Long before TV came into our lives, a family treat would be to go out for dinner or for a film at a local cinema. And though Bobby was the first film I saw, CID was the first black and white film I remember. I don’t recall anything of the film except a very brief bit from the climax, but you can imagine how gripping that must have been to have stayed in my memory for well over thirty years.
CID was made just ten years after Dr Kotnis ki Amar Kahani, and the difference in the two films is unbelievably vast. This is slick, fast-paced noir, with none of the theatrics and melodrama of the Kotnis flick. It has superb music, some fine acting, and—other than a passing nod to the hypocrisy of the rich (à la Shree 420 etc)—no pretensions whatsoever.
The film gets off to a flying start. There’s a series of brief telephone calls between a group of people, including a woman, and orders are given for a man to be ‘persuaded’. If he resists persuasion, he’s to be—you know what. A goon called Sher Singh (Mehmood) is deputed for the task.
The proposed victim, we discover, is Mr Srivastav, the editor of Bombay Times. He’s a staunchly upright man, on the verge of exposing an arch criminal. The criminal’s tried bribery and threats, but Srivastav has stood firm. Sher Singh’s threatening phone call makes Srivastav phone Shekhar (Dev Anand), a Detective Inspector in the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to tell him about the threat. Shekhar promises to come at once.
While Shekhar and his right-hand man Havildar Ram Singh are on their way, Sher Singh arrives at Srivastav’s office. Srivastav doesn’t yield, and Sher Singh, after stabbing him, leaves. (I wonder why he doesn’t wait to see if the man’s died; it doesn’t look as if Sher Singh’s in any hurry, anyway). On the way out, Sher Singh is seen by a petty thief called Master (Johnny Walker). Master’s been creeping about the Bombay Times office trying to find something to steal—a typewriter, perhaps—and ducks when he sees Sher Singh.
Shekhar and Ram Singh pass Sher Singh at the lift, but don’t take any notice. When they reach Srivastav’s office and find him stabbed, Shekhar realises that the man they passed was probably the culprit. Leaving Ram Singh to call an ambulance, Shekhar rushes off in pursuit. He doesn’t have a vehicle of his own, so hijacks the car of a girl called Rekha (Shakila), who’s thoroughly indignant at being treated in this cavalier fashion.
Rekha, in fact, is so indignant that after the chase has gone on for a while, she snatches the car key and pitches it out, bringing the car to a halt. It’s started raining, and despite searching, Rekha isn’t able to find the key. So, much to her annoyance, they spend the night in the car, her in the back, Shekhar draped over the steering wheel.
Next morning, after a tuneful wakeup call (Boojh mera kya naam re), Rekha’s discovery of the key, and her subsequent driving off without him, Shekhar makes his way to Srivastav’s office.
At Srivastav’s office, Shekhar meets the police inspector, Jagdish (Jagdish Raj, who else? This is one of his earliest films). They cross-question the Bombay Times staff and discover that Srivastav was planning an exposé, though of whom, nobody knows. Shekhar finds a clue: a cigarette butt that smells weird… since Srivastav didn’t smoke, it seems likely that his murderer did.
After a while, the scene shifts to Jagdish’s office. When Shekhar had galloped off after Sher Singh the previous night, Ram Singh had discovered Master, whom Jagdish is now interrogating. There’s a brief interlude thanks to the arrival of Master’s headstrong girlfriend (Kumkum, in a delightful role):
When Shekhar arrives, Master admits that he’d seen the murderer, well enough to be able to identify him. Srivastav, in the meantime, has died without having gained consciousness.
Soon after, in a meeting with his boss, the Superintendent of Police, Mr Mathur (K N Singh), Shekhar is able to give him some good news: the article Srivastav sent to the composing room just before he was stabbed indicates that he was planning an exposé. Also, the lab’s discovered that the cigarette found in Srivastav’s office was laced with charas.
Shekhar gets Ram Singh to bring out the files on the known charas addicts, and picks out one whom he thinks will help. Along with this man, a disguised Shekhar (if a moustache and long sideburns count as a disguise) manages to enter a charas den where he meets, recognises and arrests Sher Singh.
Master is brought in to identify Sher Singh and does so with trepidation, since Sher Singh glares horrifically at him.
There’s a brief pause here for a song and a little bit of romance. Shekhar, on his way to Mr Mathur’s house, finds himself travelling all the way with Rekha, who (though she obviously finds him attractive) thinks he’s stalking her. It finally turns out she’s Mr Mathur’s daughter, and all’s well. Love’s in the air.
But Shekhar has a problem on his hands. Though Sher Singh is in police custody, he refuses to say who paid him to get rid of Srivastav.
Just as Shekhar’s despairing of getting to the truth, he gets a phone call from a mysterious woman who tells him she has information regarding Srivastav’s murder—Shekhar can visit her; she’s sent her car for him.
Shekhar agrees and gets into the car. This has tinted glasses and curtains so he can’t see where he’s being taken, though I find that hard to believe. It’s broad daylight, and Shekhar’s not blind.
The girl he’s led to (Waheeda Rehman, in her debut) is beautiful, flirtatious—and obviously aware of what’s going on. Her conversation’s a little puzzling; she asks Shekhar if he’s fond of parrots, then goes on to say she knows he’s recently acquired a parrot that won’t talk—but for which she’s willing to pay him up to Rs 50,000.
It takes Shekhar a while to cotton on: Sher Singh!
But this cop’s an honest one, and he refuses to accept the bribe. The girl, therefore, knocks him out with drugged sherbet, and has him left on the Bombay-Agra Road, from where somebody eventually brings him to Mr Mathur’s house and Rekha’s loving care.
It’s Rekha’s birthday, so once Shekhar’s recovered, Mr Mathur invites him to join the party. Joining in the celebration is one of the city’s most respected philanthropists, Seth Dharamdas (Bir Sakhuja):
…and Rekha’s childhood friend, Kamini, whom Rekha hasn’t seen for the past four years, but whom Shekhar instantly recognises.
What does Kamini have to do with all of this? And why does Dharamdas whisper fiercely to her to leave the party? Who paid Sher Singh to murder Srivastav?
This is really not a whodunit, when you think of it. The murderer, in fact is shown fairly early in the film, and the reason for the crime is obvious right from the start. But it’s an exciting tale of how Shekhar discovers who’s behind it all, and ends up in a mess that’s reminiscent of Hitchcock: innocent man is framed and is chased by the law while he tries to clear his name.
Good solid entertainment, fine camera work, good acting, and more. A must-watch.
What I liked about this film:
Just about everything. CID is one of my favourite films; I’ve seen it I don’t know how many times, and have always enjoyed it. Particular highlights:
The music. This is among O P Nayyar’s best scores, with gems like Ae dil hai muhskil jeena yahan to Aankhon hi aankhon mein ishaara ho gaya.
Waheeda Rehman. She’s a little (very little!) gauche in the first scene where she appears—when she tries to bribe Shekhar—but through the rest of the film, you can see definite glimpses of the fine actress she was to become later. And her character, Kamini, is one of the best developed in the film, an intriguing personality whose past and present remain enticingly ambiguous.
Dev Anand. Yes, I am a Dev Anand fan, but even I find his mannerisms irritating. CID is one of those rare films where the mannerisms are missing, and he’s just a personable, keen and interesting cop on the tail of a criminal he can’t yet identify. A great performance. And he looks gorgeous.
What I didn’t like:
It would be sheer nitpicking (and a spoiler!) to say more about this, except that there’s a very convenient coincidence towards the end that I thought farfetched.
Other than that, a superb film. Do not miss it if you like Hindi suspense thrillers; this is among the best in the genre.
Little bit of trivia:
Raj Khosla, who directed this film, was gifted a Dodge by the producer (Guru Dutt) after the success of CID. Zohra Sehgal, today better known as an actress, was the choreographer for the film.