Persis Khambata, Jalal Agha, Vimal Ahuja, Surekha, David, Irshad Panjatan, A.K. Hangal, Madhukar, Kuljit Pal

The story is set in an era when a full-time journalist earned Rs.500 a month, a second hand sedan could be bought for Rs.30,000 and an apartment anywhere in Bombay city for a mere Rs.1 lakh, and the roads were empty for filming a car chase (one of the best in Indian cinema) at night.

The film had a perfect script for a gripping crime thriller. Reportedly, after listening to the narration noted script and dialogue writer, Inder Raj Anand inscribed on the bound script: “I wish I had written the story of it” and after watching it Shakti Samanta who had until then made a series of crime-based films was overheard saying: “It was a perfect script for a superhot film…had Abbas sahib (Khwaja Ahmad Abbas) not directed it.”

Unresolved mystery

And, of course, a more competent cast though debutant Jalal Agha and Persis Khambata essayed their roles with ease and conviction.

Why did the director cast such versatile actors like David, A.K. Hangal, mime artist Irshad Panjatan in literally one-scene insignificant roles is an unresolved mystery.

The same holds for the talented Madhavi who in any case had a short run.

The film opens with a recitation from the Mahaupanishad by Prithviraj Kapoor. At one level it is the story of Azad Kalam tabloid's debt-burdened idealist star reporter, Amar Kumar (Vimal Ahuja) whose investigative stories become a thorn in the eyes of Seth Sonadas Doleria (Hangal).

He invites Amar to Delhi to lure him with better prospects, P.R. officer and foreign travel. Refusing the offer Amar takes a return flight and finds himself seated next to a nervous first-time traveller, Sevakram (Irshad Panjatan) who is escaping to the dream city with a cash of Rs. 4 lakhs stolen from his bank. Also on flight are a bootlegger and small time crook, Johnny (Jalal Agha), and a rich socialite Toto who invites him to a party.

Back in Bombay, Amar decides to pay his estranged girlfriend, Asha (Surekha), daughter of Barrister Rameshchand (David). Unknown to him, Sevakram is reported dead, cash missing, and he a suspect.

Loaded with stolen money, Johnny starts living out his fantasies, including dating and marrying cabaret dancer, Lily (Persis Khambata), out rightly rejecting the love of childhood companion, Rosie (Madhavi) who becomes a victim of physical assault at Toto's free-for-all party where the main cast assembles.

Exposed and learning police was after him Johnny abandons the party, and tries to escape together with Lily – chased by Amar and Asha in a stolen vehicle, and a police jeep.

The thrilling car chase that ends in the death of Johnny, Lily and Rosie (raat mujhe bahon mein le lo – take me in your arms, o night) is a highlight of the film.

Loaded with socialistic messages, scathing one-liners ( Sookhi roti and aadarsh se kaam nahi chalta – You can't live merely on idealism and dry bread; rupaya sab ko pagal kar deta hai – Money makes everyone crazy) and directed by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas for his banner Naya Sansar the 136-minute drama had brilliant black and white cinematography by Ramchandra, art direction (M.R. Archekar) and editing (Mohan Rathod) lyrics (Hasan Kamal) set to music by J.P. Kaushik (including the title song, Bambai raat ki bahon mein (Asha Bhosle), Jalti hui jawanian yeh unkahi kahaniyan (Mahendra Kapoor), Usne jo kaha mujse ek geet suna do na (Sulakshna Pandit).

Despite some major flaws it remains an important document in the writer-film maker's oeuvre together with Aasmaan Mahal , Shehar aur Sapna , Saat Hindustani and Do Boond Pani – mostly with newcomers.

suresh kohli

Shakti Samanta who had until then made

a series of crime-based films was overheard saying: “It was a perfect script for a

superhot film…had Abbas sahib (Khwaja Ahmad Abbas) not directed it.”