Adhey Kangal (1967)

Which means ‘The Same Eyes’.

The first Tamil film I ever reviewed on this blog was a suspense thriller, the excellent songless film Andha Naal. Since then, I’ve come across recommendations for other Tamil suspense films, and when I found a subtitled copy of this one—a major hit of its time—I was eager to watch. ‘Taut’ and ‘tense’ was how I’d seen it described by reviewers, and it sounded right up my street.

Adhey Kangal begins in a tense, suspenseful manner. A man is murdered—someone hangs him in his room—and the man’s wife (G Sakunthala) discovers her husband’s dead body. She has just about started screaming when the murderer (whom we do not see, except as two disjointed hands reaching for her) tries to strangle her.

It’s an aborted attempt: the murderer flees, and his would-be victim, shaken and traumatized, but not dead, is discovered by her family.

These consist of her two brothers-in-law, Kamalanathan (SA Ashokan) and Vimalanathan (SV Ramadas). It transpires that this family consisted of four brothers, of whom the eldest had died the previous year in a car accident; the second brother, the husband of this just-widowed, just-assaulted woman, is now also dead.

The police officer who arrives to investigate meets these people, as well as a few others. There is the doctor (K Balaji), another physician, an old man who’s trained in traditional medicine (?), and the cook Nair (A Karunanidhi).

In addition, just arrived is Kamalanathan and Vimalanathan’s niece Susila (Kanchana), along with a bunch of her friends. Susila’s father was the man who had died last year.

The cops are able to find only one big clue: a half-smoked cigar lying on the window sill. They interrogate people in the house, but can come up with no other clues. Kamalanathan knows of nobody who might have harboured ill feelings towards his dead brother. Now all they can do is wait for the widow to regain consciousness; perhaps she will be able to tell them what happened, and who it was who assaulted her…

In the meanwhile, lots of other (mostly unrelated) things happen. While she and her friends are doing ‘social service’ in the local village, Susila meets a young man named Bhaskar (Ravichandran). There is instant chemistry between the two of them, Bhaskar tells Susila that he works at the Hotel Emerald, and from then, it’s romance.

Except for a brief hiccup, when Susila’s jealous instincts go into overdrive, after she discovers that Bhaskar is married. To an ugly-looking female named Rosie (Nagesh, in drag) with whom he lives in a flat above that of Susila’s friend Julie. It takes several slightly comic adventures and some adroit jugglery on the part of Bhaskar’s ‘wife’ to switch between being himself and being Rosie (whom he’s pretending to be, in order to rent this flat: Bhaskar’s landlady is adamant that she will rent it out only to a married couple).

This man, as Rosie, ends up having to flirt with the landlady’s husband, who’s smitten with Rosie. As himself, he’s busy falling in love with Julie. And when Susila gets the mistaken impression that her beloved Bhaskar has been hoodwinking her all this while, the two men have to let her into the secret, so that all is hunky-dory again.

While all this romance-comedy-song-and-dance is happening on the side, in that great big mansion, someone makes another attempt on the life of that still-traumatized aunt of Susila’s. Susila and her friends burst into the room in time to save Aunty, but Susila sees a smouldering cigar lying on the carpet, and the round stained glass ventilator swinging, as if someone’s just escaped through there.

Susila and her friends have other hair-raising experiences as well: when they decide to visit Mysore, Susila’s uncle Kamalanathan offers her the use of his car and his driver. The driver is a tall man, with a frightening scar across his face: supposedly so scary that Susila immediately says she’ll take the car, thank you, but she’d prefer to drive on her own.

Little do these girls realize that it was on this very stretch of road, about 9 miles short of Mysore, that Susila’s father’s car had broken down the previous year, and a passing truck had run him down.

And guess what? That is exactly where their car too breaks down, and when Susila & Co. get out to open it up and see what’s wrong, a truck comes speeding along, seemingly heading straight for these women… (for some unfathomable reason, when Susila sees the truck speeding towards her, she shrieks for her friends, instead of running off the road. And her friends, as dim-witted as Susila, quickly come and stand next to her and scream in unison at the oncoming truck. These women deserve to be run over).

But no, it’s no criminal inside after all. It is Bhaskar and a truck driver friend, come to the rescue of Susila and her friends. Bhaskar, his pal (part of the time as Rosie, then as himself) and all the girls go off to sing and dance at the nearby gardens while the truck driver repairs Susila’s car.

This episode, while it gives Bhaskar reason (and impetus) to try and find out who’s behind all these murders, is also a prime example of what’s wrong with this film.

What I didn’t like about this film:

The illogical suspension of all fear while taking time out to sing and dance.

Yes, I have seen dozens of Hindi films where songs and dances and much romancing are part of the story, alongside the murders and suspense and whatnot. But the placement of these songs and dances, the very nature of them, is important: when you’re biting your nails, shrieking and jumping at the slightest sound in the night, how can you suddenly forget all that and do the boogie-woogie? What’s more, in Adhey Kangal, what with the serial killings, there is cause to be stressed pretty much all the time—and Susila and her friends behave like frightened rabbits through much of the film, screaming, jumping about nervously, biting their lips and opening their eyes extra wide at everything out of the ordinary.

These are not the people and these are not the situations where one can conceivably imagine them suddenly leaving all their cares behind and breaking into song.

Then, there are the plot holes. The cigar always left at the scene of the crime, for instance: clue or red herring or whatever, there is eventually no reason assigned for it. And why actually does the girls’ car break down just at the very spot where Susila’s father’s car had broken down the previous year? This might be mere coincidence, but it’s silly and needless.

The over the top acting, while various blog readers have in the past told me that it’s pretty much par for the course for old Tamil cinema, still does get on my nerves. Very irritating.

What I liked:

I must point out one person whose acting I found, to my surprise, to be good: Nagesh. I say ‘to my surprise’ because as soon as Nagesh put in an appearance dressed as a woman, I was rolling my eyes and inwardly cringing, because men in drag, in this sort of role, rarely strike me as funny. But Nagesh, even though I thought the comic side plot deviated from the main story and could have been done away with, was a hoot. Very funny.

And, I loved the music. The music for Adhey Kangal was composed by Vedha (SS Vedhasalam), to lyrics by Vaali (TS Rangarajan), and some of the songs were really good; among my favourites were Kannukku theriyadha, Oh oh ethanai azhagu, and Pombala oruthi. Plus there’s a fascinating dance sequence, with Susila and lots of other dancers all doing the can-can.

An observation:

It’s interesting to see the parallels between Adhey Kangal and the Hindi suspense film Gumnaam (1965). Gumnaam was based on Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None (not that it was credited as such) and had a bunch of people, strangers to each other, finding themselves stranded on an island and being picked off one by one by a mysterious serial killer. Adhey Kangal has a serial killer in it, preying on the residents of one house, but is otherwise unlike And Then There Were None (even its denouement and the details of the crime, the motive and the method are different from what Gumnaam uses).

What struck me though was the way Adhey Kangal contains various, scattered nods to Gumnaam. For instance, there is the man in drag (in Gumnaam, Dhumal spends part of his time, not very much, in night dresses, though unlike Nagesh’s character, he doesn’t seem to have any reason to be wearing female clothing). Then, there is the cook (Mehmood in Gumnaam) who’s slapstick comical but is up to something mysterious, which involves a vague woman who moves about in the darkness…

There is the beachside song Ennenna vo, in which—what with the setting, the beach balls, the man so obviously entranced, and the woman (Geethanjali) who sings to him—it’s easy to see the obvious resemblance to Gham chhodke manaao rang-reli.

The similarity is a little less obvious in Kannukku theriyadha, where it’s just the very occasional few notes, the sudden panting, that calls to mind Rafi and Herman Benjamin in Jaan-pehchaan ho. What I do applaud is that neither Kannukku theriyadha nor Ennenna vo are copies, as far as music is concerned, of the songs they resemble.

Adhey Kangal’s director AC Tirulokchandar seems to have been able to successfully gauge what would work, though: the film was a huge box office success. To me this had good points and bad, but overall, it was entertaining enough, if somewhat unintentionally funny at times.

The film is available, with English subtitles, on Amazon Prime.

18 thoughts on “Adhey Kangal (1967)

  1. Okay, I HAVE to comment on this film. As a child, I had often heard people tell me about “Adhey KaNgaL” and what a great thriller it was – and the surprising identity of the killer. It was supposed to be Tamil cinema’s attempt to make a Hitchcockian film.
    To say that the movie was a disappointment would be an understatement, not to mention that it was a totally unintentional comedy. The acting was over-the-top to say the least – personally I found all the friends of the heroine super annoying – and the exaggerated ways they show fear. I saw the film about 12-13 years back, but I still remember the stupidity of the scene with the truck. In places it was so bad that my wife and I were doubled over in laughter at the implausibility of the situations. I know there are many fans of this film, but I for one have been unable to see their point of view.
    In terms of the connection to Hindi cinema, I had always heard of it as being closer to/inspired by “Bees Saal Baad” – the storylines are not the same but have a similar theme.
    Vedha as a composer was known for copying tunes from Hindi cinema and other sources, but his orchestration was typically uniquely his. Even in this film, one song is inspired from “Chim chimney chim chimney” in Mary Poppins, and another is a Ventures tune I believe, though it is mainly the mukhDa that is copied. I am a big fan of “PombaLai oruthhi irundhaaLaam” – fun song.
    And finally, Nagesh is always fantastic – while he may have made less of an impact in some films, I cannot recall a film of his that I did not like. I am a huge fan of both his and Manorama – superb comedians – the likes of which I have not seen on film, in any other language. Considering how frequently I have seen them, I have got to believe that they should have accomplished some world record around the number of films they have acted in. It felt like they were in almost every Tamil film made in 60s and early 70s. But that is pure speculation on my part.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your reminiscences of this movie! To be honest, I was a bit worried, after having read several reviews and reactions to Adhey Kangal, to be posting a review that wasn’t all favourable. So reading about your experiences reassured me.

      I missed the song based on Chim chim chiree – but it might have been a very fleeting ‘reference’ – because I am familiar with the original song and ought to have recognized it.

      • Perhaps it was cut out from the version that you watched. But this is the sequence in the film. Pretty vigorous dancing by Kanchana – I believe she was a trained dancer and I think it shows in this sequence.

          • Actually, I am not surprised. It was one of composer Vedha’s gifts, where he sometimes hid the original tune in plain sight so to speak – either the rhythm of the original song is changed, or perhaps the way the phrases fit into the tune is modified. A LOT of his tunes were just copies, others were artful inspirations and there are some wonderful original compositions (I wonder though if it is just that I have not discovered some of the originals). There is one song in the film “Vallavan Oruvan” that combines large parts of Artie Shaw’s “Frenesi” with a small part of “Bali Hai” – and you have a beautiful Tamil song.

            • You know, now that I think of it, when Boom boom had come on, I had thought “That sounds familiar” – perhaps somewhere in my brain that tune had struck a chord – but I couldn’t guess which one it was. It speaks volumes for the way Vedha’s adapted the original.

    • Ah. :-) Yes, I must admit that I haven’t come across any Tamil heroes who match up to them! Ravichandran was handsome in this film, but not, I think, a patch on Shammi or Dharmendra in their prime.

  2. I’d heard about Adhey Kangal and rave reviews at that. I’d never watched it, however, and now, thanks to you, and sangeetbhakt’s comment, I’ll never watch it. But I second SB’s comment about Nagesh and Manorama. They were brilliant! And not just as comedians, either, though both were notable comedians. Nagesh, for instance, made a fabulous villain – and he was equally good in character-driven roles. Manorama, and her Malayalam counterpart, Sukumari, couldn’t be bad if they tried. You have no idea how many films were made bearable by their presence!

    • I remember Nagesh in Thillana Mohanambal – yes, a very convincing villain! And Manorama was fantastic in that film too. I liked her so much I still remember the name of her character, even. :-)

      “You have no idea how many films were made bearable by their presence!

      Now that is some endorsement!

  3. Nice review Madhu ji. This appears to be similar to Bhoot Bangla-1965, starring Tanuja. Though, I only remember bits and pieces of it but the three uncles and a niece whose father died in a car accident is what I remember of that movie. The suspense, was to do with their father and his sinful ways in the past. But again, I might be thinking of a completely different movie or many similar movies :)

    • It’s been so many years since I watched Bhoot Bangla, I couldn’t tell if it was based on that – but it could be. Or maybe these are just a set of common tropes that keep turning up in suspense thrillers. Or Indian ones, at least.

  4. “These are not the people and these are not the situations where one can conceivably imagine them suddenly leaving all their cares behind and breaking into song.”
    Agree totally! Who would celebrate a birthday party when your uncle has just passed away or who in their right minds would go about driving cars with her friends when there is a murderer on the loose. Still if any one had to go Kanchana doing it makes it less painful!
    Still the movie worked for many may be due to the following
    – suspense movies were few and far between
    – movie had excellent songs shot in outdoor locations and in colour which was a novelty then
    – Nagesh was in fine fettle.( He was so popular and so busy that even the doyens of Tamil industry MGR & Sivaji Ganesan had to wait for his call sheet for the combination scenes)
    – The ingenious campaign by AVM the producers asking the viewers not to reveal the ending so that other viewers are not deprived the “suspense” seemed to have worked for the film
    Glad you liked Nagesh even in drag. he was absolutely spot on in Naan ( you have reviewed the Hindi version Waaris and not too pleased about Mehmood essaying the same roles) But Nagesh I second SB’s… no no third ( seeing that Anu Warrier has already seconded it!) remark about Nagesh always being fantastic .. you have to watch at least that segment and the riotous duet ” Ammano saamiyo” with Jayalalitha that is a hoot!

    • “The ingenious campaign by AVM the producers asking the viewers not to reveal the ending so that other viewers are not deprived the “suspense” seemed to have worked for the film”

      Yes! That’s what I thought too. I also agree that the songs, and the overall entertainment value of the film, are such that probably audiences would forgive other problems like plot holes and lack of plausibility. After all, there have been plenty of Hindi suspense films that have been big hits despite plot holes but perhaps importantly because of great songs (Woh Kaun Thi is a case in point).

      Thank you for the Naan recommendation! It sounds delightful. Am adding it to the list of Tamil films I need to look out for.

      • Warning though on Naan the movie is same as Waaris so use your own discretion!
        One point I forgot about was the Tamil remake of Gumnaam was needlessly made almost two decades later as ” Naalai unathu Naal” . Needless, as by that time many of the scenes of that had already been utilized in other Tamil movies .. including the ones you pointed in this review !

  5. Quite nice and informative review from you. I keep on watching Gumnaam (1965) from time to time but while going through your narration, I recalled Bhoot Bungla (1965) instead of Gumnaam. You must have watched Bhoot Bungla. Please contrast it with Adhey Kangal.

    • It’s been many, many years since I watched Bhoot Bangla, so I have very little recollection of it, except for the songs and for that scene when Mehmood and RD Burman go to the haunted house. Someone else also pointed out the similarity to Bhoot Bangla, though.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.