Memsaab’s excellent review of the Dev Anand-Waheeda Rehman starrer Solva Saal reminded me of this film. Also Dev Anand, also a suspense thriller, and also with great music. And, may I add, like Solva Saal, extremely entertaining.
So I rewatched this and enjoyed myself all over again, ogling Dev Anand, humming along with the songs, and wishing there were more films like this.
The story begins with our hero, Madan Gopal (Dev Anand) being thrown out of yet another house for which he hasn’t paid rent. Madan lives in Delhi and is so hard up, he shifts from one home to another until the landlord or landlady wisens up and either evicts him or locks him out. This time, locked out of his home, Madan goes to meet a friend who’s kindly been collecting Madan’s mail. Since Madan hasn’t been around for the past two months, there’s a lot of mail—including a letter from Madan’s uncle Seth Manoharlal in Bombay.
In his letter, Madan’s uncle explains that though he’d earlier made a will bequeathing all his property to Kuldeep (Krishan Dhawan), the son of his sister-in-law, he’s now changed his mind. Kuldeep, it appears, has been up to no good, and Manoharlal no longer thinks him worthy of his millions. So Madan is going to be getting all the moolah: Rs 9 lakhs worth of property and a further 2 lakhs in the bank. Wowie!!
On the basis of the letter—and his prospective wealth—Madan gets a loan, with which he buys a ramshackle but quaint lorry. He shifts his worldly possessions (which seem to consist largely of pictures of women) into the back of the lorry, and sets off Bombay-wards.
Madan’s friend, meanwhile, is at a wedding; he sees Madan going by in his lorry, and stops him, pulling him in to have a cola. Considering he isn’t the host, this is presumptuous, but never mind. Madan’s pal tells him that the bride’s an heiress, getting married to an unscrupulous Bombay hotelier.
The bride, by the way, is called Raksha (Kalpana Kartik). Attired in her finery, Raksha is told by an eavesdropping friend that Raksha’s groom Surjit (Jeevan) has been telling her father that the dowry is far from adequate. If it isn’t upped, Surjit will gather up the baaraat and go.
Raksha also overhears Madan’s conversation with his friend, the salient points of which seem to be: (a) that Surjit’s a greedy and dissolute jerk (b) that if Madan was in Surjit’s bride’s place, he’d have run off; and (c) that Madan is off in his lorry to Bombay.
The scene now shifts to later, with Madan happily driving south from Delhi, whistling and singing the lilting Hum hain raahi pyaar ke as he goes past Fatehpur Sikri, the Taj Mahal, and central India…
…and along the way, makes an interesting discovery: a stowaway in the back of his lorry, a cocky young Sikh who calls himself Sardar Nihal Singh. A search of Nihal Singh’s belongings, and Madan finds a boxful of jewellery, which he guesses Nihal Singh’s stolen.
Nihal Singh’s swagger, however, intrigues Madan. He agrees to let the youth travel with him, especially when Nihal Singh brandishes a wad of money at a petrol pump attendant who refuses to fill petrol for Madan on credit. Nihal Singh, thinks Madan, has his uses.
So they travel together, drinking from Nihal Singh’s thermos, eating the food Nihal Singh’s sensibly brought along, and even taking turns driving.
Nihal Singh, though an enthusiastic driver, turns out to be none too good and they careen off the road and into the jungle. Madan decides they might as well halt for the night and sleep in the back of the lorry. This is when things start happening: a chance remark from Nihal Singh indicates that he is female, and before long, Madan’s made the ultimate discovery.
From then on, it’s fairly predictable: a handsome hero and a beautiful girl, and what do you expect? Some fireworks, a bit of banter (in the form of a lovely song, Kali ke roop mein chali ho dhoop mein), and some moonlit romance. By the time they reach Bombay, Madan and Raksha are good friends and more, though he still doesn’t know her name and still thinks she’s a thief.
In Bombay, Madan drives them to the home of his old friend, Radheshyam (Madan Puri, for once not the villain).
Radheshyam has news for Madan: it’s been a month and a half since Seth Manoharlal’s death, and all his property, according to his original will, is now Kuldeep’s. Madan tells Radheshyam about Manoharlal’s letter, but Radheshyam says that Kuldeep and his mother have denied the existence of a second will.
Madan and Radheshyam arrive at the conclusion that there’s some hanky-panky going on here. Radheshyam has a suggestion, though. Kuldeep lives with his mother and siblings in Mahabaleshwar (where the bulk of the property is), and has recently advertised for an estate manager. The manager, however must be a married man—the previous incumbent having run off with a maid (so could a married man, but let’s not nitpick).
So Madan conjures up a wife.
Raksha, surprised but amused, plays along. They pay a quick visit to Manoharlal’s lawyer, who confirms that Manoharlal had mentioned changing his will, but by the time the lawyer reached Mahabaleshwar, Manoharlal had died. Despite much searching, no second will was found.
Madan and Raksha, therefore, set off for Mahabaleshwar and present themselves at Kuldeep’s ill-gotten mansion. His hawk-eyed, wheelchair-bound, hookah-gurgling mother (Lalita Pawar) interrogates Madan and his `wife’, and then instructs her daughter Kamla to show them around the house and then to their accommodation.
One of the rooms is locked, and Kamla says it’s haunted. Madan’s sceptical, but lets it pass.
They also discover that since they’re a couple, they’ve only been given one room with an attached bathroom. Madan ends up sleeping in the bathroom—when he isn’t creeping about the house trying to find that missing will. A brief excursion into the `haunted’ room reveals ripped pillows and mattresses, bricks taken out of the walls, but nothing more.
It’s back to the bathtub for a puzzled Madan.
Over the next few days, more happens. Kuldeep and his mother have sacked all the old servants and it takes Madan a while to track down one of them, Piruchand, who was in the house the night Manoharlal died. He tells Madan that he had overheard Manoharlal—bedridden at the time—quarrelling with Kuldeep’s mother about the changing of his will. The old man had collapsed after his tirade, and Kuldeep had ordered Piruchand to fetch a glass of milk for Manoharlal, which Kuldeep’s mother made Manoharlal drink while Kuldeep massaged his legs.
Manoharlal, says Piruchand, died during the night. He adds that there’s another old servant around: a mad gardener called Kalicharan (Rashid Khan), whom Manoharlal had spoken to on the day before his death. Kalicharan, when Madan meets him, appears to have gone completely batty: he babbles on about the soil having betrayed him.
To add to all the intrigue, Kuldeep’s girlfriend Suneeta `Neeta’ (Shashikala) arrives at his invitation. Neeta’s a dancer at a nightclub—though she tells Kuldeep’s mother she’s a student at the Bombay College. What Kuldeep doesn’t know is that Neeta isn’t just a dancer; she’s also involved in smuggling and is a gold-digger, who’s after him only for those delicious 11 lakhs he’s inherited. What’s more, she’s in cahoots with Raksha’s one-time groom, Surjit.
While Neeta is trying to flirt with Madan and Kuldeep’s forcing his attentions on Raksha, a guest arrives, whom Neeta introduces as her `cousin’, Surjit:
What next? Will Madan be able to unearth the second will before his cover is blown? What will happen when Surjit discovers his runaway bride masquerading as the manager’s wife? And what really happened to Manoharlal?
Watch. This is a good, value-for-money entertainer, with much villainy and intrigue—and oh, such superb songs.
What I liked about this film:
The music. S D Burman is at his best here, from the peppy Kya ho phir jo din rangeela ho to the lyrical Dhalki jaaye chundariya hamari. What’s more, nearly all the songs are very well picturised: watch Kali ke roop mein, for instance, and you’ll see the delightful way in which the music is timed with Dev Anand pushing his feet over the edge of the lorry door… or his tooting the horn in Kalpana Kartik’s face. Or in Kya ho phir jo din rangeela ho, the way the camera moves, from the smoke rings swirling up into the air, across the club—one dancer twirling to the next, ending at the voluptuous Helen.
Dev Anand and Kalpana Kartik. They’d already been married three years when Nau Do Gyarah was made, and you can see the level of comfort between them. I love their chemistry: there’s affection, playfulness, romance, and a camaraderie that’s sweet.
The climax. Very well directed (Vijay Anand was the director), an important part of it actually in real time: a suspenseful five minutes.
What I didn’t like:
Possible spoiler coming up here…
Near the climax, the villain swaggers about bragging that he’s won a victory over everybody else. This would’ve been plausible, perhaps, if he had a more reliable backup plan than a rather dumb dancer; and if the police hadn’t surrounded the place. He does have a trump card that he threatens to use in order to make the police let him escape, but frankly, it seems a little weak as a plot element.
Little bit of trivia:
I remember a long-ago interview with Dev Anand in which he spoke about the filming of Nau Do Gyarah. They drove down all the way from Delhi to Bombay, and one of the halts was at the tiny town of Shivpuri (Madhya Pradesh), at that time much troubled by dacoits. The entire crew was given strict instructions to lock themselves in well at night. In the middle of the night, though, there was a banging at Dev Anand’s door, so vehement that he opened the door—only to find a fierce-looking moustachioed daaku outside.
And what did the daaku want? Only an autograph of his favourite film star!