If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ve probably realized by now that I’m a sucker for suspense films. And that I have a soft spot for Dharmendra. And Helen. And Pran. Bring all of those together, and I’m pretty much willing to give it a try. Kab? Kyon? Aur Kahaan? is a film I’d watched many years ago, and liked, so I decided it was time for a rewatch [especially since I’d forgotten pretty much everything of it except for one very taut and tense section]. As it turned out, this was one of those films that make me realize how much more forgiving I was in my younger days. I’d forgotten, for instance, how Babita’s eyebrows managed to give Dharmendra’s a run for their money in the bushiness department.
But, to begin at the beginning. The first half-hour of Kab? Kyon? Aur Kahaan? is set aboard a ship en route from London to Bombay. At Aden, Senior CID Inspector Anand (Dharmendra) boards, having just completed some unrevealed investigation abroad. Thanks to the bull-headedness [combined with stupidity, a lethal combination] of a steward (Dhumal), Anand finds himself sharing a cabin with an indignant stranger, Asha (Babita). Despite many protests, Asha is forced to have her private space invaded.
Anand, like the typical Hindi film hero of the 60s (and 70s), leaves no stone unturned in foisting his unwanted attentions on the lady. A song, an arm-wrestling contest and a fight with a goon (Shetty) who tries to get fresh with Asha, result [now don’t say you didn’t see this coming] in Asha falling in love with Anand.
Soon, they’re talking about themselves, and Asha reveals that though she had set off on a world tour after she graduated, she got homesick [or fathersick, if that’s a term] by the time she got to London—so she’s heading back to Bombay to be with Daddy, whom she adores. She even shows Anand a photo of Daddy. Alongside his photo is one of his stepbrother Daljeet (Pran), whom Asha describes as being as fond of her father as if he were a real brother.
Unknown to Asha, Daddy has copped it while she’s been away. Daljeet comes to meet Asha when she disembarks, but says nothing of this to her. Asha’s also met by her dear friend Lata (Ashoo, no great shakes as an actress), and Daljeet tries to get fresh with Lata, much to her disgust.
When Asha gets home and sees Daddy’s portrait framed with a garland, she discovers the awful truth and faints. This is followed by a nervous breakdown, for which the doctor prescribes a rest cure—a trip to a hill station. Of course.
Meanwhile, various things happen. Anand has one day come to the aid of a woman (Helen) who’s had her bag snatched, and she has introduced herself as Rita, a dancer at a nearby hotel.
… a hotel, naturally, being a breeding ground for thugs and goons of all types. Here we find Daljeet in conversation with Bihari, a fellow crook. It turns out that these two worthies have been responsible for the death of Asha’s father, mostly because the dear departed was rolling in wealth, and Daljeet is deep in debt and being threatened by a creditor as ruthless as himself. Daljeet realizes, of course, that he still has another obstacle to overcome: Asha stands between him and that wealth.
The Anand-Asha romance, despite much opposition from Daljeet (who insults Anand roundly) progresses, even when Daljeet takes Asha off to Kashmir for that rest cure. Anand dutifully [considering his first duty to Asha rather than to his job] follows in her wake [which allows us the dubious pleasure of watching some lovely views of the Valley, along with some eye-popping close-ups of Babita’s very odd eyebrows].
Accompanying Asha and Daljeet on this trip is Bihari. He has offered Daljeet the perfect way of getting rid of Asha: make it look like an accident. Asha goes out boating—in a motorboat, speeding all across the lake and the surrounding waterways—every day. Put a drug in her tea just before she sets out. Twenty minutes later, when she’s racing along at top speed, she’ll doze off. Bye-bye, Asha.
Thankfully for Asha, Anand sees her and pulls off an incredible rescue. When she comes to, Asha is inclined to think she had a dizzy spell; Anand, on the other hand, suspects foul play. He has reason to be suspicious, too: while in Bombay, he had been summoned by his boss (Hari Shivdasani), who had shared a case file with him. The case was of a man who had died in a car accident; Anand’s boss wondered how a man who neither drank nor was a rash driver could have had an accident [Umm. You don’t know Indian traffic and Indian roads, boss]—so wanted Anand to investigate further.
And Anand, opening the file and seeing the dead man’s face, recognized him as Asha’s father, which of course made him take a special interest. Now this scary experience of Asha’s has convinced him that someone murdered her father and is now attempting to bump her off as well.
We, the audience, are privy to this [which is what takes away from the suspense of it, somewhat]. Daljeet and Bihari are madder than wet hens at Anand’s rescue of Asha, but there’s nothing they can do about it. Everybody heads back to Bombay—and Daljeet decides he may as well enjoy himself while he’s waiting for an opportunity to rid himself of his step-niece. Lata has come to stay with Asha for a while, and one evening, when she steps out after a bath, Daljeet turns up and assaults Lata.
Asha arrives in time to save Lata’s izzat and tell Daljeet what a scoundrel he is. Lata, by now, is so shaken that she wants to go away at once. Asha, instead, suggests an alternative: the two friends will drive down to Asha’s family bungalow in Khandala. They’ll be safe and away from Daljeet there.
The two women arrive at the bungalow and find themselves all alone—Asha remembers that this being Tuesday, it’s the sole servant’s day off and he would’ve gone to spend the day with his sister. No matter. They make themselves comfortable, and are settling in for the night when who should turn up but that bad [not to mention lecherous] penny, Daljeet. He makes a grab for Lata and tears off her sari. Before he can tear off much else, Asha arrives on the scene. Her dog, Tiger, who has been tied up nearby all this while, goes a bit wild and starts barking at Daljeet.
Sadly for Tiger [and, subsequently, sadly for everybody else on the scene too], Daljeet whips out a pistol and shoots the poor hound dead. The pistol lands on the floor in the scuffle that follows, and shortly after, Asha manages to grab it and threaten Daljeet with it. And before you know it, boom!—Daljeet has gone the way of Tiger.
Now what? These two girls are in deep trouble [but doesn’t this count as a crime committed in defence? Shouldn’t that be a mitigating circumstance?], so they decide that the only thing to be done is to dispose of the body, pronto. The unmourned Daljeet is bundled into a very large wooden trunk [I wonder why his eyes bulge in that grotesque fashion, considering he wasn’t strangled], and away we go.
… which is not at all a happy way to go, because this goes from bad to worse, what with Asha rapidly beginning to go into a decline because Daljeet and his bug eyes are haunting her.
Kab? Kyon? Aur Kahaan? is actually not bad—not in the way Kahin Din Kahin Raat (to quote just one example) was. It has good stuff, but it also has stuff that could’ve been far, far better.
What I liked about this film (and what I didn’t like, both connected):
The basic story of the heiress who’s in danger of her life and ends up accidentally killing the very man who is trying to kill her. On its own, this—and the subsequent unravelling of the heiress, until she’s a bundle of nerves, teetering on the edge of a breakdown—is good and suspenseful. There are some interesting (and unexpected) twists and turns. It also has some good cinematography, including an underwater sequence that is surprisingly well-shot and realistic.
The problem is that that core story, which could have been fitted into a neat hour (or hour and a half, at the most), is padded out with songs (not too great, either), some long and protracted wooing, and stuff that really doesn’t matter, besides being a distraction.
There are other flaws as well. For instance, every now and then, the focus shifts to Anand and his attempt to investigate Asha’s father’s death. This, I thought, would become a good police procedural; but no. There was little of that careful and painstaking tracking down of clues that characterizes good police procedurals like High and Low. One moment, Anand would be shown wondering what and how, and the next moment he and his assistant, Hanuman Singh (Asit Sen) would’ve unearthed—how?—not just any piddling little lead, but the clue. There were too many coincidences here, too many neatly serendipitous discoveries, too much falling into our cop’s lap. Plus, there are plot holes, which I won’t go into here, because they constitute spoilers.
But hey, there’s Dharmendra. And Helen, who is her usual stylish self. And there’s a story that’s not really too bad; its main flaw is that it doesn’t utilize its potential.