I have a thing for whodunits – both books and movies. When I first found out about this 1957 movie (thanks to its lovely songs), I was a little hesitant to watch it. For one, it has a lesser-known cast and was not very popular. So I was not too sure about whether I wanted to watch it or not.
However, a couple of months back, I found out that this was a Bimal Roy production and that this was directed by Asit Sen (Khamoshi, Mamta). I was piqued. And this landed on my ‘to-watch’ list
After a hectic weekend, I wanted a mental break and I decided to watch the movie today and here is my review.
A Bimal Roy production directed by Asit Sen, Apradhi Kaun (1957) stars Abhi Bhattacharya, Mala Sinha, Jagirdar. This is the debut movie of Tarun Bose and Lillian (whom I had seen in Rustom Sohrab – 1963).
The story begins when an old crippled man enters a huge bungalow. He hobbles across and asks to meet the owner.
Dinanath (our old guy played by Jagirdar) meets his brother Srinath (the owner, also played by Jagirdar) and we get to know that the relations between the brothers are strained. Their father reportedly had disinherited Dinanath and their other brother, Pitambar. Dinanath is now back as he is old and ill and wants a place to stay. He also tells Srinath that he is aware of another will made by their father (just before his death), in which Srinath has been disinherited. Srinath pooh-poohs this claim but has a change of heart and allows Dinanath to stay.
We are then introduced to the other inhabitants of this huge bungalow. There is a strange doctor (Tarun Bose making his debut) with an odd scar on his face. The doctor is there, doing some research and treating Srinath for some ailment. It is another matter that the doctor spends more time spying on the rest of the inhabitants of the house.
Then there is an old estate manager who is embezzling funds. Srinath does catch hold of him early in the movie and gives him a dressing down. There are a couple of servants – a deaf and dumb guy (Dhumal) and a maid who is called Champa.
That evening, Srinath goes off to meet his beloved Lily (Lillian in her debut role) who is a dancer at a nightclub. She passes a napkin with a room number on it during her performance.
Srinath goes to the room to meet Rai Bahadur (Murad). He has the actual will and refuses to give it to Srinath. He demands a hefty amount. They quarrel and Lily comes in and plays peacemaker.
Later that very night, Lily helps Srinath break into Rai Bahadur’s house so that he can steal the will. Srinath is caught in the act and a scuffle ensues. Rai Bahadur gets shot and dies.
A terrified Srinath goes back home and tells his doctor and manager that he is being followed. He then summons a detective Rajesh to come immediately to the house.
The next morning, we are taken to this famous detective Rajesh’s (Abhi Bhattacharya, looking quite smart) office. He is there along with his assistant, Balram. There is a pretty visitor, Shobha (Mala Sinha) who is there to meet him. She wants his help to steal something. He is surprised but refuses that he works on the side of law and does not steal.
He then receives the telegram from Srinath’s place and so goes there with Balram. Rajesh meets him and decides to spend the night to understand who is after Srinath’s life. He meets Shobha who is a nurse and works there. The Doctor and Srinath have an argument that night. The Doctor has invented an injection to cure some disease and wants to patent it. While he is okay with sharing the profits, Srinath is not. Srinath even reveals that he has stolen the formula.
That very night, the police led by Inspector Sinha come to arrest Srinath – they have solved the murder of Rai Bahadur (how I wonder, cos the murder weapon was not even left at the spot of the crime)! Instead they find a dead Srinath in his room. The poor cat had been yowling the entire scene – it was after all the only eye-witness. Rajesh and the police discuss the murder (standing in front of the corpse) as if they were discussing what to eat for dinner. The cops shoo everyone out finally. Rajesh starts his investigation – mainly by standing in a dark place and spying on anyone who passes by!
He spots Shobha who finally comes and steals whatever it was that she wanted. As he confronts her and talks to her about the theft, there is a black hooded person who is at the window.
Rajesh chases this ‘kaali chhaya‘ person but he/she gets away.
The next morning the Inspector and Rajesh interview all the inhabitants and the poor Inspector admits he has no clue. So our hero Rajesh now does all the sleuthing, when he is not flirting (harmlessly and rather badly) with the pretty Shobha. The rest of the movie unravels the mystery. Who killed Srinath? Why did Shobha steal the will? What does the suspicious Doctor want? And is Dinanath as innocent as he looks?
My two cents – I liked it. It was not a brilliant movie. It was not even tightly scripted for that matter. But it was good fun. The ending was a surprise. I did not guess it – I do tend to fall for the red herrings in whodunits and this movie was no exception!
The Performances: Some of the characters were irritating. I had a problem with the detective Rajesh. While Abhi Bhattacharya looked good (the same cannot be said about his acting though), Rajesh the detective deserved a whack on his head. He had a talent of missing the obvious – despite looking all stern and observant. And which detective goes around discussing the case and singing songs with a potential suspect, no matter however pretty she is!
Mala Sinha is decent as Shobha. Pretty and restrained, she does not resort to any major melodrama or histrionics.
Jagirdar steals the show. He plays two characters, Dinanath and Srinath, and boy he pulls them off very well. If I had not known, thanks to the IMDB synopsis, that he plays both these roles, I would not have guessed. He has endowed both characters with distinct body language and mannerisms. He comes off as an avuncular old man as Dinanath and exudes evil in his portrayal of Srinath. Tarun Bose is fairly good in this supporting debut role.
Lillian is given extensive screen time – she gets to wear pretty dresses and sing two songs. While she looks very nice, she just cannot act! Her accent is bad and she can’t emote to save her life.
Music: The music by Salil Choudhary is good. I like all the songs. Asha Bhosle sings three solos; Manna Dey sings one solo number and a duet with Geeta Dutt (Hain pyar ke do matwaale). Baat koi matlab ki hai zaroor and Mera dil lekar Kidhar are picturised on Lillian. Koi Dekhe kahe tujhko deewana is filmed on Mala Sinha and Abhi Bhattacharya. Phir Wohi Dard Hai is the cute Manna Dey solo picturised on Dhumal and Balram (don’t know the actor who plays this role)
All in all, this was a light, entertaining one-time watch. Not great but definitely not bad.