A couple of months ago, I got a call from Seventymm (the video rental service I’d subscribed to), letting me know that they were shutting down rentals and becoming retail-only. Since I’d paid up in advance for a year’s subscription, I had Rs 800 worth of unused vouchers—which, they said, I could use to pick products from the store. I ordered seven DVDs. They (or, rather, the five Seventymm were able to deliver—the rest went out of stock) arrived last week. Reporter Raju was one of them.
Also, last week, I finished a writing assignment for which the research involved watching a diverse set of films. A lot of them, though, had one thing in common: a newspaper office and/or a reporter as an important character. This one was on the to-watch list, but didn’t arrive in time for me to see it before submitting my article. Just as well, actually, because despite the name, it doesn’t exactly show the reporter doing much any newspaper work. Unless beating up goons is part of the job description.
Rajkumar ‘Raju’ (Feroze Khan) seems, at any rate, to be more acclaimed for his fighting skills than his prowess with a typewriter. [The pen is mightier than the sword? Hah!] He has again been showing off his heroism and has been single-handedly instrumental in catching crooks—the police, as usual, just those crucial few steps behind.
The film begins (after the credits, during which we see Raju doing the cops’ work for them) at a party. Raju is being felicitated, and his boss, Mr Sharma, is heaping praise on this fine reporter.
Also at the party are Raju’s sister Bimal (Indira) and her fiancé Madan (Shah Agha), a police inspector. Bimal and Madan have been engaged for the past two years and have been wanting to get married, but Raju seems to be more concerned with fighting crooks than looking after his sister’s welfare. Madan assures Bimal that he’ll talk to Raju about the matter, right now.
He doesn’t get a chance, though. Our celebrity reporter is too busy with fans to get a moment’s respite, but invites Madan to come over to his (Raju’s) house the following evening.
The next day, however, proves to be jam-packed with activity for Raju. It begins with the owner of a rival media house trying to bribe Raju into joining his newspaper. In the midst of Raju’s righteously indignant refusal of the offer, the phone rings. It’s a little girl who introduces herself as Honey, tells Raju he is her hero, and says she’d like to meet him someday.
Just after Honey has rung off, another female phones. This time, it is a woman (Sulochana Chatterjee), who hurriedly begs Raju to meet her at the National Park that day at 5 PM. She has something vital to share, and she will have a pram in tow—so that he can identify her.
At 5 PM, though, just before Raju reaches the National Park, the woman (her name is Kanta, though she hasn’t told Raju that) is being ‘kept an eye on’ by a bunch of villainous goons.
Raju arrives, and before he can meet Kanta, ends up accidentally meeting Honey instead, who’s also come to the park with her governess Radha (Chitra). Radha had encountered Raju earlier that day—he was running down the street and banged headlong into her, knocking her over. She’s very miffed at him.
By the time Raju gets around to meeting Kanta, the villains have decided to take some action instead of just pacing menacingly around her. She’s hurrying through the park with her pram and just has enough time to whisper to Raju that she’s in deep trouble and he shouldn’t try to talk to her [Raju is, obviously, puzzled. She was the one who wanted to speak to him in the first place, wasn’t she? This flip-flop is irritating].
She finally tells him to follow her from afar until she’s shaken off the villains.
Unfortunately, the villains nearly get to poor Kanta first. Trying to escape, she almost comes under a truck (driven by one of the gangsters). The pram goes careening off on its own down a series of steps, tossing wildly along [The Odessa Steps sequence, anyone?]. By the time Raju races down the steps, concerned passersby have gathered up the unconscious Kanta and sent her to the hospital. The pram turns out to have been empty, thank goodness.
Raju rushes off to the hospital, and there discovers that Kanta had regained consciousness soon after, and has left. He also discovers that Kanta is a nurse in this very hospital, and has left a note for Raju with one of her colleagues.
The note instructs Raju to come to the Royal Theatre that evening at 6.30, where Kanta will meet him. She has enclosed the ticket with the note. [Point: If Kanta had already planned this—bought the ticket etc—why didn’t she hand him the ticket in the park?]
Anyway, Raju obediently goes along to the Royal Theatre for the 6.30 show, and finds himself seated next to Kanta. She tells him to give her his house keys and says she’ll leave now, before the show. He should leave after the show and come home; then she’ll be able to reveal this entire mystery to him, tête à tête.
She takes the keys, and slips out. Above, in one of the boxes, the goons look on. [So, again: why hadn’t she handed Raju the note and ticket before—the goons obviously knew she was coming here, so why the secrecy?]
So Raju sits through the show—a performance by the Kohinoor Theatrical Company, Sole Proprietor Dewan Sunder Lal (Sunder), Registration Number 420. Sunder Lal, his wife Gopi (Jeevan Kala) and their troupe are a travelling company and will be leaving Bombay now, but the manager of the Royal Theatre reminds them that they are booked to be back for another show on the 26th.
Meanwhile, back home, Raju finally gets a chance to have Kanta tell him what the fuss is all about. She says that a few days ago, a man—seriously injured in a road accident—died at the hospital. Just before dying, all alone with only Kanta by his bedside, he had her take off a large flashy ring from his finger…
…and told her to take it to the Thakur of Kamalpur state, with the message that Kamalpur’s prince Bimal Kumar, due to return from abroad, will be murdered, along with his sister, on the 26th at Bombay’s Royal Theatre.
The man died after telling Kanta that he didn’t know who was going to be responsible for the murder, but he did know that the man had only 4½ fingers on his left hand. [I’d love to know the back story to this: how did this dying man know that striking detail without knowing who the man in question was?]
Raju pulls the dagger out of Kanta’s back [leaving his fingerprints all over it, of course—savvy reporter]. Kanta isn’t quite dead yet, and with her last gasp manages to tell Raju that she doesn’t know who killed her, and extracts a promise that he will go to Kamalpur and warn the Thakur. This last-gasping wastes a good bit of time, and Kanta has barely copped it when Raju hears footsteps outside. “Police?!” he pants. [Why? Why is that the obvious conclusion?]
He is, unfortunately, correct—it’s Madan, who’d been scheduled to visit Raju today. He comes in (Raju races out in the meantime), and they have a conversation through the bars of the window, Madan telling Raju to hand himself over and let his innocence be established by the law—while Raju says he is compelled to run.
Raju flees to his boss, Mr Sharma. While he’s there, Raju’s sister Bimal arrives looking for him—with a newly-received telegram: their mother is very ill. Raju hides before she can see him, but he eavesdrops. And ends up also hearing Madan enter with the news that Raju has committed a murder.
Mr Sharma refuses to comment, but Bimal is terribly disillusioned that Madan should put duty before love.
She has no idea where Raju is, but Bimal at least takes the train to Bilaspur, where their mother lives. Unknown to her, also on the train are:
(a) Raju, surreptitiously headed for mum’s bedside
(b) Madan, who thinks Raju is likely to be going to Bilaspur
(c) Radha and Honey, headed back home
Raju, trying to escape Madan, barges into Radha’s compartment and she begins to accuse him of murdering Kanta—the news is splashed all across the front pages of the newspapers.
She doesn’t believe him, either, when he denies it. In fact, when Madan comes along (and Raju has fled), Radha raises the alarm. Raju has a hard time escaping, but succeeds by finally jumping into a river… from which he is rescued by the Kohinoor Theatrical Company, encamped nearby on their tour. They take him under their wing, make friends with him, and give him a lift to Bilaspur.
He once again gets a lift from the theatrical company, who this time let him join as the lead singer and dancer in one of their performances. [Ostensibly to keep him hidden. How this will help, even though he’s wearing a lot of facial hair, is beyond me. Wouldn’t it have been easier for him to stay under wraps in the back of their lorry?]
Radha—now back home with Honey, who (it now emerges) is the little princess of Kamalpur—was been asked by the local police to come along to this performance. They suspect Raju will be part of the troupe and ask her to identify him if she sees him. [Considering Raju’s a well-known face in the newspapers, this doesn’t make sense. Just a reason for a song and dance].
Raju meets Radha again (now even more suspicious than she was before). Later still—Radha having shaken him off—he saves Honey from drowning—the kid was out, all alone, rowing a boat on the lake. [Huh? Who in their right mind would let a kid that small wander about doing whatever came into her mind?]. Raju finally arrives in Kamalpur, where he meets the dowager Rajmata (Ratnamala), the grandmother of Honey and Prince Bimal Kumar.
What I liked about this film:
Some of the songs. The music is by Mohinder Singh, and though the songs weren’t too well-known, they’re tuneful. One which I really liked was Chale ho kahaan kaho; nice yodelling there, and a good beat to the song. Raat jhoomti, dil ko choomti (the only part of the film that’s in colour) is nice too, as is Nazar mili ek qaatil se.
Feroze Khan. Not one of my favourite actors, but he does look good in a leather jacket and black polo neck top.
Unfortunately, so much. The scripting is really bad, with characters, plot elements, and inexplicable twists and turns that lead nowhere and are pretty superfluous. There are plot holes galore, and the villains are a dumb, frightfully clichéd lot who look straight out of a C-grade gangster movie (down to the costumes, white fedoras and all). And Shah Agha’s dark lipstick does nothing to make him look convincing as a cop.
Little bit of trivia:
A large section towards the end—when Raju and Radha find themselves handcuffed together for a few hours—is lifted from Alfred Hitchcock’s classic The 39 Steps. Actually, if you read the synopsis of Hitchcock’s film, you’ll find Reporter Raju draws inspiration from that on a number of other elements too.