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Thursday, 23 June 2011

Drooling over this cabbie (Taxi Driver)

There is something about the Dev Anand of the 50s. He is raw and roguish, yet so very sweet and tempting. He has this distinct sex appeal that is unpolished, hence wild and terribly attractive. He was yet to get that quintessential swagger of the 60s, the sweep of his mane and his jaunty persona. But in his earlier films, he somehow appeared more passionate and involved in those innovative roles. He bravely took on the parts of pickpockets, thieves and smugglers and he pulled them off with a kind of unconscious flamboyance that made it so heartwarming. His body language was more natural and he did not feel gawky at wearing his heart on his sleeves. Films such as Baarish and Taxi Driver project him is a unique grey light. He was not scared to don the mantle of the shirker and the cynical and his clean approach towards these roles made him such a joy to watch. He displayed no inhibitions and mingled freely with the narrative to make his characters charming as well as flawless.

In the 60s, Dev Anand wasn't bad either. But there was something about him that smacked of super stardom. He became too conscious of who he was and toyed with those mannerisms so frequently that even though he was so gorgeous, he somewhat lacked the heart he displayed in his roles of the 50s. Chetan Anand's Taxi Driver is one such film. 
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.
But suddenly, Hero's sister-in-law arrives from his village to take him back as she wants him to get married. Hero is forced to snip off Mala's long tresses so that she looks like a young boy. He forces her to don an overall and introduces her as his cleaning guy. The trick pays off and no one suspects Mala to be a young girl. But in the process, Hero's friends discuss Sylvie's attraction for Hero in front of Mala and she fears that she is coming between Hero and Sylvie. Mala leaves Hero. Hero launches an extensive search operation to locate Mala no matter what and when he does, embraces her immediately to reveal his deep love for her. But the story hardly ends here...
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
The music by SD Burman is great and so is Lata Mangeshkar and Talat Mehmood's rendition. Evergreen songs like Dil ko milakey, Jeene do, Dil jale to jale and jaye to jaye kahaan are fabulous ornamentation to the taut narrative. In fact, while many would vouch for Lata's version of Jaye to jaye, my heart went out to Talat Mehmooh's piece. His voice is much more evocative and sensitive. His version is picturised on a brooding Dev Anand who is just too handsome. His stubbled attractiveness just made me weak in the knees.
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!!
My eyes were glued on the seductive temptress Sylvie, played so effortlessly by Sheila Ramani. I have to admit that she is one of the best club attractions ever. She is curvaceous yet slender, she is breathtakingly attractive and is crazily seductive in her body language. No wonder Hero once had the hots for her. It's awesome how she makes everyone a victim of her sensuality and stamps over those wounded hearts!! Very sure of herself and her beauty, she just revels in her beauty!!! Great casting I must say.
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...


  1. Dear Sharmi
    You made my day... Devanand and Shammi are my all time favorite..I have seen all their movies ( I mean almost all).
    The write up is superb and will read once more tomorrow morning.
    Bhalo theko

  2. I agree with you about Sheila Ramani (well, actually about almost everything you have to say about Taxi Driver!) Though the songs of the film are good, for me Dev Anand's good looks and Sheila's gorgeousness are the main thing. And I love all the songs picturised on her - each of them is fantastic.

  3. @Ushnish: Thank you Sir and you take care. :)

  4. @Dustedoff: Yes Sheila was was so much better than Kalpana. And it's so sad that people go gaga over some lame Sheila today and her jawani!!! :(

  5. LOL about people going gaga over some Sheila and her jawani who is nothing compared to Sheila Ramani. :-D

    Agree with what you say about the film.
    I always have to try to like Kalpana Kartik in her films. Though she does have a sultry kind of attraction due to her eyebrows, and eye expressions.


  6. @Pacifist: And the conventional way she talks in. I find that she takes some time to grow on me! But I just did not like her in Baazi!!! She was sooo sickly... GAwd!! Even here, when Sheila is on screen, she just ignites it!!

  7. @Sharmi: Taxi Driver is a simple sweet movie. Dev Anand really acted well as cabbie. As you observed, he was different in 50's. Coming to Kapana Kartik, I liked her in Nau Do Gyarah as well. She does take time to grow on you :)

  8. @Sreenath: Ya she was okay there too. But Baazi somehow does not have any effect on me! :(

  9. that first screencap you posted is utterly beautiful, Dev is so dashing in there. I'll look out for this, but the first film that sold me in on Dev was Jap Pyar kisise hota hai

  10. @Bollywooddeewana: Yaaaa that was in the early 60s and by that time Dev had become absolutely sure of his superstar persona. But in the 50s he was more raw. Hence so passionate and easy. watch this, it's good :)

  11. Dear Sharmi Ghosh Dastidar:
    I bounced into your site out of nowhere in the digital cloud and got glued to it. I am yet to see reviews of classic old hindi films which come from the heart. My collections are almost close to your list and therefore it gives that extra charm to read and replay, go on a wild search to get the missed ones. Keep up your good work and will wait for the next update.....and btw I dont follow hindi!.....Ram

  12. well,the songs are great and so is dev anand-my favourite hindi film the way, do you know that jayen toh jayen kahan was the no.1 song in the inaugural binaca geetmala.moreover,jayen toh jayen kahan is inspired from gurudev's song hey khaniker atithi.the movie in itself is quite average and clumsy but dev and the songs make it a nice watch.

  13. another fact dev anand made jaaneman[1976]-a film which is very similar to taxi driver.both were directed by chetan very similar,i mean that jaaneman can even be called taxi driver's remake.devsaab thought that a remake of taxi driver-one of his biggest hits,would save his then fast sliding down career,but sadly that did not happen.Jaaneman actually lacked the magic of taxi driver.the heroine of jaaneman was hema malini.

  14. Very nice review.
    Three comments.
    1. Why is Barsaat mentioned? Dev Anand was not in it, it was Premnath with Raj Kapoor (although Dev Anand and Premnath acted together in Aaram).
    2. Jeene do aur jiyo was sung by Asha Bhosle.
    3. S. D. Burman used three different plyaback singers for Dev Anand: Talat, Kishore Kumar (Chaahe koi khush hoke galiya hazar de) and (a duet with Asha Bhosle and) some unknown named Jagmohan. Probably this Jagmohan (Bakshi) teamed up as a team Sapan - Jagmohan to give music to several films; there is another music director Jagmohan Sursagar.

  15. @Ram: Ohh you don't know Hindi then how do you make out what's happening in the films?!!?! YOu must be sheerly in love with the oldies to just make do with the subtitles. Sure will soon put up the next post after I return to the city. Im travelling now. Thanks for the encouragement and keep reading :)

  16. @Madmusic: Well I haven't seen Jaaneman and don't know whether I'm keen enough to watch it!!

  17. @Pacifist: Oops sorry that's Baarish and I've rectifies the mistake. Wonder why I made this error after I've reviewed Baarish in details. And thanks for all the trivia. I still think you should start a blog of your own and enrich us with all the knowledge that you have of these oldies :)

  18. @Madmusic: Yes the film is otherwise quite plain but the songs are lovely.