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Friday, 19 November 2010

Mysteriously forgettable (Baat Ek Raat Ki)

Sometimes the last 30 minutes of a film turns out so good that I'm ready to forgive the otherwise tedious rest. Especially when the twists are pretty sudden and one clever ploy by the director bolsters the climax up. The mundane script makes a somersault into the fast lane and you sit tight for the proceedings. Shankar Mukherjee's nondescript thriller Baat Ek Raat Ki is a film that falls in this group. It starts off with the promise of a tantalising mystery, slows down with some redundancy, is tedious because of the time invested in developing the love angle and then suddenly, like a bolt from the blue becomes fast and action packed again towards the end...

The 1962 film has an interesting build up. Neela (Waheeda Rehman) is in police custody for committing a murder, which she believes she did. But her mother cried foul and pleads with Rajesh (Dev Anand) to fight her case. Neela's behaviour is spooky indeed. Here is a woman who herself as being worthless to the world as she has a tainted past. In fact, it is during one of her suicide-trials that she comes across Rajesh. This happy go-lucky lawyer saves her from drowning and slowly gets to know more about her. He learns that this woman has lost the will to live. He requests the warden of the jail where Neela is to let her go with him to a mental institution to be treated for depression. He also visits her home and finds out that there are many loose ends to the case. The doctor asks Rajesh to pretend that he in love with her so that she feels happy and rejuvenated again. This might help him unravel her past secrets. So, even though unwillingly Rajesh agrees to do so and is successful in extracting from Neela what happened on the fateful night.
Just when you were getting excited with this run-up, a drab romance between Rajesh and Neela slackens the plot. Also the multiple times that Rajesh dithers is enough to exasperate you. But then, Shankar Mukherjee is no Vijay Anand.
While Rajesh and Neela romance each other, S D Burman's songs keep you entertained. There's the famous Na tum humein jano, Jo Ijaazat ho to ek baat, Sheeshey ka ho ya patthar ka dil and Jo hain deewana pyar ke (this one exhibits the dancing prowess of Waheeda).
Waheeda is very good as Neela, the woman who looks mysterious and has mystery shrouding her existence. She is seriously convincing as the unfortunate Neela, who falls into a trap laid out for her. I like the bit where she feels sad because all the money she earns is not enough to free her. She is burdened by her wealth actually. In terms of looks, I always felt that Waheeda looked exemplary in her black and white films.
Dev Anand was a good lawyer in this film, but he overdid some of his antics. He somewhat stretched them a bit too far. A more crisp approach would have done some good. But, I have to admit that Anand looks quite a dandy in his black cape...
Coming to the most important bit-- the climax, I actually sat up when the last few scenes were rolling. That Waheeda would be used in a different way to proceed the plot, that Dev Anand would be made to resemble a frail old man and that the twists would indeed come so suddenly, took me by surprise. Dev Anand as a lawyer, sure did do things a wee bit differently. And, though the film was saved at the last moment by the clever inclusion of the smart antics by the director (the funny scenes by Johny Walker and the benevolence by Manmohan Krishna), I still feel that Baat Ek Raat Ki could have been better executed... But, on that another day, or maybe night...

10 comments:

  1. Saw the film long,long ago; don't remember much of it.You have rightly pointed out most Hindi film directors are unable to keep up the momentum of suspense films. So that feeling as you have stated 'it could have been better executed' persists. S.D.Burman's compositions are of course always good.

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  2. @Shilpi: Yes, the songs are good. But somehow they lack the killer punch like in Jewel Thief or Teesri Manzil :)

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  3. I agree with you completely, Sharmi! Unlike Teesri Manzil or Woh Kaun Thi? or even Gumnaam, this film doesn't leave much of an impact. For all of those, after having seen the film just once, I know what the story is, how it climaxes, and who the culprit was. With Baat ek Raat ki, even though I've seen it a couple of times (the last time maybe 2-3 years back), I still don't recall who was the culprit and how the crime is solved! Certainly not a Vijay Anand. :-)

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  4. @Dustedoff: And sometimes I even felt that Dev Anand was not much of a probing lawyer, too lost in Neela's love. And, the villain was hardly memorable :(

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  5. I just watched this a few months ago and even wrote it up for my blog, but I still need to be reminded what the plot was and how the mystery was solved. If this was a Perry Mason novel (and Dev A does make a darned good Mason), it would be called The Case of the Mysteriously Forgettable Film!

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  6. @Bollyviewer: Ha ha you are seriously funny :)

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  7. The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear Baat Ek Raat Ki is Hemant's Na tum hamein jano. I love the song. I don't recall much of the movie at all. Since I like both Dev Anand and Waheeda I don't mind giving this a try. I am surprised Dev Anand overdid in 1962 :)

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  8. @Sreenath: Yes, they do make an attractive pair :)

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  9. I saw this on your recommendation and liked it.. i though they would explore the dog angle as well.. ( remember how he jumps from Johnny walkers arms to the old man just outside the court ..who is in...:) ) ..the left that thread and Johnny Walker was just for comic relief I guess.. could have used him better...but the movie was good...

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  10. @Rahul: Yes I think they should have explored that angle more.

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