Mumtaz, Feroz Khan, Iftikhar, Prem Chopra
“Mumtaz in a bikini, Mumtaz in a bikini.” This friend of ours obviously was in a trance. And why not? Mumtaz, who gave millions sleepless nights, strode the big screen in a black two-piece and our friend did not miss the noon show for seven days in a row. It was a bold appearance by any leading lady — of course, a good five years after Sharmila Tagore had done a similar act in the superhit An Evening In Paris .
For Mumtaz, it was an amazing culmination of a journey that began as a child artist in 1952. It took her 20 years to don a bikini, which was a rare step by any standards during those times. Soon, Zeenat Aman pulled off a heart-stopping performance to the tune of a certain Dev Anand in Heera Panna in 1973. Indian actors were beginning act bold and Mumtaz was a pleasant addition to that growing list.
Mumtaz is in fact the protagonist of this thriller. Produced and directed by Feroz Khan, it features him as a racer with a couple of events thrown in to add to the excitement. Obviously, it was borrowed footage but it was a hit with the audience since it presented the youth with an opportunity to enjoy a Grand Prix race on the big screen with Ram Khanna (Feroz Khan) fleeting in and out of the frame before ultimately emerging triumphant at the end of it.
Now Ram is a professional car racer with a brother who indulges in illegal activities. Mumtaz is Rita and then Meena, a tool in the hands of a criminal who is out to steal an expensive necklace from a jeweller in Germany. Rita plays her part perfectly but drops the necklace in Ram’s pocket to escape the police. Ram hands the necklace back to Rita, but her boss discovers it is a fake. The intriguing pursuit to recover the original piece of jewellery adds to the pace of the movie. At one point, Ram’s brother Harnam (Prem Chopra) enters the fray. There are a few twists and turns in the plot with Ram having to oblige his brother in his unlawful activities. Iftikhar, the quintessential cop of Hindi cinema, finally tracks down the criminals.
That it featured some scenes from the race track was a kind of a first in Indian cinema. Feroz Khan who loved horses and cricket — he was a regular at Sharjah — was reportedly very fond of racing cars too. A blue Volkswagen is his winning car and the dapper Feroz Khan looks a perfect racing expert. He is at his best when doing the romantic scenes with a gorgeous Mumtaz, who at 25, had seen the worst and best of her career.
From a ‘B-grade’ actor, doing nondescript period and religious films, Mumtaz had risen to star opposite stalwarts like Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand, and her super hits with Rajesh Khanna had placed her among the best of her era. This movie may not qualify among her top successes but Mumtaz was outstanding in every frame. There was little for her to achieve in terms of acting in this thriller but she did a sensational job of looking good! There is no trace of discomfort for someone who had played roles of a shy housewife or a village belle in style in the previous years.
The duets that Feroz and Mumtaz sang, “Hamare Siva Tumhare Aur Kitne Diwane Hain” and “Tum Mile Pyaar Se”, were a rage, shot as they were on foreign locales. There is a Helen offering too, “E Naujawan Hai Sab Kuch Yahan”, with the incomparable Asha Bhosle lending her voice. Music was secondary to this racy film that gave glimpses of Feroz Khan’s directorial skills. He was to produce and direct Jaanbaz , Qurbani and Dharmatma in later years, but this was one was special for the Grand Prix that lit up the screen — rather like Mumtaz set fire to the pool.
This movie may not qualify among her top successes but Mumtaz was outstanding in every frame.