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Friday, 17 September 2010

Introducing an anti-hero (Kala Bazar)

Can we call Dev Anand one of the first anti-heroes in the history of Hindi cinema? For, there are roughly three major films where he handles his grey tones with panache. I'm talking of Guide (1965), Asli Naqli (1962) and Kala Bazar (1960). In all these films Anand's character starts off negatively. But after a certain cathartic moment, he emerges from the flames that help to purify him. In Asli Naqli, his metamorphosis happens when he sees that true love actually resides in poor homes because that emotion needn't be validated by money. In Guide, a personal trauma shakes him up and he atones for his sin by helping villagers. And, in Kala Bazar, the change comes through because of his love for a beautiful girl.

There is also Baazi (1951), where Dev Anand plays the gold-hearted crook. But, even though the film was a unique coming together of Guru Dutt and Dev Anand, it lacked the polish of his later films that dealt with the subject of an anti-hero.
Kala Bazar stands out because of Vijay Anand's deft treatment and the mature performances by all the actors. There are so many goods in this romance (I call it so because the story revolves around Raghuvir and Alka's love). Great cast, awesome story, superb music and restrained performances. A significant part is how Raghuvir is shown gradually attaining Gandhian qualities (read: the shawl slung on his shoulders, helping the poor and passive resistance against Ganesh and his cronies when they come to crush him down).
Struggling to make ends meet, Raghuvir chooses a path of crime and deceit to earn quick bucks. He teams up with a group of black marketeers who sell cinema tickets at a high rate. Soon his deftness and agility pays off. Ganesh (Madan Puri) and his cronies are happy following Raghuvir's diktat. Raghuvir's dark trade flourishes and he is able to move into a more comfortable home with his brother, sister (Nanda) and mother (Leela Chitnis). His shortcoming is that he is not educated. The good man in him is stern with his little brother because the young boy isn't serious about his studies. I think this is a clever ploy of showing that Raghuvir is good at heart. He wants his family to live well. He wants his siblings to prosper. He wants to lead a respectable life. But he is struck by bad times and sorry circumstances.
But Raghuvir meets his match in Alka (Waheeda Rehman), the beautiful girl who stuns him with her idealism. And of course, her beauty. What happens in front of the movie hall pulls the trigger in his stormy mind. Though aware that Alka is in love with someone else, he prodigiously pursues her. He glibtalks, lies and manipulates every situation to get into her good books and win her affection. Though situations here are funny and highly entertaining, one can see Raghuvir's vulnerable state as he is hellbent on attaining Alka's love. In Apni toh har aah ek toofan hain, he is a smart man fooling everyone around with his song, that is targeted towards Alka. S D Burman's music is as haunting as Mohd Rafi's rendition. Then of course you have Saanjh dhali, the flirtatious duet by Asha Bhonsle and Manna Dey. The culmination of his love professions happen with Khoya khoya chand, a stunning number that stays with you forever.
The script has plenty of twists. In that Kala Bazar is never without action. Just when we think that Alka's rejection of Raghuvir will spell the end of their romance, Vijay Anand's character resurfaces and fixes everything. It's awesome how the film shows that a girl is very much capable of falling in love twice. Alka falls in love with Raghuvir and is delirious when she learns that her fiance also fell in love with someone else while studying abroad. Very mature. And the enjoyment is doubled with Rim jhim ke taraney (Mohd Rafi and Geeta Dutt) and Sach hue sapney tere (Geeta Dutt again).
But Kala Bazar is not just a romance. So the game's hardly over after Raghuvir and Alka unite. Now the hero has to fight with his inner demons and set matters right so that he can lead a truly peaceful life with his sweetheart. The melodiously devotional Na mein dhan  chahun, is but a call for Raghuvir to start making amends. Even though the black market is attractive, what with its tantalising freebies and easy lucre, Raghuvir realises it is high time he returns to the right path. Here we have an awesome club number by Bhonsle, picturised on the ravishing Helen called Samhalo dil ko. Really, Helen and her charms!
It is also noteworthy how the film shows that Raghuvir has to face the law long after he has changed his ways. While his life was infested with crime, he got away scotfree. It is only when he makes an honest living, the law closes in on him  for his past misdemeanours. Strange, but not very surprising. For, this is the director's way of showing that there is hardly a dearth of people who want to pull down an honest and successful man.
I like everything about Kala Bazar. It is a rare film where the three Anand brothers (Chetan Anand plays the lawyer who defends Raghuvir) star together. I find Vijay Anand quite handsome here (wonder why he got that hideous hairstyle later in his career). Dev Anand and Waheeda share awesome chemistry and Nanda was oh-so-pretty.  And, yes, Dev Anand plays Raghuvir with brilliant restraint.
But the most entertaining part is the first scene where there is a real life premiere show of Mother India, Mehboob Khan's 1957 blockbuster. The camera captures the excitement breeding heavy amongst the audience who are waiting for a rare glimpse of their favourite movie stars. We, sitting on the other side of the screen, also get to catch the likes of Dilip Kumar, Nargis, Naseem Banu, Kishore Kumar, Nadira, Kumkum, Mohd Rafi, Guru Dutt, Geeta Dutt, Raj Kumar, Rajendra Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar, Sohrab Modi and Nimmi. I call this a stellar gimmick on the part of Navketan...


  1. Lovely review, i love when movies incorporate scenes like the MR india one you've described above. I WAS WATCHING Jaaneman weeks ago and it was so cool to see aall the stars at a real life filfare awards show, i'll post the video sometime. ASs for Vijay Anand i didn't mind his hair so much but while watching Kora kagaz i couldn't help but be distracted by his humongous glasses

  2. I can suggest a couple of other films where Dev Anand plays characters who are criminal, or at least not completely above a life of crookedness... Jaal and Pocketmaar. Also House No. 44. He was pretty good at it. :-)
    But I must watch Kala Bazaar once again. I saw it ages ago when I was a kid, and the only thing I remember is being very disappointed about the end! How could that happen to a hero?! (I've grown up now and realise that there could be much worse)!

  3. @Bollywooddeewana: I think he used those glasses to get into the mould of a college professor. But what was that hairstyle. I think he was better off not doing that film. For, he was also looking like Jaya's uncle in the film. Though the Hindi film was good, it was nowhere close to its Bengali cousin, Saat Pakey Badha that starred the ravishing and talented Suchitra Sen and the equally talented and handsome Soumitra Chatterjee.

  4. @Dustedoff: I have heard about all the films that you have mentioned but I was not sure that they are good. But now that you are saying I will see them. For I really like watching Dev Anand as a grey character and the path of his getting reformed.

  5. Oh thanks a lot!! I was waiting eagerly for this one.

    To start with, I simply loved the Premier scene.. what with all the 'stars' stepping onto the earth! (Guru and Geeta Dutt made a lovely pair, by the way)

    Secondly, as Navketan is well known for its song-execution and placement, it was quite pleasing to see "Rimjhim ke taraane.." being played in the background (Geeta and Rafi.. sigh! What a great singing pair.. In case anyone's missed out by now.. I am a huge Geeta-Rafi fan :D )
    Moreover, I havn't yet seen any song where heroine says no to hero's declaration of love in such a direct way ("Saanjh dhali..."). That was a surprise for me!

    And, what a performance by Dev and Vijay Anand. The latter, though I havn't seen him yet in any other movie, has become another fav. of mine. What a dialogue delivery!
    And what surprised me the most, and why I reqstd you to watch it, is the broad mindedness of Vijay Anand's char. and the way he and Alka say it quits amicably when they realise that they have grown out of love with each other. Brilliant!

    Thanks so much for the review! :)

    P.S. - I was grinning throughout "Apni to har ek aah toofan hai..." coz it turned out to be exactly the opp. of what I visualised everytime I listened to it on FM! :D

  6. @Punya: Yes, Apni to har ek aah ek toofan sounds more like a devotional song when you just listen to it. That is why it becomes so enthralling when you see how it is picturised. I also liked the maturity with which Alka and Vijay Anand's character go separate ways and the way it is dealt with in the film. It is so refreshing.
    But, one thing Vijay Anand looks so good here but in his later films he ceases to be this good looking. His hair grwos too long and somehow he choses the wrong roles. Vijay Anand, in his later career, was a much better director than an actor.

  7. I LOVE this film, even though I was not a big fan of Dev Saab when I first watched it (that was years ago and I have learnt the error of my ways!). The Dev Waheeda romance is so well done. I love that he isn't put off by her engagement, and does NOT resort to "eve-teasing" to gain her affections. Plus, while the message is pretty preachy, the film does not come over as preachy at all.

    "Can we call Dev Anand one of the first anti-heroes in the history of Hindi cinema?" Much as I love Dev A, the first anti-hero is Dada Mani! He invented the anti-hero, and the rakish smile. :D

  8. @Bollyviewer: I do agree that Ashok Kumar was kind of an anti-hero. But I'd love to believe that he was never my favourite as a hero. I kind of always loved him in his strong supporting parts. May be that is why I forgot about him. But yes, he surely was the first one with the rakish smile :)

  9. Sharmi,
    You a&bsolutely must tell me directly when you review such good movies: how can you just let me discover them by myself a full 13 days after you've posted on them? I just don't know how I've not seen this (puzzled Yves) Gasp! Quick, where's my Nehaflix?!

  10. @Yves: Ya sure. Tell me how I would let you know. Pass me on your mail ID. I have tried to comment a lot on your blog but my comments just fail to register. I think Facebook can be a good networking site. I'll try and find you out there.
    Kalabazaar is a must watch. I'm glad you are calling for it. Enjoy the experience. Thank you :)

  11. I have come in rather late with my comment, but I have to say Kala Bazaar is one of my favourite films. First of all it is directed by my favourite director, Vijay Anand, then the songs, the charming Devanand, my favourite dancer Waheeda Rehman, she was such a fabulous dancer that I always looked forward to seeing her dance sequences no matter how brief and last but not the least- as you pointed out- the premiere scene. It was very well picturized ; apart from the stars you have mentioned there was Baby Naaz too in that scene. Every time I see her in this scene (I have seen this film several times) I really feel sorry for her; she was a sought after child actor then and I have read and heard that while her mother minted money by exploiting her she suffered in silence losing her childhood in the bargain.

  12. @Shilpi: Ohh! That's so sad. But,. I guess there were many such child actors who suffered a similar fate. Thanks for you comment Shilpi. They always enlighten me on something or the other. :)

  13. Hi Sharmi,
    My email:
    I'm also on Facebook under my name: Yves Millou. But perhaps there's a simpler way: doesn't your blog have a newsletter system? For example, I get the info of new inputs when Memsaab adds one, or Madhu at Dustedoff, it's very practical.

  14. @Yves: Will add you instantly. Yes, yes I have that. that's why I able to view all the news posts of those blogs I follow. :)