While, in the world of Hindi films, songs are often sung on trains, alas – trains too are occasionally dangerous places to be in. And I’m not simply talking about a train in which a heartbroken and lonely hero or heroine is travelling [such trains invariably have frightful accidents in which the hero(ine) is about the only person left alive and whole, though he/she has lost his/her memory, leading to interesting complications].
But that’s another story (or lots of other stories). This one is about the Calcutta Express, from Bombay to Calcutta. A terribly dangerous train if you happen to be a rich merchant travelling on it with a briefcase full of money.
…a briefcase which, soon after the train crosses Igatpuri, is seen in the hands of a nasty-looking goon (a very scarred Shetty).
He leaps off the train into a river, and is picked up by a less nasty-looking but very smirky accomplice (Madan Puri). They drive off, while on the train, a railway employee discovers the dead body of the poor merchant who made that fatal train journey.
Soon after, the accomplice, now wearing (besides that smirk) also a wig and fake beard and whatnot, passes himself off as a wealthy Nawab at the shop of a jeweller, Hiralal (Sundar). The Nawab Sahib asks to see Hiralal’s best diamond – what looks like a bit of glass to me, and not very sparkly either – and on discovering that it’s worth a lakh, doesn’t bat an eyelid. Instead, he opens his briefcase (brimming with currency notes) and gets ready to pay Hiralal.
At this point, a phone call comes for the Nawab Sahib, whose Begum it is. Begum Sahiba tells her ‘husband’ that she wants to buy an imported American car, and she’s seen the perfect one. Only, the seller wants cash – a lakh. He won’t take a cheque. When Nawab Sahib decides he’ll buy the diamond later and give this cash for the car instead, Hiralal (who’s been eavesdropping avidly on the conversation) sees a big sale slipping away, and offers to accept a cheque for the diamond.
So the deal is done, and Nawab Sahib goes away with the diamond and Hiralal rejoices over his cheque – before the writing on it disappears, taking with it all Hiralal’s happiness.
Quick switch now, to a garden where CID inspector Shyam (Rajesh Khanna) is romancing his girlfriend Neeta (Nanda).
A group of cops arrive just as Neeta and Shyam finish their cavorting and the last verse of their song. [How considerate of the cops to wait]. Shyam bundles Neeta into a cab – he, by the way, has told her he’s a student of art, not a cop – and then shows his ID to who are, in effect, colleagues. They tell him that someone using Shyam’s car number plate has pulled off a jewellery heist – the one at Hiralal’s – and so could Shyam please come to office.
[About time, too. My father was in the police, and he was in office all day long, hard at work. I have never seen a police officer who got the time during office hours to go partying the way cops do onscreen].
Back in office, Shyam’s boss (Iftekhar) tells him all about the heist and assigns the case to Shyam. While they’re at it, the smirky baddie phones Shyam and makes some vague threats about doing away with Shyam. The conversation goes on just long enough for the cops to:
(a) Discover that the call was from a public phone booth in Juhu
(b) Record the call, which allows Shyam to listen to it over and over again
[Why did the baddie really phone Shyam? No self-respecting cop, especially if he’s a Hindi film hero, will be deterred by such milk-and-water threats. The only point seems to be that it gives our hero a clue].
The clue being a distinctive car horn beeping in the background. Why and how this leads him to a certain hotel is not divulged [Shemaroo strikes again?], but the next thing we know, Shyam makes his way to the hotel and watches a floor show where the lady in the limelight is Lily (Helen, who else?).
Her dance over, Lily comes over to meet Shyam. “Hi, handsome,” she says [good 20/20 vision this girl’s got], and we discover they’re old friends from college. Lily’s story is a sob one: her father, a drunk and a gambler, died leaving behind lots of debts. Lily was driven to take up a job as a dancer, and has been at it now for a while.
It’s obvious she’s quite infatuated with Shyam, and he indulges her by flirting mildly with her too.
Unfortunately, while Lily briefly goes off to the cloakroom, a bunch of baddies come out of nowhere and the next thing we know, Shyam is chasing them (or they’re chasing him; it’s all very confused) all across the beach next to the hotel. They finally bash our hero over the head and leave him. Why they don’t kill him – since they obviously have no compunctions about this kind of thing – is beyond me.
Anyway, Shyam comes to after a while, and the next couple of scenes consist of him doing (and about time, too!) some police work – meeting colleagues, making enquiries, phoning people.
When we get back to his love life, there’s a revelation: it turns out Neeta, though she loves Shyam, is not keen on marrying him at the moment – more so when he tells her he’s a police officer. “I have some responsibilities,” she tells him ambiguously, but finally agrees to let him come and meet her mother.
Back home with mum (Mumtaz Begum), we discover the reason for Neeta’s reluctance to get married.
It emerges that Neeta’s father Ram Dev (Chaman Puri) is a jailbird, in prison for murdering his employer. Wrongly accused, of course – he was found standing next to the corpse, bloody dagger in hand and screaming “Khoon! Khoon!” (“Murder! Murder!”). Neeta’s aim in life is to quickly finish college, get a job and earn enough to set in motion the process to get her father proven innocent. [Hmm. How? Bribes? Or actually, maybe a private eye].
Shyam, who (as per his promise) has dropped by to meet Neeta’s mum, overhears this damning conversation from outside the window, and is even more aghast when there’s a thunderous knocking at the front door and Neeta opens to find – daddy! Ram Dev has escaped from jail, and has come to collect his wife and daughter so that the trio can run away together, somewhere where they won’t be traced.
Their plan is foiled by the ever-conscientious Shyam, who walks over to the front door, is let in – and immediately arrests daddy. He promises Neeta that he will dig up the case and ensure that Ram Dev is cleared of all charges, but Neeta is so angry, she yells at Shyam to never come near her again. Oh, dear. Another love story seemingly come to a sad end.
[But look at the silver lining: this allows Shyam more time to attend to work.] – and he soon has a lot to do, what with digging up files on Ram Dev’s case.
We’re treated to a brief glimpse of Lily – who, of course, as has been obvious from the beginning, is mixed up with the baddies. She and the smirky baddie (who disapproves of Lily’s association with Shyam) are summoned by their boss to his dark den, and given their instructions…
…which revolve around a wealthy diamond merchant who’s arrived in town and is staying at the same hotel where Neeta (after much searching for jobs) is finally a receptionist. This job she owes to a man who comes one day to visit her and her mum, telling them that he’s an old and dear friend of Ram Dev’s, and that he’d like to help the two ladies out any way he can.
Anyway, back to the merchant. Having made a deal (and pots of money), he asks the hotel proprietor to get a train ticket booked for him on the Calcutta Express so that he can go back home. The proprietor, who’s oilier than a canned sardine, is all obsequious and eager to please. The ticket is booked and handed over to Sethji, who goes off to the station to catch the train.
Once seated, he finds that he doesn’t have the compartment to himself; he’s joined by a somewhat loud but good-natured man named Pyarelal (Rajendranath). And that isn’t all; shortly after, another passenger enters. This is a blingy, overtly flirtatious girl who calls herself Kalavati (Nanda, again). She soon sets about flirting with Pyarelal and sharing an orange with him.
When the train stops at Igatpuri, while Sethji is eating the dinner he’d ordered, ‘Kalavati’ asks Pyarelal to come with her to the station refreshment room so they can grab a bite to eat. While Pyarelal is busy washing his hands after their meal, the girl disappears – and the train leaves, leaving Pyarelal stranded at Igatpuri.
…and when the train arrives at the next station, Sethji is discovered dead.
What is going on? Why is the Calcutta Express such a dangerous train for rich merchants to travel in? And why has Neeta become a part of the gang that’s doing away with the merchants?
Watch. This isn’t one of those all-time great suspense films – not by a long shot – but it’s enjoyable enough.
What I liked about this film:
The eye candy. Or, more specifically, Rajesh Khanna and Helen. Both of them look gorgeous, despite the sometimes unflattering 70s clothes. I must confess to hating those horrid sleeveless jackets Rajesh Khanna is made to wear in songs like Ni soniye; awful! – he looks so much more delectable in a good suit.
What I didn’t like:
All the holes in the plot. Okay, this isn’t riddled with holes like some of the other so-called ‘suspense films’ that I’ve seen, but it’s not completely intact, either. The Train has its fair share of mysterious motives (why does the gang target only jewel dealers, and nobody else who’s rich?), pointless turns of story, and elements that make little, sometimes no, sense. Oh, and the end is such a let-down. Not just the revelation about how and why Neeta was masquerading as Kalavati, but also the revelation about who actually committed the crime for which Ram Dev had been imprisoned – that was just too pat, too convenient.
And you cannot, cannot have a woman look like this in profile:
Then have her turn around and look like this:
Even her hairdo is so obviously not the same as that of the woman’s in the first screen shot. An utterly pointless turn of plot too, I may add – its only significance in the story being that it allows a song.