Starring Dev Anand, Waheeda Rehman, Jagdev Bambari, Sunder, Sheila Vaz, Bipin Gupta, Bir Sakhuja, Tun Tun, Raj Khosla

A typical early neo-noir film, “Solva Saal” is the story of a single night wherein a girl, Laaj (Waheeda Rehman) elopes with her lover Shyam (Jagdev) and steals a precious necklace from her home, leaving behind three young siblings and a widowed father, Shankar Lal (Bipin Gupta). While aboard a local train they run into a journalist, Pran Nath Kashyap (Dev Anand), and a freelance photographer, Gogi (Sunder), who follow them clandestinely under suspicion of their movements and in anticipation of a story. The narrative picks up pace once Laaj, having realised that she has been cheated by her lover and robbed of the necklace, starts chasing Shyam with Kashyap’s help.

Meanwhile, Shyam lands up in dancer Neena’s (Kammo) make-up room in a film studio and presents her the necklace. She advises disposing it off and invites a jeweller, Bihari Lal (Bir Suakhuja), who convinces Shyam that the pearls are fake. Having learnt of Neena’s intentions to not share the loot with Shyam, he shares the truth about their worth with her. Meanwhile, a repentant Laaj tells Kashyap the truth about her elopement and the urgency to get back home before 5 am because her father has to board a flight to Bangalore to meet her possible suitor’s mother. By now, they are at the studio in search of Shyam. Mistaken for junior artistes, they are asked to don makeup and report on the sets of the film where director Raj Khosla is directing a song-dance-number with Neena, who is wearing the pearl necklace.

Seemingly inspired by Frank Capra’s “It Happened One Night”, the film is based on a story idea by Omkar Dogra who also assisted the director Raj (Veer Singh) Khosla in writing the screenplay. Bhappi Sonie (a later day filmmaker) wrote the dialogues. Slick editing by Vishnu Singh, elegant cinematography by ace lensman Dwarka Divecha, choreography by Krishna Kutty, Majrooh Sultanpuri’s lyrics set to tune by S.D. Burman (“Yeh bhi roothne ka mausam hai dewane” by Asha Bhosle; “Hai apna dil toh awara na jane kis pe ayega” by Hemant Kumar; “Yehi toh hai woo, yahi to hai” by Mohammed Rafi; “Dekho ji mera hall badal gayi chaal, dekho mujhe laga solva saal” by Asha Bhosle, Sudha Malhotra, Mohammed Rafi; “Nazar ki katari” by Sudha Malhotra) were some of the other credits of this 150-minute moderate Chandrakant C Desai hit made under the banner of Chandra Movies.

After “Baazi” and “Jaal” in the early ’50s it seems to have become mandatory for Dev Anand to expose his hairy chest a few times, at least in almost all his crime and noir films, and his by now standard mannerisms are on display throughout this film. Though barely 22 then and only in her fourth Hindi release, Waheeda Rehman demonstrates her class: both in serious scenes demanding intensity and through sparkling, mischievous eye movements during lighter moments. Innovative song picturisations, a hallmark of all Raj Khosla movies, a trait learnt from Guru Dutt, make it a pleasure to watch.