Hulchul (1971)

My mother came to stay with me for a few days last week and we watched some Hindi fillums together. She did not fall asleep during this, and it’s no mean feat for a movie to keep Mom awake through its entirety I can tell you. (She also stayed mostly awake through Chashme Buddoor and Hum Tum, although she didn’t care for Teesri Manzil, forcing me to wonder briefly if I might have been switched at birth with her real baby.)

In any case there is plenty in Hulchul to keep anybody’s eyes wide open, starting with the credits and fabulous title music (RD Burman).

The music (which is mostly instrumental, and just FAB) and clothes alone are enough to make this watchable, but it’s also a very stylish mystery-comedy that riffs on stereotypical filmi types and the foibles of human nature. And by stylish, I mean blinged-out and blinding beyond control and filled with eye-candy.

Writer-director-producer-actor OP Ralhan plays Peter, a working guy who overhears a conversation between two lovers one night on his dinner break beneath a bridge.

Unwilling to involve himself in a police investigation that will bring unwanted attention to him, his adoptive mother (Tun Tun) and fiancee Kitty (Helen), he decides instead to telephone the current wife of this Mahesh Jetley to warn her. There are three Mahesh Jetleys in the phone directory and, not knowing which one the intended victim might be, Peter duly plants the seeds of suspicion in the minds of all three formerly blissfully happy ladies.

First up is loving housewife Laxmi (Anjali Kadam), whose husband Mahesh (!) (Prem Chopra), works at a modeling agency and keeps a photograph of his protege Neena (Zeenat Aman in her first Hindi film) tucked away in his wallet.

The next Mrs. Jetley is an older invalid named Padma (Sardar Akhtar, whom I am thrilled to see—she was an actress in the 30s and 40s, and married Mehboob Khan). Padma is confined to a wheelchair, unable to walk, and her husband Mahesh (!) (Madan Puri) is a doctor-scientist with a pretty young assistant. When Peter calls, Padma is telling a pair of friends that she hopes to die soon and relieve her poor devoted husband of his duties caring for her. After she hears what Peter has to say, she’s not so sure.

The third and final Mrs. Jetley to receive Peter’s call is a beautiful and well-known movie actress. Seema (Sonia Sahni, whom I think was married to OP Ralhan at one point, especially given her opening line below—or was it IS Johar, for some reason I get them mixed up) has married a penniless and unemployed but handsome man named Mahesh (!) (Kabir Bedi, who actually isn’t that handsome in this and appears to be one of those men who look much better with facial hair).

In the wake of Peter’s call, Laxmi sets off for the club that her husband frequents and is met with a dismaying sight. I have to say that Zeenat and Prem Chopra ripping up the dance floor is a wonderful giggle for me though.

Seema ponders on her husband’s well-known popularity with the ladies:

And poor Padma watches from the laboratory doorway as her husband and his pretty assistant kill a little white rabbit with an injection (oh! the humanity!).

Kabir-Mahesh becomes enraged when gossip of Seema’s affair with her favorite director Mr. Kumar (Ramesh Deo) is repeated in front of him at a gambling club. He and Seema are obviously a very passionate pair and prone to jealousy on both sides, although that does not explain why they have covered a staircase wall with the pelts of a hundred or so teddy bears and another one with steampunk gadgets.

Kabir-Mahesh is puzzled by his wife’s strangely distant behavior, especially when she freaks out after he puts some saccharine drops in her coffee (it’s the latest “thing” from a doctor friend, he tells her). She pours the hot liquid out of her window when he isn’t looking, and we hear the sounds of a yowling cat.

Madan-Puri-Mahesh returns home and is shocked when his wife fights him off as he tries to give her the nightly injection for her hip that he’s been giving her for years. The commotion brings their kids running too.

PC-Mahesh’s wife Laxmi pretends to be sleeping when he gets home after his night of dancing and tries to romance her.

The worried Peter goes home to his adoptive mother Mrs. D’Costa and her daughter Kitty, a dancer. Peter and Kitty are engaged to be married in two weeks, but that doesn’t stop Mrs. D’Costa from being a very vigilant Ma. I am of course thrilled to see Tun Tun and Helen.

It also amuses me that Helen smirks at Tun Tun’s antics too.

The next morning Peter decides to investigate the three Jetley couples further, and Seema discovers to her horror that her cat has died. It doesn’t seem to occur to her that maybe she shouldn’t have poured hot coffee on it, and the maid telling her it had been sick for four days doesn’t help either.

Meanwhile, PC-Mahesh and Laxmi are on their way to visit Laxmi’s sister and her husband (Chandrashekhar), and PC-Mahesh is driving like a madman. I wonder how either Seema or Laxmi are surviving their husbands’ taste in clothing, and if that’s not enough surely the weight of Laxmi’s extra hair alone might kill her. I would also rethink the whole wearing-a-scarf-like-a-tempting-noose around my neck thing if I thought my husband wanted to be rid of me.

Peter continues to feed Padma’s paranoia after he overhears Madan-Puri-Mahesh talking with his assistant about Padma’s sudden refusal to accept her hip injections:

while Seema seeks the help of her director and mentor Kumar, and Laxmi resigns herself to her fate like a good bhaartiya naari.

As the women begin to lose it and their husbands continue to behave suspiciously, Peter confides everything to Kitty and she embarks with him on an investigation into the three Mahesh Jetleys. Will they be able to save the wife marked for murder? IS there one marked for murder? Are ALL of them? As the plot thickens and the sartorial splendor begins to hurt my eyes, I am positively riveted by the twists and turns and totally invested in the characters.

Plus there is so much more to love: a long and crazy Helen song and dance about something earnest like “war is bad” and “we are all same to same but different”; and the finest fashion shoot outside of Khoon Bhari Maang that I’ve ever seen.

Amrish Puri makes an appearance as a prosecutor and according to the credits Ranjeet is in there somewhere too, although I haven’t been able to find him. In any case, it’s a wonderful cast.

Zeenat is lovely and SO YOUNG:

and there are things I want in just about every scene. Sigh. (Watch it, it’s oodles of fun.)

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79 Comments to “Hulchul (1971)”

  1. Dear Memsaab,

    Sonia Sahni (at one time) was married to I S Johar and not O P Ralhan.

    Cheers

    Satyajit

  2. Cheers! Looks great. Love these colorful masala films.

    PS Can’t believe your Mom fell asleep during ‘Teesri Manzil’. That’s just bursting with greatness w/ Shammi, Asha and Helen! And the red herrings Prem Chopra (spittle righteousness), Rashid Khan (lol — sneaky for no absolute reason mentioned int the film).

    • I couldn’t believe it either. In fact she told me to put another dvd in instead of TM!!!! Horrifying.

      • Ha Ha !! I don’t blame your Mum – leaving aside the Shammi Asha chemistry and great songs – the rest of the film vanishes from memory. Frankly do you recall much of the ‘Mystery’ or even care for it? Whodunits are seldom great on screen – and Hindi films in this genre are more usually awful than not (I love my Christie, Doyle, Chandler and Hammet and re-read their books forever). Those ‘mysterious’ moments in Hindi films really set my teeth on edge. Such films were often successful more because of the songs and/ or good chemistry between the stars.

        • Yeah, I don’t love Teesri Manzil for the mystery, and most Hindi mystery films are too heavy-handed with obvious red herrings (plus it doesn’t help that the half hour when the mystery in TZ gets going is chopped out of the video).

          I am an avid mystery book lover, but I’d rather read one than watch it unfold. I think the nature of the genre makes it harder to translate onscreen.

  3. I remember this movie. It was huge fun. It is so 70s. I remember the fundoo opening credits music as well.

    Kabir Bedi looks a little gauche in here, but yet, for me, gorgeous. I loved him so much in Main Hoon Na in a proper Sikh getup. According to IMDB, this was his debut. He can be allowed to be a little gauche in his first firlm. Seeing that he was in his full splendour soon in Kacche Dhage (1973)

    Lovely review. Gosh I want that blingy phone as well. In fact if you have fevicol, and some glittery stuff, you can jazz up your phone with at home.

  4. Oh, that phone, definitely want. Doesn’t Kabir without facial hair, look like a gawky Abhishekh Bachchan? This sounds like an amazing film. Just what the doctor ordered for tired bones. :)

  5. I remember having seen this one years ago – and loved it even back then! Delightful movie. :-)

  6. Looks like a wonderful movie with a gr88 plot.. WANT to see this NOW!!!! M now very curious to know the end… wish u cud have added a spoiler at d end :)

  7. Rucha, I can tell you the end, but it will be a spoiler.

    Cheers

    Satyajit

    • Some people (like me) can’t resist reading spoilers even though they don’t want to!!! So it’s best to keep them limited to when a film is hard to find or just so bad others shouldn’t watch it :D

  8. Great review Greta!!

    I definitely have seen Hulchul but the only thing I remember about it now are the credits featuring ears and eyes.

    Also my dad has a very interesting Hulchul story. My grandpa was very strict and rarely allowed his kids to watch movies. One day the neighbor took my dad and aunt with them to watch this movie. 2 days later my grandpa took the entire family out to this very movie, and both my dad and aunt kept telling everyone whats going to happen next. Needless to say Grandpa wasn’t very amused, dad got a bit of a stick from both- from grandpa for going to the movie, and from grandma for not keeping his mouth shut!

  9. This goes on my Wish List. Momma’s recommendation clinched it :-)

  10. Yes. Yes I want that phone. I have seen Helen’s campaign for world peace (or something) but now I really have to watch the film. It looks awesome! Cheers :) Temple

  11. I don’t remember seeing this movie, though I have heard of it. Now, after reading this review, I really want to see it. “Hulchul’ = commotion, and it looks like there is plenty of commotion in this movie.

    Personally, I’d prefer not to have any spoilers here – they’re called spoilers for a reason. :-) I know one is warned but I’m pretty sure I don’t have the self-restraint to look away. :-)

    As usual, love the review, esp the funny parts. Like
    – that you may have been switched at birth, considering your mom couldn’t sit through Teesri Manzil :-)
    – “I wonder how either Seema or Laxmi are surviving their husbands’ taste in clothing, and if that’s not enough surely the weight of Laxmi’s extra hair alone might kill her. I would also rethink the whole wearing-a-scarf-like-a-tempting-noose around my neck thing if I thought my husband wanted to be rid of me.”
    – “the sartorial splendor begins to hurt my eyes”.

    • The subtitles say “Agitation” whenever the theme music (a girl singing “hulchul!”) runs. There is plenty of agitation and commotion for sure. The music is just fabulous, I am wondering if it was ever released as a soundtrack—there is only the one “song” with Helen, but the background music and incidental dance music is just AWESOME.

  12. Thank god, You have posted the review, I thought after going to facebook, you will forget us. Everytime I noticed that the day on which your review appears, will be very COLOURFUL and SPECIAL day for me. I have that much attachmment to your blog. That too so much information about character artistes and HELEN, you are the GODSEND person to me.

    thank you, thank you ,thank you, thank you

    • Oh no, Facebook can never replace the blog itself :) It’s a good place to put up little snippets, but I really love writing longer reviews too. Just haven’t had much time lately to watch films, let alone write them up.

  13. Though this was Zeenat’s first film, her first released film was Hare Rama Hare Krishna. She also appeared around the same time in an English film, The Evil Within. HRHK was the film that made her a star

  14. Ooh, good pick! I remember seeing “Hulchul” some years back and being impressed with how well the plot held together. I’m currently suffering through a “movie lover’s block” {thousands of movies but still nothing to watch! :-(}, but an O. P. Ralhan film might help. His movies always manage to entertain…one way or another. :-D

    • I know what you mean about so many films, but not a thing to watch. That’s why I dragged out Hulchul again :) I remembered that I liked it and it didn’t annoy me and as I’ve said my bad memory prevented me from remembering how it ended!

  15. There is a wonderful Hollywood movie called “A Letter to Three Wives” in which three women discover that one of their husbands is unfaithful, so they all suspect their spouses…no murder, though. Clearly, OP Ralhan took that ball and ran with it.
    As far as Moms and Hindi films, my mother will watch disturbing and incoherent indy films on the Sundance Channel but cannot understand my passion for Indian cinema. Sigh.

    • My mother will not watch disturbing and incoherent indie films…but she totally supports my love for Indian cinema. That’s how I know she really IS my mom, Shammi and Teesri Manzil notwithstanding.

  16. Love the wanna and wannabes.

    Say, Zeenat’s diaphanous wrap is the only thing that distinguishes that costume from the one she wore years later in SSS. She looks lovely, though.

  17. I think this was also Kabir Bedi and Amrish Puri’s debut film (in hindi).
    Kabir apparently played Jesus Christ few years ago in a TV series.
    This was one of the best films I have ever seen and the review was very good as well.
    Tun tun’s character and the name ‘Philomena’ (first name) seems to be based on Goan christian ladies, similar to the ones I knew in real life few years ago.The name was also quite common in Goa.

    • Yes, I think it’s Kabir’s first—he and Zeenat are in the credits as “Introducing…”

      Amrish just gets a regular mention in with all the other riff-raff ;-) Lots of Christian ladies in Indian cinema are named Philomena, and D’Costa or D’Souza!

  18. Couple of things I noted though:
    1.O.P.Ralhan as “hero” was odd.He was good but it may a reason why this film is less known in India. 2.Casting Helen as Tuntun’s daughter,I thought she was the adopted one.
    was this on shemaroo? they should be credited for SUBTITLING SONGS.

    • OP wasn’t really the “hero”…this is an unusual film (besides no songs) for not having a traditional “hero-heroine”. It’s really just an ensemble film. And I wasn’t sure which of Tun Tun’s kids was the real and which the adopted until near the end where there’s a conversation between OP and TT about how she adopted him and brought him up as her own son. Would be easy to miss if one wasn’t paying close attention…

      Yes, this is Shemaroo, and what Tom said below :D

  19. was this on shemaroo? they should be credited for SUBTITLING SONGS.(for all the criticism they get)

    • I disagree a little bit with crediting Shemaroo for subbing the songs. They shouldn’t get credit for doing something they should be doing as a matter of course; the others that don’t should be ridiculed and scorned for not doing it. And there’s so much wrong with all Shemaroo classic film DVDs that they deserve no credit for anything at all. Ever. At least this one doesn’t have their obnoxious logo plastered all over the movie. Should they get credit for that as well? Just one person’s opinion.

      • Shemaroo’s record on subbing songs is pretty spotty too. I think actually they were better 5+ years or so ago—at least as far as plastering their logo all over the place went. They have deteriorated into the same shameful state as their rival companies since then. Too bad.

  20. A pity I have never seen this movie. Every body raves about it.
    High time I bought a copy of it.

    You are right, kabir Bedi looks much better with facial hair! And the shirts of all Mahesh Jaitleys are fabulous! ;-)
    Wonder when they will be in again!

  21. God I love those “wants” – and I’d really like the phone :)

    Thanks once again for a very entertaining review.

    • The review is not close to being as entertaining as the movie! :) Me too re: the phone…I suppose all one really needs is a glue gun and a bunch of crystals!

      • Hey memsaab, did you see Tum Haseen Mein Jawan? Dharm and Hema – 1970 movie. Both pran and Helen have lovely roles. For a change it was good to see Helen in the role of a wife and mom (yes she is married to Pran and has a baby!). It was an entertaining masala movie.

  22. Nice to hear again from you, Memsaab, and with a colorful review as well. I have heard this plot quite a lot of times, and it has been used in many films as a sub-plot, and in daily Indian soaps as well. I think you yourself have reviewed a movie here based on a similar story. Somebody said no spoilers should be made of this movie, so I will only state that what O.P.R heard was not live.
    KB looks like a frogman, but I think Banno had been unfair in comparing Junior AB with him, who looks good both with/without facial hair.
    I have always liked films with Helen surviving at the climax, and better if she gets her man, be it a goofy like O.P.R or Jagdeep. Was it Helen posing posing like a disco hippie in mini-skirts and red casuals? I will surely love to watch this movie.
    Finally Memsaab, about your “wants”-that horse riding gear and floral head-covering is fairly common in India, but that jeweled phone will be very expensive. But what is so special about the hat? Looks too plain and cheap for your lovely locks and elegant appearance.

  23. Hi Memsaab,
    I’ve been reading all the lovely blogs on masala movies and I have a question, maybe you and your fellow bloggers can help me decipher:
    I’ve been searching for a movie that I remember seeing when I was a little girl, it’s with Biswajit, Mala Sinha (I think) and Helen, in it Helen sings the song Night is Lovely, Lovely, Dark and Cool, I think that’s how it goes, but anyway I can’t find the movie or song any where on the net, I’ve searched for years. My nephew had the LP Album back in the 70’s but has since lost it…I was wondering if someone out there remembers this movie or the song. I remember hating Biswajit after seeing this movie cause he so mean to Mala Sinha.

  24. Thank you so much, that was so fast, I swear that I’ve searched and searched. I knew you would know!

    • I only know because the video only recently turned up (the song has been deleted from first the vcd and then—because the dvd was no doubt made FROM the vcd—the dvd). Evil, evil manufacturers. It’s just CRIMINAL to delete Helen songs especially.

  25. I want to watch!!!

    P.S: khoon bhari maang = total paisa vasool

    my friends canNOT understand why i love the film so much :D

  26. I quite like the film’s story and quite enjoyed it when I finally saw it.

  27. I saw this years ago and remember being thoroughly thrilled by it. Esp the psychedelic 70s fashion, decor, colors — well everything.

    I was trynna guess the ending and happened to visit wikipedia. My guess was right.

    Can’t believe IS Johar was married 5 times! Wow – he was no Dharmendra, Vinod K., or Dev Anand and yet far surpassed them with the number of ladies in his life (at least as wives). I quite like his humor.

  28. This is a great film! Comedian turned director-actors seem to make great films — Ralhan here and of course Mehmood — Bombay to Goa.

  29. OMG !! I am so glad you have this !! I was looking for this film all over. It is a great great old hindi film !

  30. I watched it on Doordarshan years ago and really enjoyed the movie. Thanks for posting the review and I completely agree with Raja – some of the lines that you have mentioned are awesome. I was left wondering how trendy Zeenat Aman was – mind you this was 1971.
    There is also an explicit adult scene involving Prem Chopra and Anjali kadam.
    But Sardar Akhtar’s acting was the best. I believe O P Ralhan was her great fan and he insisted that she do this part.
    Have you reviewed Buddha Mil Gaya ?
    I am also trying to find the movie that starred Madan Puri and where 7 persons claim that they have committed one murder. I am afraid I don’t remember anything other than that. Can someone help with
    the name of the film pls.

  31. no, not Gumnam, but a movie where 7 people claim that they have committed the murder – madan puri, om prakash were some of the actors

  32. Didn’t know you reviewed this one. I watched this one on TV eons ago, and was sucked into the proceedings before someone said “Baap re baap” (Jeeper, jiminy cricket in another blog ;-)).

    Now I god the theme running on my head now…. roooo raaa raaa roooo….. roooooooo ra rooooooo huuuuuulllcchhhhullll…….. Please please Greta, couldn’t you have actually ripped the title music for the rest of us with no DVD :-P

    I loved the ending though…. What a closure. I was soooo convinced it was Prem Chopra. And then I was surprised! I also loved the Prem Chopra dialogue about letting OP off… His delivery was just superb! I still can’t believe he played baddie for such a long time.

    P.S: Indian twist raaaaakks! Now I am running two tunes….. the twist rhythm of Shammi’s “aaja aaja main hoon pyar tera”

    and the hulchul theme….

    AAaaargh!!!!

  33. Forgot to add, I fell of my chair at the very “different” Helen in this film. I am so resigned to her dying towards the end in every “more than dancing” role that I have seen This film should be a compulsory view for all film aficionados as “casting coup of sorts”.

    And yes, Kabir w/o beard is just yucky — so that coup failed!

  34. One of my favorite gags at one point of time was to ask people to name a film which had Helen as the lead actress! Had seen this one many years ago, and trust me, there are very, very few people in India who know this film. Thank you so much for this review.

  35. memsaab, quite forgot to pitch in to say that OP Ralhan is our very own Hrithik’s grandpapa – his mother is OP Ralhan’s daughter.

    Now I’ve read this review, and this is yet another movie I have to watch. Sigh. You make it very hard for me. :))

  36. I just watched this movie 2 days ago. Helen looked so sexy in this movie. I found it hard to believe she is in her 30s here. She looked like a teenager. What I found interesting is that so many actresses in this movie were wearing very racy, revealing outfits. There were even minor adult scenes here as well. I was surprised considering how conservative India was back in the early 70s. Overall, I liked this film a lot.

    • Actually India in 70s was not as conservative as you think. I know aunties who wore mini frocks back in the day. Some very adult movies were released in that decade. For some reason, we regressed in the 80s and 90s. If you see, the 60s and 70s were also a lot more stylish than later decades.

  37. Anu, Hrithik is producer J.Omprakash’s grandson, not OP’s. Memsaab, great blog!

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