Produced by Homi Wadia, and written by JBH Wadia, this film surprised me. It lacks their usual emphasis on stunts and crazy special effects, which I always enjoy; but is a solidly entertaining filmi noir more along the lines of Howrah Bridge and C.I.D. (although not nearly as competently done) than of Aladdin. Dwarka Khosla (any relation to Raj?) directed, and the plot is interesting (in spite of the many holes), with good performances and—best of all—spectacular music.
Feroz Khan stars in one of his first roles; as Todd pointed out in a comment elsewhere, he seems to have started off his film career as a poor man’s Shammi Kapoor. If that was his brief from the filmmakers, he certainly lived up to it during the songs at least. I will say that if Shammi and, say, Madhubala or Asha P. had starred, it would have probably taken the film to a whole other level; but as it is Feroz and Chitra deliver consistently if not spectactularly.
All this is not to say that there aren’t silly Wadia Brothers touches throughout. There are! One of them comes immediately as Reporter Raju (Feroz Khan—billed as Feroze Khan) is felicitated by his newspaper for foiling a bank robbery. The entertainment: Miss Muni and Mr. Alex from Paris in a “puppet show.”
This turns out to be a pretty blonde and a man in a clown suit doing acrobatics accompanied by swing music. Please also note the name of the band: Fats Benny. Someday I’m going to write an entire post about band names in Hindi cinema.
Anyway, we discover pretty quickly that Reporter Raju is not only a brave man, but also loyal to his employer and all-around good guy Mr. Sharma:
and he’s a loving, albeit distracted and busy, brother to his sister. Her name is variously subtitled throughout as Bindu, then Reema, then Vimla, then finally Vimal. This subtitle inconsistency was not unique to her name. I’ll call her Vimla, because that’s what her name sounds like when spoken. Vimla is engaged to Police Inspector Madan.
The next day Raju receives a very mysterious phone call from a woman who asks him to meet her in the Park at 5 pm.
Before he meets this mystery woman, he crashes into a girl as he hurries along and sends her flying. She’s unimpressed with his attempt at an apology.
When he gets home, a note has been slipped under his door. It cracks me up. I guess someone was worried lest Raju (or maybe we) forget about his appointment.
At the Park later, his mysterious caller knits beside her pram while various nefarious-looking men skulk about. Also at the Park: the girl he’d sent flying, Radha (Chitra), accompanied by her little sister Honey (also randomly sometimes subtitled as Hani) (Baby Vidya Rani), who is one of Reporter Raju’s biggest fans.
Radha is still in no mood to forgive him and stalks off with Honey after calling him a moron again. Who knows why she’s so crabby, I never figure it out. Anyway, after some note-passing and surreptitious whispering, and a hit-and-run attempt on his informant’s life by the skulking men:
he finally meets the woman at the Royal Theater that evening. She asks him for his house key, and says she’ll meet him at his home after the performance. It’s all very needlessly convoluted!
But: we are treated now to a lovely qawwali. I must say here that S.S. Mohinder’s music throughout this film is wonderful! I must find more of his work! This qawwali is performed by the Kohinoor Theater Company led by Dewan Sunderlal (Sunder) and his beloved Gopi (does anyone know who she is? Majnoo maybe? She is way more beautiful and charismatic than poor Chitra! Wish she’d been the heroine instead).
It’s one of those funny gender-based back-and-forths, with the women telling the men what will happen to them when women take over the world.
These are some of the lyrics as subtitled on the DVD:
You males will take out our veils when we shall reign
The world will be ruined when you shall reign
You will have bindi on your forehead
And we shall pierce a nose ring in your nose
We will go to the office proudly
And we shall make you sit in the kitchen
We shall hand over every kid who cries in your hands
And here it is for your listening pleasure:
It’s truly clever, hilariously enacted, and a wonderful tune. If I’d known about this one before the post on my favorite qawwalis, it would have been up there at the top!
Anyway, when Raju reaches home, the mystery woman is waiting for him. She tells him that she’s a nurse, and that one of her dying patients gave her murder plot details and a ring before he expired. She wants Raju to take on the task he had given her: to take the ring to Thakur Sahab in Kamalpur, and warn him that the kingdom’s young Prince will be murdered on his return to India. He’s to be assassinated at the Royal Theater on the 26th of the month. All her informant knew about the mastermind behind the plot is that he is missing half a finger on his left hand. Whew!
She is murdered (of course) while Raju makes tea for them. At this point the subtitles go crazy (as they did on several occasions—*damn you, Shemaroo*) and don’t match what’s happening onscreen at all. In fact, nobody’s even talking as they continue to pop up. Urgh.
As you’d expect, Raju is framed for the murder, and his would-be brother-in-law Inspector Madan is hot on his trail. He manages to get away, and after a series of adventures involving his sister, Radha again (and Honey), and his sick mother, he makes his way with the help of the Kohinoor Theater Company to Kamalpur. Disguised as one of them, he performs another exuberantly awesome song (“Mujhe Dekh Na Kudiye”) in front of Radha—who turns out to be the Princess of Kamalpur.
To be fair, I must say that at least the songs are subtitled, even though the subs are very lacking in other areas. Anyway, Dewan Sunderlal and company drop him off at the Princess’s guesthouse; I am thrilled to see that the woman who runs the guesthouse is Manorama. Raju sees photos of Radha all over the place and realizes who she is. She arrives soon after and he hides from her (she thinks he is guilty of the nurse’s murder, having read about it in the papers).
Doesn’t Manorama look so young?! Raju disguises himself as Radha’s driver, and leaves with her the next morning. When she discovers this deception she is furious (but interestingly, not scared). She makes him stop the car, and stomps off, prompting Raju to sing my new theme song, “O Chalo Ho Kahan Kaho”.
He also gives her back her car and keys, and sets off on foot himself. After more adventures which include rescuing young Honey from drowning, eluding the police, and befriending the Rajmata (Radha’s grandmother), Raju finally gets to meet Thakur Sahab and give him the ring.
It cracks me up that Thakur Sahab is wearing ivory lambswool gloves, but of course there’s a reason. One of the fingers on his left hand is a sausage-like fake.
Nahiiiiin! Reporter Raju has walked right into the lion’s den! How will he escape? Can he convince Radha of his innocence, and get her to help him? And fall in love with him? Can he save the Prince from the evil four-and-a-half-fingered Thakur?
Despite the occasionally ragged plot, I really enjoyed this. It moved along nicely, had a good mixture of comedy, suspense and drama, and once Radha got over her annoying crankiness the love story was nice too. And the songs…oh, how I love the songs!