This is one of Hindi cinema’s few experiments with film noir. It engages with the genre fully, down to its rainy night street scenes and relentless emphasis on icons of modernity, such as telephones, cars, guns, newspapers and houses with sliding panels, trapdoors, etc. Inder Raj Anand took elements of film noir and mixed them with many other styles to form a total hybrid in the distinctive style of Hindi movies. The film’s plot is not too exciting but the visuals and music are impressive.
After a network of phone calls, the editor of the Times of India is murdered and Inspector Shekhar (Dev Anand) of the CID brought in to investigate. He hijacks a car driven by a young woman, Rekha (Shakila) to chase the murderer but she throws away the car key. Aided by Master (Johnny Walker), Shekhar captures the murderer but is then taken to see a mysterious woman, Kamini (Waheeda Rehman), who warns him not to pursue his investigation further. Meanwhile, he finds out that Rekha is in fact his superintendent’s daughter, and romance blossoms. Shekhar is framed for the killing of the murderer in jail but escapes, and is helped by Kamini to bring the story to a conclusion.
This film clearly reveals how Dev Anand early in his career established his style as ‘Debonaire Dev’, a persona which was later to become very mannered. This was Waheeda’s debut in Hindi films and she is presented as an image of total female beauty. She would have a long career as a major star, first as a romantic heroine over two decades, then playing older characters. There is also a comic subplot focused on a lower-class couple, with the popular comedian Johnny Walker (who took his name from the whisky) as a tailor and petty crook.
The film’s songs form a superb collection of music, and the collaboration between music director O. P. Nayyar and lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri is ideally suited to the modern, urban nature of the movie. As well as having audio value outside the film as great songs, they are also employed skillfully to advance the action as well as being used as themes. The song picturisation is stunning too, whether they are shot as romance in the countryside, as village girls (in film/ costumes) fetch water from the river (‘Nadi kinare gaoun re’), or in the romantic duet ‘Aankhon hi aankhon mein’, or are shot in Bombay’s public spaces. The city is also shown as boasting locations for romance, including the sea fronts, which have long been places where lovers meet. The question of romance is first raised with one of the most popular songs, ‘Leke pehla pehla pyaar’, during which Dev Anand walks along the sea front behind Shakila, accompanied by two professional singers. (This would become Dev Anand’s trademark, walking rather than dancing through songs.) One of the most famous songs from the film is about the city of Bombay itself — ‘E dil hai mushkil’.
These song picturisations reveal that Raj Khosla was very much a disciple of Guru Dutt and the style he took from the Anand brothers’ Navketan banner. He had a rather uneven career in terms of success and genre, as his range included thrillers and cop films but also some huge hits, including Mera gaon mera desh and the ‘woman’s weepie’ Main tulsi tere aangan ki.
Year – 1956, Genre – Crime, Country – India, Language – Hindi, Producer – Guru Dutt Films, Director – Raj Khosla, Music Director – O.P Nayyar, Cast – Shakila, Waheeda Rehman, Kumkum, Sheela Vaz, Dev Anand, Bir Sakuja, Johnny Walker, K. N. Singh