Monday, June 21, 2010

Baat Ek Raat Ki (1960) – a misstery thriller

Movies sometimes have the strangest surprises in store for you. Just when you think you know everything about a film, you realise that it fell through the cracks in your memory and disappeared forever! That is exactly what happened to me with this film. I have certainly seen it before, but couldn’t remember it at all! That is pretty useful while re-watching a mystery thriller, but very puzzling when it stars Dev Anand, Waheeda Rehman and the unforgettable Hemant Kumar number Na tum humen jaano. The mystery was solved once I reached THE END. The film is entertaining enough, but not particularly memorable.
The film opens with the sound of gun-fire and we see the back of a mysterious man in a raincoat and hat, running out of a house on a rainy night. He collides with a blind beggar and proceeds to the nearest telephone booth, while a voice-over tells us ominously that “this is the tale of one night (yeh hai BAAT EK RAAT KI).”
Next we see C.I.D. (Johnny Walker) equipped with a mask and knife, asking his girlfriend, Julie (?), to let him murder her! Its all because he wants his employer - lawyer Rajesh - to be tempted into taking a case, fighting it, and winning. This would establish Rajesh’s practise and his clerk - C.I.D. - would be able to earn enough to marry Julie! Naturally, Julie refuses to let herself be murdered in the cause of her own marriage.
C.I.D. need not have worried. Rajesh (Dev Anand) is soon to be embroiled in a juicy murder mystery that will change his life forever. He sees a woman attempting to commit suicide by diving head first into two feet of water. Not to be outdone, Rajesh swims to her rescue and soon rises out of the water carrying a beautiful, dripping, mysterious woman in his arms. He has barely had time to catch his breath from this exertion when the police arrive to claim the woman. Turns out that she is Neela (Waheeda Rehman), a famous danseuse, and a defendant in a murder charge.
Rajesh is called upon to give a written statement about Neela’s attempted suicide and rescue. While in the police station, he encounters a distraught old woman (Sabita Chatterji) who turns out to be none other than Neela’s not-so-long-lost Maa. Rajesh effects a cell-side re-union between mother and daughter, but Neela refuses to acknowledge her mother. She says that she is a murderer and cannot be anybody’s daughter! Rajesh is intrigued enough to delve further.
Maa tells Rajesh Neela’s rags-to-riches tale. They are a family of street performers and Neela was their star turn. In one of her street-side performances, she was ‘discovered’ by a theatre director, Beni Prasad. From there, she never looked back. She went on to win both fame and fortune with Beni Prasad’s company, while her family retired to the village. Maa has come to town upon hearing of the murder charge on Neela. She is convinced that Neela wouldn’t hurt a fly and entreats Rajesh to help her.
Rajesh sets out to investigate. He approaches Beni Prasad, only to find that he has died in a mysterious accident soon after Neela’s incarceration. He meets the owner of Neela’s former theatre company – Dwarka Das (?) – who proves to be suspiciously unhelpful, in spite of Rajesh’s sincere assertions of Neela’s innocence! Baulked of any help, he then reads up the case to find out how Neela was embroiled in the murder. On a rainy night, the police were called to a mansion by an anonymous call. When they got there, they found Neela with a smoking gun and the dead body of a young man named Ranjan.
The hidden Perry Mason in Rajesh is suddenly roused. He and C.I.D. make their way to the crime-scene, investigating it while the watchman (Asit Sen) snores on his watch. A few scares (that turn out to be perfectly harmless) later, Rajesh and C.I.D. leave the mansion no wiser. On their way out, they run into the blind beggar from the murder night. He keeps asking them for “Rani Maa”.
In the meanwhile, Neela is incarcerated in a mental hospital where she is terrorised by a mysterious stranger who asks her to sign a paper if she wants to live in peace. Her screams bring the medical staff running, but the stranger has disappeared. The doctor (Kanu Roy) is worried about her mental health. He tells the police that Neela is in no condition to give a statement, let alone stand a trial, and needs time to recover her mental balance. Rajesh offers to take her away from the jail and help her. After some argument, the police agrees to Rajesh’s proposal and Neela is soon ensconced in a big, lonely mansion.
The doctor’s advice is that Rajesh must convince Neela of his love and devotion to her – since that is the only way to cure her. Naturally, convincing Neela of his undying devotion takes Rajesh about 5 minutes. And soon, Neela’s story comes tumbling out. She had left her family a poor woman, but thanks to Beni Prasad, she was soon rich and famous. But, for all her wealth and fame, she was no more than a bird in a gilded cage. Between rehearsals, performances and meetings, she had no time to herself. She didn’t even have time to visit her mother and sister in the village!
Then Neela met Ranjan (Chandrashekhar) and the two fell in love. They decided to elope, but at the last moment Ranjan was doubtful of their future because she was so much richer than him. Neela promised to transfer all her property to him, and Ranjan promptly brought out a transfer deed for her to sign! But when the naive trusting Neela sat down to sign it, Ranjan’s conscience smote him. He revealed that he had been paid to romance her and get her to sign away all her property. An enraged Neela asked him at gun-point (how did she even have a gun handy?) to reveal the name of the man behind this conspiracy. Just as Ranjan was about to reveal THE NAME, the lights in the room went out, startling Neela into shooting. When she worked her way to Ranjan and light, she realised that she had succeeded in killing him!
To a lawyer of Rajesh’s calibre, Neela’s story points to only one conclusion – her inescapable guilt. (How come filmi characters NEVER watch any movies? I would’ve concluded the exact opposite!) About to give her up to the police, Rajesh realises that he loves Neela too much to send her to certain death. So the two run away together to sing a rainy duet. A chance encounter with the police, however, shows Rajesh that they can never be happy running away from “the long arm of the law”. So he turns around and gives Neela up to the police!
Once Neela is safely behind bars, Rajesh devotes all his energies towards proving her innocence. Will he succeed? Will Neela ever be able to run her hands through his puff? Will Rajesh ever forgive Neela for seeing his puff-less head? Will Dev Anand walk away with the “Perry Mason of the Year” award? The answer to some of these questions is yes.
The mystery is rather contrived and the red-herrings aren’t quite red enough, or fishy enough, to convince me. Plus, the plot makes a heroic effort to be convoluted but ends up with the most obvious suspect as the culprit – not exactly great mystery writing at work! But the film’s worst crime is its hero. Rajesh plays around with poor Neela’s emotions so much that he comes over more as a manipulative emotional blackmailer than an anxious lover. It not only diminishes Rajesh, it also ruins Neela who just comes off as a two-dimensional puppet, in consequence.
On the plus side, there are Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman who look gorgeous, and engage my attention in spite of their ham-heavy performances. More on the plus side is the beautiful music by S.D. Burman. My favorite is Hemant’s version of Na tum humen jaano but the other songs were also very pleasant. Its not the best film ever, but it does help pass the time very pleasantly and wasn’t a bad way to spend my rainy Friday evening.

24 comments:

  1. Waheeda Rehman and Dev Anand, anyway always make for a pleasant watch.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Long time since I saw this... and like you, I've forgotten what actually happened, though I did recall that the Waheeda character was accused of murder (and convinced that she was guilty too).

    Wasn't this the film with that lovely song, Akela hoon main is duniya mein?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Dev Anand as a lawyer?? Looks interesting... And the lead pair is definitely worth watching the film for :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm in the same shoes as you - I've seen "Baat Ek Raat Ki", not once but twice and still don't remember anything about it. It's a typical Bollywood mystery - sounds a lot better in concept than on screen. Even SDB's music is unremarkable, save for the tandem versions of "na tum hamen jano."

    ReplyDelete
  5. Banno, they probably will make me re-watch it, once I have forgotten the plot, again!

    dustedoff, Akela hoon main is there in the beginning of the film. Its a nice song, but is so out of place in the movie (and looks and feels so much like Yeh dil na hota bechara) that it doesn't make much of an impression.

    Sharmi, Dev A looks grand in the black robe and white collar! :D Its certainly worth a watch for all the pretty.

    Shalini, it certainly does sound better in concept than execution because the screenplay and dialogues do nothing to help the concept along. At the end of the day, it just feels like a collection of beautiful, though bland, collection of cliches.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I haven't seen this one as it was not even an average hit but the songs you mentioned were regularly aired over the radio. My favourite is AKELA HOON MAIN...

    But loved your review, thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  7. New autumn blog look, but summer has just begun!
    I listened to the songs on YT and I've gotta agree with Shalini--unremarkable music for that time. What is remarkable is Waheeda and the art deco bed in "na tum hamen jano" she lies on.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Nice new look on your blog, Bollyviewer. :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Nasir, even Dev-Waheeda couldn't lift it above a flop?! I am not surprised at all...

    sophy, that bed was remarkable! I meant to screen cap it, and then forgot. The autumn look was just an experiment - its gone now!

    Banno, thanks! I've been experimenting with Blogger's new "Template Designer". After two years of the same template, I thought OiG was due a make-over. :D

    ReplyDelete
  10. Love the new look too! I've got to experiment with the Template Designer too.
    B/W fits the oldisgold theme so well.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Great new Look!
    Love it!
    Though I'll miss the miniature!

    I never saw this film but heard a short version of the film on Vividh Bharati ages ago and was very much fascinated by it.

    Your review was usual a pleasure to read!

    ROTFL at:
    'She says that she is a murderer and cannot be anybody’s daughter! Rajesh is intrigued enough to delve further.'


    Waheeda looks so beautiful and Dev so dashing! And a murder misstery sounds like a deadly combo! I mean in a positive way. But I think all these directors and scriptwriters should be sent to school so that they learn to make a plausible ending.

    AND I also want to go and live in a mansion!

    ReplyDelete
  12. ROTFL @ "Will Rajesh ever forgive Neela for seeing his puff-less head?"

    I had seen this movie exactly 11 years ago. I remember the murder and Waheeda's guilt...also remember Dev Anand as a lawyer in the courtroom, the blind man on the witness box and the ball act, but I don't remember anything else, not even who the real suspect is :-P

    With Dev looking as good as he is (with and without his puff), Waheeda Rehman and Na tum humen jaano in Hemant Da's voice, I wouldn't mind re-watching this.

    ReplyDelete
  13. sophy, thanks! The template designer is great - so many options for customising. Do check it out. What's your blog, by the way?

    harvey, thanks! What miniature?

    Dev-Waheeda's mansion was awesome. It had a very picturesque tower looking out on the sea (very convenient for suicides) with a spiral staircase going up to it, and the best art-deco bed ever!

    sunheriyaadein, glad to know that I am not alone in forgetting all about this film! I think I last watched it about 10-11 years ago, too.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Great thing about the blogosphere is the fact taht you can pick up great knowledge about movies without actually watching them, i love that na tum song you've posted, it reminds me of some other song but i can't quite place my finger on it, and taht is one gorgeous bed although it's a little too low for a tallie like me

    ReplyDelete
  15. bollywooddeewaana, blogs certainly are a great labour-saving device - in five minutes you know all about 2.5 hrs!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Sorry to disagree bolyviewer, this film is quite good really and mystery part worked for me too..(I am a mystery movie buff, BTW)
    Besides it was good fun watching evergreen Dev saab and delectable waheeda,,
    no worry about paisa vasool which is a meagre 49 bucks anyway for Captain CD

    For select 10 mystery films of bollywood an interesting blog list them here:
    http://www.cinemaaonline.com/cinemaagazine/the-10-best-murder-mysteries-in-hindi/2
    This one isn't there either..

    ReplyDelete
  17. Nagesh, I am so glad you liked this film. It would be a very, very sad waste of gorgeous Dev-Waheeda and lovely Na tum hamen jaano if nobody appreciated it at all! And thanks for the link to the "best murder mysteries" list. Most of those films would make it to my list, too!

    ReplyDelete
  18. For a review of 20 good mystery movies in Hindi on my blog, go to
    nageshkumarcs.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  19. Interestingly, Dev saab has many films like these, which had reasonably memorable songs and an interesting premise, but they flopped ! Notably, "Bombay ka Babu" with Suchitra, "Solva Saal" with Waheeda, "Maya" with Mala Sinha and his own magnum opus "Prem Pujati" also with Waheeda.

    Strangely enough, these flops, had no adverse impact on his popularity

    ReplyDelete
  20. Chandru, I LOVE Bombai Ka Babu and Solva Saal and never have any trouble recalling their plots. With this one, I watch and sort-of-like, and completely forget withing minutes after watching!

    "Strangely enough, these flops, had no adverse impact on his popularity" No impact on his evergreen-ness you mean! ;D

    ReplyDelete
  21. So I finally watched this film, and could understand why it would disappear through the cracks of one's memory. :) Quite a vague story. However, the songs are really, really lovely. 'Na tum hume jaano'is I think, one of the most romantic songs, ever.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Banno, it is such a pretty film. If only they'd made some effort in the story department. Na tum humen jaano is superb. It does require a big stretch of imagination to accept that Hemant Kumar's soulful voice can come out of Dev A's lips, though!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Great entertainer with the great Dev Anand. Dialogue by Dev's permanent writer Vrajendra Gaur are outstanding. the dialogues reach the pinacle of creativity in the court scenes.

    ReplyDelete
  24. ...........and that's another hit from evergreen star,dev anand

    ReplyDelete