It is remarkable how easy Dev Anand is here. It almost appears as if he is Hero, the titular character. He has the swagger but it is so well amalgamated to his onscreen persona that it does not look out of place. He is a cynic but he is not caustic. He is subtle and is ready for change. He smiles that deadly smile and utters the most streetsmart lines. When he falls in love, his declaration is soft yet sure. He is not afraid to pass sarcastic remarks to Sylvie, the woman who loves to ensnare rich men. And when he is lonely, he does not care two hoots about venting out his sorrow with a soulful dirge. Madan truly becomes the shining hero of this simple yet engaging romantic drama. And yes, Dev Anand looks too good to be true, but in a very rakish way.
One of the best parts of Taxi Driver is how a simple story is made interesting. Here is this cabbie who ekes out a living carting passengers in the big city of Bombay. He has his struggles and his disillusions but he is not the man to be lost in sorrows all the time. He realises that the club singer Sylvie is too clever to stick to a poor guy like him and hence moves on to greener pastures. But he is also naughty enough to pass off sarcastic comments when he sees Sylvie moving and shaking up with more prosperous men. he works hard whole day only to have some fun in the club with his friends at night. This 1954 film highlights on the camaraderie between taxi drivers in Bombay. When someone's taxi breaks down, Hero does not dither before giving that cabbie his own taxi to cart passengers.
One day, while Hero is on the move he is hired by two men who have to take a young woman somewhere. Hero is asked to stop his cab in a desolate stretch. Smelling something fishy, Hero stays put for sometime and suddenly hears a shriek from the woman. He saves the woman from being molested by the two goons and takes her away in his taxi. Mala, the woman, tells Hero that she is here to meet Ratanlal, a music director, who had promised her a break in the film industry. But alas, the address he had given her, turned out to be a very old one and Ratanlal had shifted from there. Scouring the entire city when the two are unable to locate Ratanlal, Hero takes Mala to his humble abode and allows her to sleepover. Next day, Hero and Mala continue their search for Ratanlal but to no avail. But Hero and Mala start to share a bond that is inexplicable. Mala is a simple village belle who respects Hero despite his faults, Hero is taken by Mala's simplicity and sweetness. After a long time, here is someone who actually cares for him and is affected is he smokes, drinks or gambles.
Chetan Anand's film is embellished by fine lines by Vijay Anand. I am mighty impressed when Hero tells Mala, "Motorgadi amiro ka naukar hota hain, aur taxi gareebo ka annadata." It not only sheds light on the hard work and integrity of the taxt drivers, it also smacks of the easy charm that Hero becomes alluring for. This line just stayed on with me
But the best I guess is Aye meri zindagi. It is not only a tremendously catchy club song, it is picturised on the gorgeous Sheila Ramani in all her gowned splendour. She moves like a diva and floors everyone with her sexiness. The song is played in the background as Hero tackles the villains and a dangerous cat-and-mouse chase is executed. Awesome!!
The main woman in Hero's life is Mala, a mousy little belle from a village. I have to admit that Kalpana Kartik didn't quite have any effect on me in the first few stages. But once she disguises herself as Rajput, the young boy, she sparkles. She runs like the wind, walks like a boy and even talks like one. A bit unconventional in the way she acts, Kalpana Kartik blends into the role after a few hiccups. In fact, while she looks too plain jane with her long hair, she appears a smart dame with her bob. And she looks more sharp with this hairdo. I love the scene where she gets into the car after Hero locates her suddenly and the two embrace each other tightly. So natural and heartfelt. Was it because he had a thing for this lady in real life (she went on to become his wife later) or was it just great play acting?
No matter what I liked this film. It didn't have a spectacular story, yes and it didn't give much scope to Johny Walker, but it was an innovative venture from Navketan for sure. And Dev Anand was awesome here. Raw, brilliant and so fabulously droolworthy. So, what's not to like...