In the shootout murder case, no corpse is found. In other words, there is no evidence of the murder. Yet, the judge is set to award death sentence to Shanti.
As we see in the above incident in Paying Guest (1957), murder mysteries in Bollywood have been an extension of fairy tales — make believe stuff with no relevance to reality. In C.I.D (1956), another ROFL murder mystery, the learned lawyer and the judge carry out the court proceedings on the custodial death without even discussing the finger prints or dissecting the post-mortem report.
Murder mysteries need research — Bollywood’s weakest aspect. The much-acclaimed B R Chopra’s Kanoon (1960) was more a courtroom drama and less a whodunit or a crime thriller. Brother Yash was able to pull one rather fast and with some success — Ittefaq (1969), but it remained a one-off affair with pure crime.
Even in Hollywood, mysteries and whodunits, rather unkindly, would be subjected to step-motherly treatment. Interestingly, noirs, were rated high. One is not sure why this bias existed even in the times of Hitchcock’s golden period, the 1950s.
Hitchcock’s McGuffin concept was however a great inspiration for Vijay Anand. Goldie (Vijay Anand) was one of the many who had lined up at the premier show of To Catch A Thief (1955) in Bombay. Subsequently, his use of the McGuffin in Jewel Thief (1967) to mask the identity of the smuggler-villain who hides in broad daylight was exclusive in Hindi films. The flow of events were purposefully made to appear incomprehensible; “thief who never was” and the “jewels which were never stolen” were the knots which were unravelled at the end, similar to Vertigo (1958), in which even the protagonist was unsure of his actions, leaving the viewers confused.
- Many years later, Vijay Anand would try his hand at producing an indigenous Vertigo , as Ghungroo ki awaaz (1981), where directors Shyam and Tulsi Ramsay knocked the daylights off the public. And the producer. This was one mystery where the script should have made it directly to the shredder.
Also, colour lent a new ‘international’ texture to the crime. Vijay Anand could be called the ‘first realistic crime fiction film maker in Bombay. In 1966, he had infused multiple crane shots, like in Psycho (1960), intercutting leg shots like in Strangers On A Train (1951) and the rooftop climax of To Catch A Thief to craft India’s first true blue Hitchcockian murder mystery — Teesri Manzil (1966). Probably the classiest film of Nasir Husain.
Three years after Jewel Thief , Goldie swung his magic wand again. Johny Mera Naam (1970) was one of the few films that announced the arrival of the smuggler mafia genre. Curiously, Johny Mera Naam looked like an extended arm of Jewel Thief . In both the films, the villain took the identity of someone else. Both the films were shot in two Himalayan nations — Jewel Thief in Sikkim (which was an independent country then) and Johny Mera Naam in Nepal. Here again, Goldie’s extra bit of research showed. “The value of these jewels is not ₹1 crore but $1 crore, which translates to ₹7 crore”, Rai Sahab Bahadur Singh gives Moti a spot lesson in Forex. The first Hindi film to cross ₹5 million in revenue, Johny Mera Naam continues to entice audiences even today. Goldie made a comeback with the slick as steel Bullet (1976), based on the James Hadley Chase mystery Just Another Sucker .
The industry still acknowledges Goldie as the Hindi film guru of the mystery genre.
The Goldie legacy has also been kept alive by talented film makers like Sriram Raghavan who dedicated his cult classic Johnny Gaddar (2007) to James Hadley Chase and Vijay Anand. Says Sriram, “We infused elements like retro Hindi film music. There was another novel I had read from which I borrowed plot points. I also borrowed from Parwana . We didn’t copy any shot or sequence. These were all inspirations.”
Younger filmmakers have lifted the standards of mystery/action films exponentially by paying attention to detail — just the way Goldie used to do. They have graduated from the generic “pistaul”, “revolver” and “bandook” to specific descriptions like “44 Magnum with hollers point slugs” in Kaante (2002). In Agent Vinod (2012), the actors use terms hitherto unheard of — ‘Selling short’, ‘Handler’ etc. Says Sriram, “I had heard this term ‘shorting the market’ in Casino Royale . I knew it meant something.”
Somewhere up above Vijay Anand would have felt proud to see his dream opening in its eyes in heart-stopping suspense in Andhadhun (2018) — once again Sriram Raghavan’s class act.