Chhaila Babu (1977)

There are only two things which give me *good* nostalgia for the 70s: ABBA music and Hindi movies. I spent the latter half of that decade wearing hideously patterned Qiana shirts, sporting feathered hair and fighting the tendency of my stomach to overhang hip-hugger bellbottoms, all the while living in rural Indiana and wishing I were dead, so that is actually saying something.

I suppose if I had cable television and thus access to reruns of the original “Starsky & Hutch” television shows that might do it too, but I don’t. I love Laxmikant Pyarelal’s music in this film, though, especially the opening title and background music (although the songs are fab too). It’s funkadelic 1970s, all the way, and reminds me of the opening themes to those 1970s cop shows.

Check it out!

Additionally, this film offers Rajesh Khanna in multiple avatars matching wits with gorgeous Zeenat Aman plus a host of my favorite villains, all doing their best with a completely wacked-out script—it’s a fine way to spend a Sunday afternoon, my friends, especially when you lack cable television.

Nattily-attired bad guys have been assembled for a meeting. Their mysterious host: an infamous gangster called “Scorpion” who has looted and murdered his way across India.

He is enlisting their help to pull off an 80-lakh bank robbery, and assigns each of them a task. It falls to Pratap (Ravindra Kapoor) to deliver the money to Scorpion’s man (Yusuf Khan) at the end of the heist. (It’s ridiculously easy to rob and kill the poor Southern Bank truck driver and his guards so I won’t dwell on it in any detail). Pratap is in love with Lily (Padma Khanna) and so plans to use the cash to set up a new life for them outside of India. Sadly for him, Lily is sleeping with Ranjit too and betrays him (note the requisite villain fish tank above the bed!).

Naturally the rest of the gang and Scorpion feel cheated, and Pratap is shot down at the airport when he tries to make a run for it. As he lies dying in a policeman’s arms, he gasps out that the money from the robbery is with his daughter Rita, and the code is 77203—the rest is drowned out by a plane taking off. The police and the gang are soon on Rita’s trail: she’s in Kashmir.

In Kashmir, Rita (Zeenat Aman) is a ski champion (although in the skiing shots she looks suspiciously like a stunt man). She has several fans cheering her on in remarkably unenthusiastic strangely-accented monotones.

A warning sign on the slopes is chopped down by an unseen person, and Rita skis blithely on into danger. She’s rescued by a local ski guide, who shows up again minutes later as a carriage driver.

When she asks him who he really is, he responds with a song: “Main Chhaila Babu” (translated as “Cool Guy” in the subtitles). It’s so fun, a horse-carriage ride through deep snow. The chemistry between Zeenat and Rajesh that I noticed in Ajanabee is fizzing away here too! And despite his very very bad hair (who was responsible for RK’s hair in the mid-late 70s? They should be shot!) he is very charming.

When he drops her off at her hostel, a CBI Inspector (Om Shivpuri) is waiting for her. He tells her about her father’s murder and asks her about the money. She’s distraught but knows nothing, and he asks her to return to Bombay to help the CBI in their investigation. At the airport observing her arrival are the gang and—Chhaila Babu, wearing a medal around his neck.

Cut to a night-time police chase, with a thief—Chhaila Babu again!—escaping into Rita’s stupendously decorated pad.

A yellow shag-carpeted ledge, the perfect hiding place! After the police leave empty-handed, he watches Rita change clothes (“Baap re!”); then Macmohan and his sidekick break in. They want the money, and they think Rita knows where it is.

Naturally, Chhaila Babu steps in to save her. I will say that his action skills are not even close to his romantic skills, but Rita helps him out by kicking some ass. Macmohan sees his Scorpion medal, and both men flee. Chhaila Babu tenderly administers to Rita’s wounds and kisses her; it’s to-die-for romantic despite his Prince Valiant hair.

He tells her that he loves her and wants to marry her, and if she hands over the robbery money he’ll take it to the police for her—otherwise he’s afraid she’ll be killed for it. Suspicious, Rita sees a diamond necklace hanging out of one of his pockets, and tells him furiously to get out. He tells her that society has made him a thief; that it robbed him of his family and left him with nothing to live for except vengeance, but she’s unsympathetic. After he leaves, though, she cries.

He’s not giving up and the next day he shows up again, this time as a taxi driver. He tells her that her words the night before have changed him.

She melts, of course! So do I. Later, he tells her about his past: that he lost his father and mother, and all he has left is his harmonica which his mother had inscribed with “Chhaila Babu”—her nickname for him when he was little. This morphs into a song, where we see flashbacks from his childhood combined with an old woman begging and looking for her son—his mother (Achala Sachdev) is still alive, and still looking for him!

Mera chhaila babu, mera dil! The humanity! I love this plot twist. She runs into Chhaila Babu and Rita shortly afterwards, and they discuss her lost son and his lost Ma, but fail to make the connection. Meanwhile, the police and the CBI Inspector are pretty sure that Chhaila Babu is Scorpion, but they need evidence.

The CBI Inspector decides to rope in Rita to help them get evidence. To that end, he takes her to a nightclub where she sees Chhaila Babu flirting with Lily, and then playing the drums when she dances to a great tune called “Kal Raat.” It’s a crazy number—worthy of Helen at her finest—Padma does it justice too.

The club happens to belong to Ranjit, and Macmohan is there too; he recognizes Chhaila Babu as Scorpion. As he tells Ranjit who Chhaila Babu really is, someone throws a knife into his chest and he’s killed.

Rita, now jealous, decides to help the CBI to catch Scorpion. What will happen? Will the gang catch him first? Who is Chhaila Babu? Is he really Scorpion? Can Rita betray him? Will he ever find his Ma? Does he really love Rita or is he just using her? And where is the 80 lakhs rupees from the Southern Bank robbery?

Watch Chhaila Babu to find out, and for the sizzling chemistry between Rajesh and Zeenat, the fabulous music, the mod 70s ambiance and the crazed script. It’s not great art—but it’s solid entertainment.

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64 Comments to “Chhaila Babu (1977)”

  1. Wow- here seems to be an RK movie that sounds cool- espionage (i LOVE bolly spy movies from the 60s and 70s) in high fashion, and villains called scorpion – love it!

  2. As you know, I love RK ;-) but even if you don’t, there’s plenty of fun in here! But honestly, the chemistry between him and Zeenat—it strikes sparks off the screen. Hot, hot, hot…

  3. I did forget to say, also, that the film was directed by Joy Mukherjee, and written by Kajol’s father Shomu Mukherjee…but since the directing and the writing were not the film’s strong points I neglected to point it out. Sorry!

  4. The set, the wigs, the clothing looks fantastic! Can’t wait to see it. And the music sounds great too. In the clip you provided I like how Laxmikant Pyarelal mesh Flight of the Bumblebee (

    in with the Charlie’s Angels sound.

  5. Ha ha, the Flight of the Bumblebee resemblance did not even occur to me :) Good one!

    It is very Angels-esque, also S&H, Kojak, countless others! I do have to shudder a little bit when I remember MY clothes etc. at that point in time, but the style looks much better on the likes of Zeenat, Rajesh, Ranjit and Manmohan!

    I can’t find the music anywhere, I think I will have to rip it from the DVD like I did the title sequence. Must have it, though.

  6. This looks like a little bit of shag-carpeted heaven! Can’t wait. Fortunately, Netflix actually has it, so I don’t have to do two Nehaflix orders in as many days (sheepish).

  7. As long as you don’t need a coherent story, it’s a good one! :) I know what you mean about Nehaflix: as soon as I place an order, people start writing about films that I really want to see!

  8. This movie looks awesome! I love the set design, its soooo funky, but did rajesh and zeenat actually kiss coz a kiss in bollywood usually aims for a cheek, or a neck! Rajesh’s hair stylist needs to run out of town, coz his hair is just yuck! double yuck, with those flappy sides!

  9. Rajesh Khanna is not really my cup of tea, but this one sounds good. Might try it inspite of him! Action-thriller masala is one of my favorite genres and though I think nobody could do it as well as Dharmendra, can give RK a try.

  10. Rum, Rajesh’s hair person as I said should have been shot. There was just NO NEED for his hair to look that bad, even allowing for the fact that it was 1977 when nobody’s hair looked good. He had hair continuity issues in this too, in some scenes it was longer than others…The kissing was always done from a camera angle that made it look real, but didn’t necessarily involve actually kissing :) It was verrrrry sexy though!

    bollyviewer: There’s plenty of goodness to go around. But hopefully you will enjoy RK too :)

  11. I must see this.

    Bollywood movies are the only things capable of making me nostalgic for the seventies, mainly because they have absolutely nothing to do with my actual experience of the decade.

  12. I see we understand each other perfectly! :-) I have no doubt that my actual experience of the decade would have been greatly enriched had I known about Hindi movies back then.

  13. Hi Greta,
    Well, what fun!

    (One side-remark, just for me: would I use the RK acronym for Rajesh Khanna -hm, ‘spose I would – but only if I had to)
    But I’ve yet to see Zeenat Aman in an actual film, so perhaps I should let myself be tempted!!

    PS I also used to be an ABBA fan, but I didn’t wanna die then. I wanted to meet Agnetha!

  14. I can’t bring myself to call him Kaka like many others do…it’s got a whole different meaning here! You really need to see Zeenat, it’s a large gap in your Bollywood experience :-)

  15. This has got to be one of the wackiest masalas ever! The song “Yaar dildar tujhe kaisa chayihe” filmed amongst a bevy of folks in native American attire replete with wigwams defies description. By the time it occurred in the film, one had totally “surrendered to the aesthetic” as you often say! And what an aesthetic it was, Zeenie in full swing, Padma Khanna at her most luscious, RK *sighhhh* doing everything even the fighting poor dear which he wasn’t too adept at as you’ve pointed out memsaab. I just think that they all had a whale of a time when making this film. Another absolutely fabulous song was “Taxi Taxi”—arguably one of the best song picturizations ever. As an aside, he was supposed to be close to both Tanuja and her husband who was also his partner in a few business ventures apparently.

    As far as he and Zeenie are concerned, he’d said about her (Cine Blitz archives, Feb. 1975): “She’s amazing. She’s a demon for work and she has no inhibitions. If she like you, she likes you; you could easily go crazy over Zeenat.” I guess that translated to the chemistry on screen.

  16. Yes the “feather Indian” song/scene was hilarious. And as usual, thank you for adding context to the film through your vast encyclopedic knowledge of all things Rajesh! You really need to write a blog devoted to him (I’d read it!)…


  17. Joy directed it??? I totally have to see it!!!! i love that man, no matter what he did :) I am totally capable of getting over RK dislike- just dont like him when he gets too mushy and lovey- I just prefer him a bit evil. I saw a rather horrible 80s flick “Dhanwaan” recently, where he has a anti-her-style role- and while the movie was v average, I really beleive he did v good.

  18. I love these robber gang movies.

    By the way, did you see ‘Mamma Mia’. We’ve seen it twice. ABBA taken to a new level by Meryl Streep! And we have ABBA music playing all over again on Itunes.

  19. I saw this movie before I saw Charade and I kept getting a strong sense of deja vu and couldn’t understand why. And then of course it hit me – Charade is a watered down Chhaila Babu! (Um, let’s pretend that’s the sequence, ok?)

    How much do I love Zeenie?!

  20. Oh I say!

    I’m dumb-founded!

    But I love Zeenie too.

    A very very good style of write. Now THAT impressed me totally!

  21. shweta: Joy directed it :) I don’t think I’ve come across such a rabid Joy fan before! ;-)

    Banno: I never got around to seeing the movie (I’ll buy it on DVD anyway), but I did see the Broadway show in New York and love love loved it. It was fantastic. And I listen to ABBA still, all the time.

    Amrita: Ha ha “watered down Charade”—aren’t all Hollywood films watered down compared to Indian ones? That was a Hepburn film, right? I probably saw it when I was a teenager (in bellbottoms and Qiana) but don’t really remember much. Zeenie is gorgeous.

    gilga: The movie will impress you too!

  22. Thanks for your comment! I’m glad to spread the word! –
    You both do such different things with your blogs.. I love the downloadable OST’s at Third Floor Music, and i like your commentary and well chosen screen shots (such subtle things are often missed!)… so I’d say they are valuable in different ways – especially for folks who dont have crates of old records and piles of Indian DVDs like we do.. : )
    thanks for doing what you do!

    re: this post — > i’ve gotta see this movie!!

    btw, did you ever blog about Manoranjan? it was quite a controversial movie – features Zeenat in her early career…

    and completely unrelated… I just watched Do Chor last night– loved it

  23. Thanks DJ carlito :-) I spend a lot of time choosing screen shots, I’m glad that it’s appreciated!

    I have written a review of Manorajan here, I liked it very much. It was quite racy for the time and place! I loved Do Chor (haven’t written about it though) too :-)

  24. hey memsaab, completely off topic, but I just found this slideshow at, and it reminded me of you & your blog readers: —

    Helen’s Ten Best Dance Numbers of All Times:

    I see on your earlier post you already noted Oct 21st was Helen’s birthday — but I didn’t realize she turned 69 this year. WoW!

  25. oh.. regarding screencaps from this movie, Chhaila Babu, I want to see Zeenat the stunt “man”.. Pretty please, memsaab? :-D

  26. Thanks for the Helen link Ranya :) I had seen it but I’m sure there are others here who missed it! I’ve seen Helen’s birth year listed as 1938 too which would make her 70—but probably only she knows for sure :-)

    I couldn’t get clear caps of the skiing shots, they were moving too fast. But it was definitely a blocky man-type figure under the snowsuit, not Zeenat’s shapely self! :-)

  27. Memsaab, regarding your screencaps, love, love them–the first one here has to be an all-time standout because of the subtitles, how very apposite :-) The other one I remember is from “Dil Daulat Duniya” where RK in the “Ruk meri rani” song refers to Sadhana as “shola badan” which was translated as “hot babe”!

  28. Even not speaking Hindi I can tell that the subs are mangled at times. And others, well, as you said: apposite! RK was very funny in this song, Zeenat was really pouring it on and “Chhaila Babu” was completely taken aback. One of them said something about electricity and then these subtitles appeared. Made me laugh :-)

  29. In the interest of tackling sexism, I propose that all movie bedroom scenes (like the one above with Padma Khanna) have both men and women display their chests equally, instead of one party having the bed-sheet pulled up till the neck. ;)
    That’s so unfair. :D

  30. LOL Amit. Good luck with that! :)

  31. Great job again memsaab.

    In echoing Rum statement…..I would also like to express my agreement on your comment on Rajesh Khanna hairstyle during the late ’70s

    cut/paste again…..”And despite his very very bad hair (who was responsible for RK’s hair in the mid-late 70s? They should be shot!) “

  32. Always fun to reveal our fashion excesses back in the day. Memsaab, I think I’m somewhere around the same age as you… In 1977 (when I was 15 years old), I discovered the Sex Pistols. So within a year or so, I cut my hair short so that it stuck out on top of my head and wore torn clothes from the thrift store. Were there any punk rockers in Hindi movies at the time? The closest thing I can find in Hindi movies to the “new” look that my crowd was sporting is 1950s Dev Anand. :)

  33. radzi: Ah, hindsight is everything. My hair was dreadful back then too, but I wasn’t a movie star :-)

    Richard S: Yes, sounds like I’m a year older than you :) My younger sister was more into the Sex Pistols than I was, although I do remember being so grateful when the Pretenders finally came along and swept aside the dreadful rock of the 70s! I don’t recall ever seeing Sid Vicious wannabes in Indian films, but maybe some of my all-knowing readers do!

  34. The music arrangement of the song -Kal raat sadak par is to be heard to be believed! Watch out for the chorus in the song! Thoroughly enjoyable.
    Keep up the good work!
    Add my link to your blog if you like what I write about Hindi Cinema Music!

  35. Hi Vishal :) The picturization of that song is fabulous too. Really did remind me of some earlier Helen numbers.

  36. Memsaab, not to get too off on this tangent here… But I wouldn’t say I was thinking of “Sid Vicious wannabees” so much. Especially for”post-punk” scenes of the late ’70s, I had a different kind of look in mind. Johnny Rotten/Lydon was more like it, I thought Mark E. Smith (The Fall) looked cool, some of The Clash early on. (America didn’t have such good anti-fashion models for this.) Not so much black leather and chains as dirty/torn “dress” shirt, clothes from the thrift store, a nice ruined look. The closest I could find in Hindi films is Dev Anand in 1951:

  37. Baazi featured Dev as a down-and-out gambler/poverty-stricken guy…not sure that was the same thing as the deliberate ripped clothes thing of early Punk…I mean, it was deliberate in the sense that it was “filmi” and also in the anti-wealthy-society frame, but does that count? I guess it might :)

  38. LOL about the “requisite villain fish tank!” :-D And…rural Indiana. I have family in Sullivan. They have to come visit me cuz I won’t go there again.

  39. ajnabi—Argh. Lucky me, my parents finally retired and moved away and I never have to go there again either :) I lived in Greencastle, not far from Sullivan.

  40. memsaab,

    RK hairstyle was decent in the early 70s and late 60s….then they suited it to cover the ears for the mid and late ’70s & early ’80s fashion.

    You are right; The hairdresser need to be shot

  41. I love that music! Great post… this movie looks like a lot of fun, and after reading this, I really want to see it. I’ve really been enjoying all the Rajesh Khanna movies you’ve featured here recently (I’m not even missing Dharam-season!)

  42. DG: I won’t tell Dharam if you don’t ;-) I was thinking that I’ve sadly neglected him recently, although I think I’ve seen most of his films and I’m just getting started on Rajesh. Glad you are enjoying his movies too! I love how diverse his roles are…he doesn’t just do the same thing over and over and over again (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) :-)

  43. A very happy birthday Greta!

  44. Thanks Suhan! I just discovered that it’s Mallika Sherawat’s birthday today too!

  45. Memsaab its very good review and great post on Super Star Rajesh Khanna. This was one of the Super Hit Movie in 1977. I salute you memsaab on your great writings.—1977/9013/2794

  46. Thanks, Manohar! Really a fun film…

  47. Chhaila Babu was a supehit movie ? Not really. “Chaila Babu”,”Chalta purza”,”Bundlebaaz”,”Mahachor”- all these movie were flops, and that is why Rajesh Khanna’s superstar status came to an end then and there itself.

  48. Atul, Manohar likes to think that all Rajesh Khanna films were super-hits :-) And I think his superstar status had come to an end a couple of years before this…but I loved this film. I also loved Bundalbaaz—totally loony!—and the first half of Chalta Purza (then the DVD died)…although Mahachor…not so much (see my review of that one here too)…

    I discovered when I started reviewing Rajesh films that he has an incredibly (rabidly) loyal fan base out there!

  49. U r wrong in your anyalysis on Rajesh Khanna. All his movies super hits and its fact. Kaka always proves that he is a SUPERB ACTOR first and so today he is the one and ony GOLDEN ACTOR AND PRIDE OF THE FILM INDUSTRY without any manipulation

  50. I just watched Chhaila Babu today – a non-stop thrillride :) I was constantly saying “Oh my gosh!”…every third scene was too over the top for words.

    I agree that it’s Charade-esque, but it also reminded me of Don, which came out the following year! I feel so bad for Joy, who spent so much money on this…but then I have a soft spot for the whole family, due to their Ashok Kumar connection :)

  51. Actually Chhaila Babu was one of the very few hits that Kaka had during that period. Here’s a 2008 review of it from the Economic Times in India which discusses its BO status amongst other important things such as Zeenie’s hotness :-)

  52. Is it just me, or did the plot sound like Cary Grant / Audrey Hepburn/ Alfred Hitchcock flick Charade? Don;t tell me. is the CBI Inspector (Om Shivpuri) Scorpion?

  53. Hi Ian, several others have agreed that it’s a remake of Charade :) I will let you draw your own conclusion about Scorpion based on that :)

  54. Chailla Babu released in 1977 was a runaway hit. It was a Mukherjee Brothers movie – Joy/Shomu Mukherjee. It starred Super Star Rajesh Khanna and Zeenat Aman in the lead roles. This action movie must be watched carefully else one would lose track. The movie has good music by Laxmikant Pyarelal and some numbers were very popular then and still are. Rajesh Khanna is good in the movie and is in various characters all rolled into one. He looks convincing in action scenes also. Zeenat Aman looks good and performs well. This is a revenge drama told in a different style but as suggested if one is not careful – he would not understand. It is of course a must watch for Rajesh Khanna fans as he shows his skills in all – action, comedy, romance and drama.

  55. Yet another movie that I watched because of your review. So much awesome in this film! I love that the English translation Chailla Babu is “cool guy”

    (I’ve been humming the song all day)

  56. Lovin’ the site…just discovered it. I remembered this movie because of the wicked title track. There’s this scene in the movie where ZA is whipping Rajesh Khanna. That funky music behind that scene is Manu Dibango’s “New Bell” off his Soul Makossa album from 74. It’s interesting to me that song is popular now because of hip hop.

  57. I request you to add more about the film describing more about the film’s other notable things as yes story you have covered.
    I like this movie very much and i would give it 4/5.
    Title is CHHAILLA BABU.
    please change the title.
    Iam looking forward for you to review Khanna superhit cum classics,extremely wonderful sweet films like Dharam Aur Kanoon,Phir Wohi Raat,Aanchal,Bandhan,Hum Dono, etc…

    Post more pictures(fotos) from the films of Chhailla babu,raja rani,tyaag,etc which u have already reviewed.

  58. supwr hit film and song of kishore kumar was duper hit in the great 70’s..
    Rajesh khanna at his best … as well as Zeenat Aaman :)

  59. Super star Rajesh Khanna is always branded as leading man of romantic movies,”Chhaila Babu”is a rare thriller movie of him after “The Train”.Even late Joy Mukherjee has well directed this masala movie.
    I always like this movie.

  60. What an entertaining movie! As already posted by some, yes, it seems to have been based on Charade. Both movies open up on ski resorts and the end is also shot in exactly the same way. Great great chemistry between RK and Zeenat, their romantic scenes are really sizzlers. And yes, that song with Padma Khanna “Taxi, Taxi’ has one of the best song picturizations I have ever seen. RK in all whites is a treat and also in the yellow and brown outfit!
    Definitely a movie worth rewatching, just for those scenes!

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