Hamraaz (1967)

A poster of the film.

A poster of the film. | Photo Credit: Scanned

When we remember B.R. Chopra, we tend to underline his contribution to Hindi cinema as somebody who effortlessly slipped in strong message in his social sagas. We forget that Chopra was also the one who introduced us to thrillers. With “Kanoon” (1960), he established a new law that tight song-less scripts could work in Indian milieu and with “Hamraaz” he lent a musical romantic triangle a suspense-filled punch.

Somebody, who made it big despite all odds, Chopra loved to play with the quirk of fate. “Waqt” is a classic example and here again we have a military contractor (Manmohan Krishan) who is claiming that his daughter cannot marry without his wish. The scene cuts to his daughter Meena (Vimi) marrying a military officer Rajesh (Raj Kumar) to the tunes of “Neele Gagan Ke Tale” (one of the biggest hits of Chopra's favourite Mahendra Kumar that fetched him a Filmfare award) in the picturesque Darjeeling.

Fate factor

Always ahead of his times, here Chopra is talking of a period when adults were not expected to marry without the consent of their parents and if they did they had to repent. Rajesh is sent to China border and is declared killed. In the meantime, the contractor relents but discovers to his dismay that his daughter is pregnant and his to be son-in-law is no more. Fate is again at play! To prevent his daughter from social ignominy, father tells her that she had a still born child. Life starts afresh as Kumar (Sunil Dutt), the popular stage actor from Mumbai visits Darjeeling. The father plays cupid. Kumar and Meena fall in love, get married and move to Mumbai. All is well till Meena's past returns to haunt her. Kumar gets suspicious as she begins to avoid him. Against the run of play, Meena gets killed and inspector Ashok (Balraj Sahni) suspects Kumar's involvement.

Riding on dramatic dialogues of Akhtar-ul-Iman (another staple in Chopra's film), Mahendra Kapoor's vibrant timbre and Ravi's timeless melodies, Chopra manages to hold on to the suspense right till the climax. Here is a thriller where songs don't impede the growth of suspense as the songs take the narrative forward, a quality we sorely miss these days. A song like “Agar Tum Saath Dene Ka Wada Karo” works better than reams of dialogues to please a morose beloved.

Chopra sprinkles plenty of red herrings like Mumtaz, who plays Kumar's heroine on the stage and Anwar Hussain as Rajesh's friend. Today it might look stereotypical, but one must give credit to those whose actions gave birth to a hundred clones. And yes there is a message as well – if you can't share the secret of your spouse, you have no right to be called man and wife.

Sources say Chopra was looking for a new face as no leading lady of the day was ready to get into the stilettos of Meena. Ravi happened to see Vimi, a strikingly beautiful girl married to a Marwari businessman, at a party in Calcutta and introduced her to Chopra. A complete non-actress, Chopra and Ravi moulded Meena to suit the statuesque Vimi. Sahir Ludhianvi was right on the money when he wrote “Kisi Patthar Ki Moorat Se Mohabbat Ka Irada Hai”. Unfortunately, Vimi didn't get the hint and ended up in the list of ‘one film wonders'. She never realised she is not cut out for the marquee and died unsung allegedly because of alcohol addiction.

Rich with urban décor, Chopra deserves credit for introducing us to the urbane side of Sunil Dutt with films like “Waqt” and “Gumraah”. Here he is at his stylish best…skipping in the bedroom in chic trunks and introducing us to a first generation video camera. Year 1967 proved to be a great one for him as “Milan” and “Meherban” also succeeded at the box office.

But nobody could beat Raj Kumar when it comes to stylised acting. He never showed the ability to carry a film on his shoulders but had a knack for stealing a scene from the hero of the film – an amazing ability which was later mastered by Shatrughan Sinha and Raj Babbar. Balraj Sahni doesn't have much to do. It's more of a friendly appearance for a director, who loved to work with friends. Similarly Achla Sachdev, Iftekhar, Nana Palsikar and Jeevan have not much to do but lend that extra muscle that adds weight to a project.

In a year when a bucolic “Upkaar” ruled the box office charts, “Hamraaz” finished fourth indicating the variety once cinema had to offer.

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Printable version | Feb 13, 2022 1:27:44 pm |