It was the lovely song – Dil chhed koi aisa nagma – on youtube, that put me on track of this film. Geeta Bali singing of heartbreak and Ashok Kumar looking guilty as charged of said heartbreak? I HAD to see the film! Fortunately for me, friend Shalini was able to send me this hard-to-find film. Experience has taught me not to have very high expectations when watching a film on the strength of one song and its star cast. So, I began with modest expectations and the first 20 min of the film did not look too promising. But just when I settled in to watch a family drama complete with predictably misplaced children and sad families, the film took a masala-noirish turn and soon developed into one of the most enjoyable films I’ve seen for a while!
Once upon a time, there was a rich but childless couple – Thakur Mahendra Singh (Nazir Hussain) and his wife Kamala (actress unknown). Kamala’s unhealthy obsession with dolls, prompts her doting husband to adopt a child. Sadly for them, they have an evil servant – Badri (K. N. Singh). Badri, has a son back in his village, for whom he senses a golden opportunity. “What could be better for my son than to be adopted by a rich family?” thinks Badri, but his wife Ganga (Achala Sachdev), disagrees. Badri threatens her into giving up her baby, and takes him to Mahendra as an orphan up for adoption. The child is adopted by Mahendra and named Rajkumar. Just when Rajkumar is all set for a life of wealth and comfort, the unexpected happens - Kamala gets pregnant!
Badri is worried about Rajkumar’s fate, but doesnt need to worry too long. The delicate Kamala is sent to a hill-side retreat for her delivery. Her only companions in the isolated hill-side villa are Badri and a maid who, unbeknownst to her, is Badri’s wife Ganga. I did wonder why Mahendra chose to send his heavily pregnant wife to an isolated cottage, far off from medical care, but stifled the thought as unworthy of a seasoned bollyviewer. For all I knew, Mahendra might be getting his wife a ghost-assisted “natural” delivery! What Mahendra’s wife eventually gets though, is a fall-assisted delivery. Poor Kamala! She meets the fate in store for all unwanted mothers and dies in childbirth. But Badri is not satisfied with her death. He wants her newborn to be killed, too. A horrified Ganga escapes with the child, to save him from Badri.
Years go by. Ganga brings up the kidnapped kid, who turns into a somewhat portly but still very charming Inspector Shyam (Ashok Kumar). Shyam works for the police force in Pune, but is soon transferred to Bombay where adventure, romance and a grown up Rajkumar (Pran) are waiting for him.
Rajkumar has grown up to be a character that only a Pran can play – he is a wastrel, a drunk and much addicted to visiting kothas. His natural father, Badri, has become a tonga driver who takes every opportunity to remonstrate with Rajkumar about his wastrel ways. Rajkumar, being the nice man that he is, dismisses this presumptuous stranger with nothing more than a drunk “get lost” or “shut up”!
One day, at Bijli-bai’s (Kammo) kotha, Rajkumar quarrels with Banke (Tiwari). The quarrel spills over into a drunken brawl after they leave the kotha, and Banke is killed in the fight. While the now-sober Rajkumar is wondering what to do with the corpus delicti, Badri comes up to help. He tells Rajkumar and his side-kick Mauji (another unknown actor) to scoot, and let him take care of the body. Once they’ve left, Badri wraps the corpse in a gunny bag and drives around with it in his horse-carriage, looking for a body-disposal-chute. And he soon finds one, in the boot of Varsha’s (Geeta Bali) car.
Varsha has just driven in from Pune, and stops to drop off friend Sheela (Minoo Mumtaz). While she is seeing Sheela to her door, Badri slips the body into her car boot. Varsha doesnt discover her unexpected co-passenger till she gets home and opens the boot. Horrified to find herself in possession of an unknown corpse, Varsha does everything that a person in her position should NOT do. She drags the body through her driveway, and deposits it by the lamp post outside her gate – in full view of a policeman! The policeman calls up re-inforcements and Varsha is soon being questioned by Inspector Shyam.
For one who was caught in the act of disposing a dead body under suspicious circumstances, Varsha is strangely cheerful. And thats because in Inspector Shyam, she’s discovered a former classmate and the love of her life. While the latter is quite understandable, the former is entirely inexplicable – Shyam must have flunked for years to manage to be Varsha’s classmate! I know, I KNOW… suspension of disbelief blinkers ON. To move on with the story, Varsha first denies knowing about the body and then, admits to being frightened on discovering it in her boot. She is arrested, but bailed out by family friend – Thakur Mahendra Singh! YES, a family re-union is on the way, but only after Shyam has solved the murder.
Shyam, being the hero, is of course way more intelligent than a policeman in Bollywood has any right to be. He actually has the body sent for post-mortem, and tries to find out about the dead man! His search leads him to Bijli-bai’s kotha and eventually, to Rajkumar - a search that painstakingly follows clues picked up from the dead body and from witness testimonies. Shyam isnt Sherlock Holmes, but his grey cells work like a policeman’s ought to, and its such fun following him around as he sleuths.
This being a Hindi-noir-ish film, there are plenty of plot holes, weird disguises, lots of family drama, lovely songs, and the recommended allowance of scenery chewing! Even the romance is all present and correct, though in a very non-filmi way. Varsha and Shyam are star-crossed lovers but remarkably cheerful about it! Sadly though, they do not indulge in any love-duets – the only thing lacking in this film.
Ashok Kumar is of course, the best thing about the film. He’s a bit too portly to carry off the police uniform, but still charming enough for us to ignore that. And I loved Geeta Bali who was so natural and bubbly (quite unlike her annoying bubbliness in films like Bawre Nain and Pocketmaar). She got some fun dialogues, too. Pran was bad in the smoldering way that only he can be – smoke rings and all. Minoo Mumtaz though, was completely wasted – she barely got any lines and did no dancing, at all.
Still, minor quibbles apart, the film was a very entertaining time pass, and one that will probably make it to my DVD player a few more times.