We’ve reached the letter K in this film review series in Hinglish. The four films picked are 49, 61, 49 and 38 years old; so, on the average, we’re still looking at films that are about 50 years old!

Kab? Kyoon? Aur Kahan?

kabkyunkahanposterIt reminded me of India’s test openers in Australia: Vijay and Rahul: They were shot out even before you properly settled down to watch the game.

In Kab? Kyoon? Aur Kahan? (1970), Babita (B)’s rich father is shot dead almost as soon as the credit lines stop rolling. He’s driving down the Khandala Ghat, but Pran (P) is waiting in the bushes, and shoots him down literally first ball. The car topples, hurtles down the hill and gets completely mangled. P shares a wink with Arjun Hingorani (AH) as they celebrate a job well done.

P is the dead man’s step brother. With his wild lifestyle, he’s neck deep in debt and his money lenders like AH are getting impatient. So, the poor elder brother had to go so that P can hit his money.

Of course to touch the big money, the dead man’s daughter B too has to be eliminated. But that’s not going to happen too soon because B is on a fancy international cruise with her kutta. As the ocean liner leaves the next port, B finds that she has to share her cabin with a handsome new guest Dharmendra (D). B throws her nakhras, but it is easy for D to charm her almost instantly with a rustic song on the deck. And when D wins the panja duel with the taklu Shetty, B is completely besotted. It’s time for another love song.

But as the ship returns to Bombay, it is time for the more serious business to start: P has to bump off B.

P first tries to drug B’s tea, then dreams of an underwater encounter to drown B, but D is always around to save her. By now we also know that D is a CID inspector who’s charged with investigating B’s father’s death.

Briefly, the film seems to be going nowhere as D does his detective stuff wearing several disguises. Not to be left behind, B flaunts the widest variety of hairdos and wigs. All this proves is that B looks more like Karisma’s mother than Kareena’s.

And then things happen! B accidentally ‘kills’ P when he attempts to rape her good friend Ashoo. B and Ashoo then drive out into the jungle in the middle of the night to dispose off a mighty coffin lodged in the boot of the Merc. The duo leaves behind so many clues that it becomes trivially simple for D to reconstruct the killing and identify the spot where the coffin was dumped.

But when the coffin is prised open … surprise, surprise … there’s no P ki laash. Worse still, B keeps getting nightmares of seeing P and the wise doctor says B will get heart failure if she stays in this tense state of mind.

So kya hua? Kaise aur kab? I’ll admit that the plot has some promise although the director Arjun Hingorani fails to be as taut as a Raj Khosla or Vijay Anand.

It turns out that B’s friend Ashoo is P’s accomplice. She fires bloody blanks at P, P pretends to be dead, and B is convinced that she shot P. And just before they set off to dump the corpse, P pops out of the coffin and replaces himself with a bag of cement. He’s therefore alive, and with a weird crystal in the eye, hopes to stun B to death … and then nab all the money.

But D averts every evil misdemeanour; so, when he eventually marries B, no one asks when, why or where. KA’s music is occasionally hummable, but hardly creates an ecstasy of melody.

Kala Pani

kala-paniposterDev Anand (DA) is angry with his maa. “For 15 years you told me that my dead father was a khooni, and today you’re telling me that he’s zinda and languishing in some jail?”

The mother says she wanted to save him the ignominy of being called a murderer’s son. She adds, more shamefacedly, that the murdered woman was a tawaif who was intimate with the father.

But DA isn’t amused or impressed. He takes the next train to Hyderabad where the baap is jailed.

The first meeting with the baap is frosty. “Oh, so you finally remember you have a father … and your mother hasn’t come to see me even once!” Finally, he tells him the big truth: “I’m innocent, I’ve been framed”.

The rest of Kala Pani (1958) is about DA doing all it takes to clear his father’s name and free him from jail. He meets the shop keeper, who confirms that the father reached the crime spot after the murder was committed; he meets the police inspector who admits that he felt uneasy with the verdict.

It soon becomes clear that a rich nobleman had killed the tawaif, and bribed the public prosecutor to frame the baap. But is there any documentary evidence to prove the baap‘s innocence?

There is, apparently, a letter implicating the nobleman. But it is with Nalini Jaywant (NJ) an ageing, but still alluring, tawaif who won’t talk. NJ can’t be bought by throwing money at her because she’s already rich, but she could be enticed by a handsome man with a poetic verve and a lilting voice.

So DA turns on his charm. A besotted NJ bursts into song when she sees him first, and is completely bowled over when DA sings this immortal classic. Soon NJ starts truly believing that DA loves her, and, rather wickedly, DA plays along. In reality, DA has completely flipped for his hostel owner’s niece Madhubala (M). M is a chief reporter of the Deccan Times, and maa kasam I’d have worked all my life for a newspaper with such a bewitchingly radiant reporter.

DA is living dangerously flirting with both NJ and M. The bubble has to burst. When NJ discovers that DA wanted that letter – and not her – she is shattered, but, presumably in an act of penance, she gives DA that letter. When M discovers that DA is two-timing her, she walks out on him in a fit of anger. Later she’d know DA’s truth and apologize profusely, but DA now plays hard to get.

There are more twists. When DA shows the NJ letter to the public prosecutor, he burns it right in front of DA’s eyes. DA is shocked and seemingly defeated, but he successfully launches a satyagraha with M writing favorable stuff about his movement in the Deccan Times. Even that wasn’t necessary because NJ had given him a fake the first time (“I knew they’d destroy it”, she later tells him). Eventually, It eventually boils down to establishing that the handwriting on the letter matches that of the nobleman. This is achieved via the weakest twist in the tale, when the nobleman is enticed by the film’s poorest song to give a handwritten certificate.

But never mind. This is another taut effort by Raj Khosla; and old man Burman’s music has, as always, the magical lilt. Kala Pani stays with you as much for Madhubala’s beauty, as for Dev Anand’s tremendous performance (got the Filmfare Award for best actor) and Nalini Jaywant’s marvelous portrayal as the gracious loser (she too got the Filmfare best supporting actress award).

khilona 1970 frontKhilona (1970) starts promisingly. Shatrughan Sinha (SS) is marrying Alka, and there’s an evil gleam in his eye.

That’s because he’s somehow phassaod Alka, when, in reality, she and Sanjeev Kumar (SK) are in love.

To turn the knife in the wound further, SS asks SK to sing a song at the wedding reception. It’s hard to song at such a moment, but, with considerable help from Rafisaab, SK tearfully asks Alka to be happy.

At the end of the song, Alka immolates herself in a Diwali cracker fire (how? don’t ask!) and SK becomes paagal. Really paagal. So they lock him up in the barsaati on top of their house. SK grows a beard, has a mad glint in his eye, and tears his kurta every day.

Fortunately the family can afford new kurtas. SK is the middle son of a really rich thakur. The elder son, Ramesh Deo is a chhuppa rustom philanderer, and the younger son, Jeetendra, who’s studying away, keeps wandering in and out based on his marzi.

Ideally SK should’ve been treated in a mental asylum, as Ramesh Deo recommends, but the thakur can’t do that because his thakur-ain says she’ll die of grief if that happens. So, with admirable foresight, that only Hindi films can conjure, the thakur goes to a kotha and invites the dancer there to stay at his house … and hopefully entice SK to recovery. The dancer is Mumtaz (M), and she’s looking stunningly beautiful.

M has a tough job. With her looks, song and dance, she must somehow nurse SK back to good health. She agrees chiefly because SK was a poet par excellence before he went bonkers, and M had fallen in love with his poetry. M is in another room on the barsaati, which is pretty dangerous because once the mad man sees fire he can do anything … like rape M in an insane bout of fury. Unlike today’s #MeToo girls, M doesn’t ‘out’ SK on Twitter after the loss of her izzat because there’s no Twitter in 1970, and even more because she secretly loves him.

SK begins to recover. He even falls in love with his new toy M. Who wouldn’t with an irresistible M on the same terrace? I’ve rarely seen M look more captivating; no wonder SK kept hugging her at every possible opportunity, and she of course let him because that was presumably a part of the ‘therapy’.

This was a 160-minute film, so there was obviously more evil from SS. There’s a brief phase when Jeetendra falls for M before realizing that she’s the equivalent of his pregnant bhabhi. Then there’s the moment when the ungrateful thakur is ready to pack off M after SK recovers. There’s also the added complication with M believed to be Muslim. She isn’t. She’s as big a Hindu as her big bindi, and indeed turns out to be the behen of Ramesh Deo’s wife before she was lost in a train accident.

In the end, the film gets positively tiresome especially because LP’s good music stops after two good Rafi solos, and one passable Lata solo. But you endure because SK is so accomplished to watch and M is playing one of the best roles of her splendid career.


kudratposterKudrat (1981) had an amazing star cast. Raaj Kumar RK), Rajesh Khanna (Kaka), Hema Malini (HM), Vinod Khanna (VK) and Priya Rajvansh (PR). Priya was the odd lady out, but you had to endure her because it was a Chetan Anand film.

The film starts in a railway compartment – so many Indian film do – and has HM chattering nineteen to the dozen. The script expects her to be 20 – actually, she was just past 30, but still gorgeous. But as more of the landscape unfolds, when the train approaches Simla, HM has that bemused, somewhat agitated expression. Clearly some deja vu at work.

Rather conveniently, VK is around too, and he’s an acclaimed psychiatrist. VK and HM make an incredible pair, and the parents already begin to smile at future possibilities.

At the other end, RK, the town chieftain, lives with his only daughter PR. RK has been Kaka’s godfather – got him educated as a top lawyer – and now wants Kaka to wed PR. This looks to be a straight win-win, and RK has a glow of satisfaction as he sees his bitiya falling in love with Kaka.

Unfortunately, for all concerned, VK-HM and Kaka-PR assemble for a concert where Aruna Irani is to sing a song. One look at Kaka, and she changes her song to hume tumse pyar kitna ..

That’s what upsets the apple cart. Turns out that Kaka was Aruna Irani’s big brother in his previous life, and he used to sing this song to his love HM. HM begins to remember more, Kaka starts to remember, and VK has to do some heavy duty hypnosis to figure out what happened to HM, and how did she die.

In a chilling end drama it is revealed that RK had raped and killed HM in her past life and built a wall on the terrace of his haveli to hide her body. As the wall is broken down, HM’s old skeleton appears.

Kudrat was a stylish film. The Simla locales were breathtaking, and Raaj Kumar performs brilliantly. The songs, composed by Pancham, offered enough glimpses of his legendary jaadu.

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