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Monday, 17 January 2011

Anand in a different garb (Kalapani)

Dev Anand and dashing go hand in hand. His very name conjures up an image of a freewheeling youngster whistling away in the woods, singing some peppy romantic numbers and wooing the woman in his own charismatic style. He flashes that characteristic smile at every instant to destabilise you, he walks with that swagger reminding you that there will only be one and only one Dev Anand. So, when you see this happy-go-lucky charmer almost transform his intrinsic personality to get into the skin of Karan Mehra in Raj Khosla's Kalapani, it is a surprise for sure.
For, Karan has to be really intense and persevering to get to the real killer. He cannot waste too much time romancing the ravishing Asha. He cannot do too much singing and whistling barring when it is absolutely needed. He has to play a game of love to gull a courtesan. And yes, he has to look vulnerable and strong at the same time.
In a role that is a rehash of Uttam Kumar's Shankar of Sabar Uparey, Dev Anand hogs the limelight out of the sheer mastery of his performance. He does not have to rely on Kumar to get inspired. He gives his Karan every bit the subtlety and strength that is required. He makes Karan Mehra as memorable as Uttam did Shankar. When you watch Dev Anand in this gripping thriller, you stay mesmerised by this talented actor. You don't feel that you are watching the 1958 remake of the 1955 Bengali version. Raj Khosla's film is a fresh take on A J Cronin's Beyond This Place and a sound one at that.
At the very outset we learn that Karan has just come to know that his father has been wrongly imprisoned for the last 15 years for committing a murder. Acting on an impulse, he rushes to Hyderabad from Bombay to meet his father. When he sees his old man for the first time after so many years, his heart is pained to see the frail prisoner. He is even more shattered when Shankarlal (please identify this man for me! But I must say that he failed to garner my sympathy. So blank were his expressions and he seriously looked like a lunatic paedophile in my eyes!!! Nothing compared to the divine performance of Chhabi Biswas in Sabar Uparey) tells his son that he was wrongly convicted. He did not kill Mala, the courtesan. This changes Karan's world. Now he will only rest after getting his father absolved of the accusation. Thus starts the search to get to the bottom of the deep dark secret. 
Karan's battle for the truth is a riveting spectacle. On his way he meets the determined press reporter Asha (Madhubala) who helps him out in every step. He is assisted by Badru (Agha), Madhosh (Mukri) and Daulatram (Jankiram). He is egged on my the retired inspector Mehra (Nazir Hussain), who was partially responsible for the imprisonment of Shankarlal. He notifies Karan about Kishori, a reputed courtesan who had testified against Shankarlal 15 years earlier. This knowledge takes this youngster to Kishori's court where he plays a jolly good game of love to get his hands on the proof that will reopen his father's case in the court and thus, exonerate him.
His meetings with Kishori are remarkable, not to mention their intense chemistry. Karan is a dashing young man wearing his heart on his sleeves. Kishori is a spell-bindingly beautiful woman (Nalini Jaywant), who has been soliciting clients till now on. Every song and thumka of hers has earned accolades. Then who is this man who rubbishes her thumri? Her interest is piqued. Slowly, she is swept by his passion and words. He is not impressed with the loquacious Nazar lagi raja tohrey bangley par (Asha Bhonsle gives the perfect lilt to this SD Burman masterpiece). He wants ethereal poetry. And Kishori realises soon that this man is not like her regular customers. There is more to this man that what meets the eye. In his Hum bekhudi mein tum (There is no one else in the universe who could have made this ghazal more sublime than Mohd Rafi), she reads his intensity of feelings and love. Even though Karan is hoodwinking her, he looks like a smitten fellow. There is beauty in his poetry, the beauty that melts the cut-throat businessman that is Kishori. Soon Kishori starts daydreaming...
But that is not to be. For no matter what, Kishori needs to pay the heavy price for her misdemeanour. She had very long ago committed a crime. She has to pay for that. Hence, she has to sacrifice her love at the altar of truth. But the astute woman that she is, she allows Karan to learn of the jackals in his own way so that he is able to recognise the real villains. When the shroud of lies is raised from Karan's eyes, Kishori helps him out once again. This doomed courtesan redeems herself of the hollow deed that she committed years ago. Her reward is Karan's gratitude. She walks away from his life after tears of redemption wash her sins away.
What a beautiful role for the breathtakingly beautiful Nalini Jaywant. The other day my husband told me that this gorgeous actor passed away alone. No one even bothered to pay their last respects to her. She was cremated by an old faithful servant. Surely, this is not the kind of behaviour and commemoration our veteran artists deserve. I was deeply pained by the news...
We come to the evil Rai Bahadur Jaswant Rai, the public prosecutor who twisted the law so that the innocent is victimised. Surely, Kishore Sahu does look every bit as menacing as his character is supposed to be. He is wicked, cunning and forever scheming.
If you have Karan playacting to fool Kishori on one hand, you have the bliss of true romance between Karan and Asha on the other. It is difficult not to be affected by such a ravishing face. Madhubala is earthshatteringly attractive (and she wears a host of sexy blouses, too). A hardworking and resourceful press reporter, Asha is the perfect unction to Karan, ravaged by the atrocities meted out to him by the power brokers of society. I love the first scene where Karan is stunned by her beauty and almost fumbles for words. Then there are those lovely intimate scenes where the two grow close to each other. After the misunderstanding is taken care of we have the chirpy Achaji main hari, a song that will forever be a golden classic. Not just for Madhubala's captivating allure, Asha's breezy rendition, Rafi's sweetness and Dev Anand's poker-faced humour, but also for the fact that reinstates everyone's belief that a tiny fight only strengthens love.
Then we have the climactic Dilwaley ab teri gali tak, picturised on the glamorous (albeit a blackened) Madhubala and a charming Dev Anand, with Sapru lending those lecherous glances towards the damsel. It is a gripping and nail-biting situation yet a lovely buoyant number. Trust Raj Khosla to come up with these fabulous tricks.
I'm not in a position to compare the histrionic skills of Uttam Kumar and Dev Anand. Kumar was flamboyant as always. But what struck me in case of the latter was that Anand totally shorn himself of that stylish persona to play Karan. In fact, as the son hell bent on getting justice for his father, Dev Anand comes across as rugged, determined and strong. He is suave yes, but in a very different way. Here his performance is extremely balanced and restrained, no extra words here, no added gimmicks there. He does not feel shy at shedding tears and romances Asha with a subdued magnificence. Since Raj Khosla could not extract the last monologue from the actor playing Shankarlal (Chhabi Biswas did a flawless job at this), he gives the onus to Dev Anand. And yes, Karan's speech is worth noticing. His voice never quivers. His talent as an actor shines forth. Dev Anand reminds us that the elusive black lady that year had been well earned...


  1. One of my favourite Dev Anand films. :-) Everything about it is so enjoyable - the music, the acting (especially Dev Anand and Nalini Jaywant, as you also mention), and of course, the sheer eye candy... I can watch Acchhaji main haari again and again without getting bored.

  2. @Dustedoff: This film keeps growing on me with every watch. BUt you mustust watch the Bengali one also. That one is superb too. It stars Uttam, Suchitra and Chhabi Biswas. Great acting and lovely songs :)

  3. I have been reading your reviews for a while now... but haven't left a comment before. Must say that... your reviews have helped me in selecting some fabulous movies... to watch. Thank you.

    Nalini Jaywant passed away (on Dec 24, 2010) - silently, without any murmur or whispers. One of the most beautiful and successful leading ladies of the black and white era of cinema... it was sad to hear of her passing...

    I did read about her last interview (or maybe one of her last)... where she inquired after Suchitra Sen... and stated very candidly that Sen was a very gifted performer... whose repertoire of emotions was hard to match.

  4. @Roshmi: Welcome to the sphere. And please do leave your precious comments. They just egg me on to watch and write about some more good films.
    I haven't seen many films starring Nalini jaywant except for this and Munimji but I must say that she was a revelation here. So beautiful, elegant and her voice was husky and very different. She lends a sublimity to the role of the doomed courtesan. I''m going to make sure to see more of her films. It's sad how today's movie 'stars' do not even acknowledge the greatness of these classical performers.
    Thanks for the comment and do keep reading. And commenting :)

  5. Yes indeed i second dusted off's comment on here, its one of my favourite Dev Anand films too and i had planned on doing a write up (though i wouldn't bother naymore)in memory of Nalini Jaywant, she was so natural and devoid of any melodramatic histrionics ( i usually love melodramatic histrionics) byt here her performance was truly refreshing and she deserved the best supporting actress which she got for her role. I also like the Kanoon style questioning of witnesses and reliability of the the law to make sound judgements, overall a fantastic film and one of (if not even) my favourite Dev Anand films

  6. It seems to be universally liked. Really a different Dev Anand.
    I wish Madhubala's role had been fleshed out more as a journalist.

    >BUt you mustust watch the Bengali one also.

    Some more sleuthing required.
    Will definitely watch, if I find.
    I'm a recent convert to Uttam Kumar love. :)

  7. @Bollywooddeewana: Yes I too love the Bollywood courtscenes that these old filmamakers did. YOu dont get such gripping dramas anymore :(

  8. @Pacifist: Welcome to the group. WE all love Uttam Kumar really a lot much. And I think Sabar Uparey is available with subtiles on Rajshri. I think I saw it there. Do watch it if you can get your hands on it. And also watch Agnipariksha. It's a sublime Uttam-Suchitra romance with some marvellous songs. :)

  9. @Sharmi: I second the Agnipariksha love! I loved that film, so much better than Chhoti si Mulaqat. :-)

  10. @Dustedoff: Haha, chhoti si mulaqat... i can just laugh about the film, and I've seen just the title song. It can never match up to the ethereal beauty of Agnipariksha :)

  11. I have seen both Sabr Oporay and Kalapani and liked both. CID,Kaala Bazaar, Kaala Paani, Paying Guest, Tere Ghar Ke Saamne I really love these old Devanand films and the songs are so nice.

  12. @Shilpi: Yes, they are simply great :)

  13. Dev Anand was great in Kala Pani. It's a very interesting movie on the whole with some great songs. Wow, Achhaji main hari and Hum bekhudi mein are such lovely songs.
    The only thing I found unrealistic was how an ordinary murder case hits headlines of newspapers every time. Well, that's how it was in most old movies anyways :)

  14. @Sreenath: Ya, and that too in the most popular of newspapers !!! But then, it is a good film and all this can be glossed over :)

  15. It seems to be universally liked. Really a different Dev Anand.
    I wish Madhubala's role had been fleshed out more as a journalist.

    Dev anand Collection

  16. @Shumaila: Hmmm... but the focus is on Dev Anand here and rightfully so. But yes, Madhubala's role definitely could have been fleshed out more.

  17. I am a fan of old movies it can be any language, Hindi, English, Bengali, Malayalam. I watched both Sabar Uparye and Kala Pani both, both are beautiful both are little different from the Orginal Novel (Beyond This Place). But the performance was just awesome for both. But the performance of Chabi Biswas was one step ahead specially when he was in court second time.