Wednesday, April 4, 2012

GUMNAAM (1965)

It’s Hitchcokian beginning for Hindi film! A man gazing from window a planned car accident killing a man on street, for a moment shows wry smile on his face and starts calling several of his syndicate members that the job has done. We don’t see the faces of his associates though, in the very next scene we witness the gun down of that man. Run the titles and we are thrown into a hotel where eight sophisticated man of society win lucky tickets for a tour. Now we see the faces of the cast- quite an assortment mixing suspicious with surprise! The next day a private plane land them to a strange cut off territory surrounded by sea, forest and an old mansion like building. They received a butler in the house waiting for guests. As soon as they finished their dinner, they come across a diary explaining that they’re all trapped together and one by one all of them get eliminated as they all are responsible for one man’s death. Needless to say that the rest of the film follows series of murders, tension of whodunit and suspicion shifting from one member to another!

The film became super hit musical-mystery of the year and my reason to revisit it is after almost fifteen years or so is obviously eagerness to watch the Indian popular screen adaptation after finishing one of the mind-blowing murder mystery on which the had its seeds. While adapting Agatha Christie’s one of the brilliant mystery of all-time ‘And Then There Were None’, director Raja Nawathe and screenplay writer Dhruva Chatterjee didn’t pay any heed to give credit to the Queen of Mystery like most of Hindi cinema filmmakers. But what is more frustrating is they messed the original novel on screen terribly in the second half changing its revelation of climax nemesis just for the sake of giving it happy ending by keeping our hero-heroine scot-free from crime and also making them alive. In Christie’s engaging book the revelation after the death of all its players is something so brilliant. Unfortunately while adapting it for Indian mass cine going audience, the director-producer didn’t resist the temptation to use those gimmicks of Hindi cinema’s typical thrilling trait- ‘White Saree-Haunting melody repetition’, the taken as granted romance of hero-heroine and the Musical numbers throwing enough songs desirable for audience eyes and ears but absolutely undesirable for the plot and genre.

Amid all the assembled cast of baddies like Pran, Madan Puri, Manmohan, Hiralal; a  comedian like Dhumal and brilliant Mehmood; a fine character artist Tarun Bose and Hindi cinema's an eternal vamp- Helen; it also has company of Dilip Kumar aping Manoj Kumar with Nanda but none of them manage to score attention as much as the talented Mehmood used as relaxing comic agent in this noir like entertainer. With his Hyderabadi accent, mannerisms and attire (loongi with striped T-shirt) he’s the only man to look forward.

For all those nostalgic Hindi film music lovers, the film has some worth to mention tracks from versatile duo- Shanker-Jaikishan. Along with Lata’s haunting ‘Gumnaam hai Koi’ or light melody like ‘Is Duniya mein Jina Ho’ to Rafi’s sensuous rendering ‘Jaane Chaman Shola badan’ or mass favorite ‘Hum Kale hai to Kya Hua’; but my favorite track would go to that foot tapping night club Rock & Roll Rafi track came in the beginning ‘Jaan Pehchan Ho’.

Gumnaam is indeed a fine mystery if you’re watching it for the first time and surely a nostalgic revisit, the only disappointment is my expectation of watching an equally engaging screen adaptation!  

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