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Monday, January 18, 2010

Inspector (1956) – a thrilling family drama!

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.


  1. Hooray for Shalini!!! She sent ME this one too, although without subtitles I didn't understand what on earth was happening. Now I will watch it again with the benefit of hindsight and your review (ps do you girls want to work for me as a subtitler? I can pay practically nothing...but you will be doing your karma SUCH favors!).


  2. I'd love to work as a subtitler and I can take payment in movies! Once I've figured out how to use the subtitling programs, I'll be ready to go. :-D

  3. You're back at last! I was missing those screencaps and the absence of hooting out loud! This looks pretty good, I love masala-noir as its got the best of both with a bit of almost baby-switching and dark noir lighting! Ashok looks cute in this, and I think i can excuse his portliness if he makes the police suit look good!

  4. I love Ashok Lol at your commentary at him repeating several years at school, i'm yet to see a film with Geeta Bali in it

  5. Yes, yes to Bollyviewer subtitling!

    Of course, the "real" subtitles couldn't be as funny as your blog subtitles, but I'd happily take both. :)

  6. Wow, a grand way to start the year!
    Thanks for being back! Love your captions. Esp. The first one!
    Such an … hmm.. entertaining film at that. A cousin of mine would only go to the movies, if the y had good songs. And thus I know the fallacy of following such a rule.
    Ashok though a lil bit elderly does look fab here. And Geeta Bali is ALWAYS good (Bawre nain included)!
    One movie, which I would love to see on the basis of one song is Bank Manager with the song „Saba se yeh keh do“! *sigh*

  7. Hi Bollyviewer

    According to my friend, tamil and malaylam DVDS are available at
    Naga stores & OK general store in Calgary. You could perhaps look up the local desi directory for their location?

    Apparently South Indian movies are more widely available in Toronto.

    Hope this helps

  8. Oh, this sounds like something I'd love to see! I don't mind suspension of disbelief - within limits - and Hindi suspense films are always high on my priority list. Hmmm... thinking of which, is that why they need 'suspension of disbelief' - because they're 'suspense' films?

    BTW: Am confused about one thing, who's the Banke (Tiwari) who gets killed? Are there two characters called Banke here?

    harvey: Me to,, me too! I want to see Bank Manager only because I so love Saba se yeh keh do. Such a gorgeous song, but the film seems to not available anywhere! :-(

  9. Rum, I've been lazy after the holidays. :-)

    You should definitely watch this - especially for the entertaining masala-noir and Dada Mani!

    bollywooddeewana, for a Geeta Bali film, this may be a good place to start. She is pretty charming here, which is not always the case (I found her very annoying in Baawre Nain and Jaal).

    Anarchivist, if I could live on watching movies alone, I'd happily give up my job and subtitle all the time!

    harvey, watching movies for a good song (or songs) is a very risky business, indeed. Sadly, I am addicted to it and no matter how many bad movies I get to see, I still follow songs into movies. I do watch movies for favorite stars, directors and/or interesting plot synopsis too, so at least my path to bad movies is varied! :-)

    I love Saba se yeh kah do, too. Do you have any idea about the film? From the imdb listing it looks like Shekhar or Rajan Kapoor is in the lead with Kamini Kaushal. I dont even know who Shekhar and Rajan Kapoor are!

    filmbuff, thanks for that info. I do know about Naga store - I think they only rent DVDs, which isnt a convenient option for me. But I will definitely check out OK store, next time I am in the Indian market (thats where it is). Re Toronto, everything is more widely available there!

    dustedoff, there is only one Banke (Tiwari). The evil servant should be Badri (KN Singh). Thanks so much for pointing that out, will correct it right away. I clearly need to polish up my proof-reading skills!

  10. Sounds very entertaining. As usual, love your captions!
    ' watching movies for a good song (or songs) is a very risky business, indeed. Sadly, I am addicted to it and no matter how many bad movies I get to see, I still follow songs into movies.
    Ditto with me.
    Ashok Kumar and charming Geeta Bali...I would love to see this one.

    @ dustedoff : supense films need suspension of disbeleif!!! *rotfl*

  11. I'm still recovering from the shock of discovering that you find Geeta Bali - adorable, vivacious Geeta Bali - annoying.8-D Ah well, each to her own.:-)

    AK seems to have done a number of masala noirish/suspense films, but the one I'm really *dying* to see is "Mr. X" which sadly is nowhere to be found.

    Speaking of sad, I hate to report that "Bank Manager" completely fails to live up to the wonderful "saba se yeh kehdo.":-(

  12. Well, I don't trust imdb much. It is quit epossible that kamini Kaushal plays a character role in the film and that the leading roles are played by somebody else.
    Minoo Mumtaz did play lead roles in some movies like Black Cat. Shekhar and Rajan Kapoor are empty pages for me!

  13. dustedoff, hahaha. I guess they should be called "suspend" films, then!

    sunheriyaadein, do watch it - its solid entertainment for 2+ hrs.

    Shalini, Geeta Bali does tend to crank up the vivaciousness to insane levels, and I have very low tolerance for manic bubbliness!

    ""Bank Manager" completely fails to live up to the wonderful "Saba se yeh kehdo.""

    I am not surprised - that song would take a lot of living up to. But who are the leads?

    And please do compile a list of Dada Mani's must-see hero roles - I have no idea what to look out for!

    harvey, imdb may not be much use but I am sure Shalini can enlighten us.

    Minoo was great in Black Cat - I do hope she played heroine in some more films!

  14. Yes, Shalini, please do tell us more about Bank Manager.
    It is so funny to see so many film titles like bank manager, inspector, jailor, Detective, Private Secretary were rampant in those days

  15. Wasn't Chandrashekhar the lead (opposite Minoo Mumtaz) in Bank Manager?

    @bollyviewer, re: proofreading - don't worry, a friend of mine, who's also an author (and bestselling, at that!) was telling me that his book's gone into a fourth edition, and they're still cleaning up typos. You're in illustrious company! ;-)

  16. RE: Bank Manger, the leads are Kamini Kaushal and Shekhar (you probably know him from the terrific Rafi solo "tujhe kya sunau mein dilruba" from Aakhri Dao). Minoo plays the vamp who leads Shekhar astray. Interestingly enough, although Kamini is the heroine she has no songs in the movie...they're all picturized on Minoo.

  17. harvey, sounds like films back then were very professional!

    dustedoff, really?!! What did he write? :-D

    Shalini, is there no end to your encyclopaedic knowledge of vintage Bollywood? So that hopeless specimen of damp wood (or some such species), who presumed to woo Nutan in one of Rafi's loveliest songs, is Shekhar. Hmm... my curiosity about Bank Manager has reached an untimely end.

  18. bollyviewer: His name's Stephan Thome - an award-winning German novelist (yes, since his book's in German, I haven't read it myself). But from what little I know about it (from what Stephan told me), it sounds interesting.

  19. Oh! The award committee's proofreading skills are as bad as mine? ;-)

  20. Yes! Though I'm guessing award committees don't mind the occasional typo - they're looking more for substance than anything else.

  21. I bet they wont find any proof-reading issues in your book (which I still havent gotten my hands on - inspite of ordering from an Indian site, now!).

  22. I haven't seen this film, but i guess its quite an interesting film. One thing is completely unbelievable that a Minoo Mumtaz film without a song or a dance. Does really Minoo Mumtaz didn't had any songs or dances?

  23. @bollyviewer and Shalini..I want to see the can I get it?

  24. I wanted to see this movie from a very long time.I would love to see this film.Can you please tell me where could I find a dvd of it?It would be great..