.

      :)

  23. Wowie you met THE Shammi Kapoor??!!! Lucky you!!!!!!!! Memsaab :) :d he hehe NJoy!!

  24. hello memsaab………..:)
    i loved this film. The most horrifying thing about the film is the house keeper Lakhiya…she really looks horrible.. and the gardener with big funny+horrible teeth….
    I loved the songs very much. Mehmood really looks very cute as a girl….
    I really loved the rules of Youth Club. They are so cute.

    Yesterday there was my best friend Suzy’s birthday. I thought to gift her a set of old Hindi films. She loves them too. But she is not there with me…:( Please wish her a cute birthday.

  25. Fabulous. Love Terence’s recent photo. Yes, he is certainly handsome.

  26. What software do I need to be able to see the RDB interview clip where he speaks about his ‘bakwas acting.’ All I get is a blank blue screen when I click on the space.

    By the way like everybody else feels, I find RDB very endearing in his few comic roles that he has done (I only know 2- Pyar ka Muasam and Bhoot Bangla).

  27. BlueLotus you can also go to downloads.com and downloaded from there it is a free piece of software.
    Regards
    Clive

  28. Is this the same Ted Lyons Band which was in the Beatle-sque song ‘Dekho Ab To…’?

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