Om Prakash, Navin Nischol, Archana, Deven Verma, Lalita Pawar, Aruna Irani
Indian cinema is replete with mystery thrillers, some devoid of even one song and many riding on the shoulders of melodious music. “Mahal”, “Kohra”, “Bees Saal Baad”, “Jewel Thief” and “Teesri Manzil” are a few names that come to mind. They were successful suspense subjects with music as the strong point. “Buddha Mil Gaya” belonged to the same genre, but with a difference. It did not boast an elite star cast but it had the desired ingredients to keep you glued.
Archana was the leading lady. She was hardly noticed in later years even though she managed to give a decent performance in this movie. Navin Nischol was a newcomer to the film industry. The dapper Nischol was one of the most talented alumni of the Film and Television Institute of India and he slipped into this role to strike a lively onscreen partnership with Deven Verma. The plot had space for Aruna Irani too, but Om Prakash, the buddha (old person) of the story, is the one to watch out for.
There is a distinct stamp of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s excellent handling of the cast. He takes recourse to subtle humour without sacrificing the taut narration that makes this one of the finest thrillers. Mukherjee directs each actor by giving him/ her appropriate attention. That is one reason why there is no individual towering over the rest, with the exception of the versatile Om Prakash.
Ajay (Nischol) and Bhola (Verma) are budding photographers, looking for opportunities, trying to create some, and one of their desperate act leads them into the adventurous world that accompanies Girdharilal (Om Prakash), the protagonist of the musical thriller. A newspaper advertisement seeking information on a missing old, wealthy man leads to a combination of hilarious and engaging situations, with a series of murders adding to the mystery element. Ajay and Bhola stumble upon the sought-after old man, and bring him home with the hope of claiming the award on his information. Girdharilal has an agenda, of hunting down his detractors who had cheated him of his wealth and left his family homeless. Memories of his lost daughter create a bond between Girdharilal and Deepa (Archana), who is considerate towards the two jobless youths, tenants in her grandmother’s house.
Lalita Pawar plays the grandmother with characteristic flair and steals the show during scenes involving her and Ajay and Bhola. As the plot unfolds, the murder of Girdharilal’s former business associates adds to the excitement. The buddha has a past and obviously is out to settle some issues. Interestingly, as the two photographers follow the trail of the old man, keen to unravel the sGOGtory behind the murders, they end up suspecting their prized catch. Each murder is announced with a song “Aayo kahaan se ghanshaam”, a superb Manna Dey rendering, highlighting music director Rahul Dev Burman’s skills in weaving classical numbers. Nischol’s constant refrain “Baap re” as he reacts to a situation is so natural, as is Verma’s banter with Aruna Irani, who makes an impression with her portrayal of a modern and progressive girl out to teach misbehaving men a lesson. Her Nari Sena is an organisation so ahead of times.
With Majrooh penning lyrics and Rahul Dev Burman conjuring some lilting tunes, the songs emerge a strong contribution to the progress of the film. From “Raat kali ek khwab mein aayi” to “Bhali bhali si ek surat”, the catchy numbers continue to appeal even four decades after we first heard them.
It is not among the best from Mukherjee’s offerings, but “Buddha Mil Gaya” is a not-to-be-missed movie for its classy humour and a gripping plot that doesn’t slacken for a moment.