Blast from the past Friday Review

Aaj Ki Taaza Khabar (1973)

Kiran Kumar.

Kiran Kumar.

The year 1973 was a watershed for Hindi films. It saw the release of Raj Kapoor’s “Bobby” starring the fresh romantic pair of Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia, a sort of comeback for the showman after his “Mera Naam Joker” could not rake in the expected moolah at the box office. Further it witnessed Amitabh Bachchan making a deep imprint on the audiences’ minds with his sterling performance in Prakash Mehra directed “Zanjeer”. Between these two films and several other hits by superstar Rajesh Khanna and other established actors came a small film produced and directed by Rajendra Bhatia “Aaj Ki Taaza Khabar”, which created more than a ripple at the box office.

“Aaj Ki Taaza…” a comic caper, did not have sufficient chutzpah or star power but stood out for the superlative performances of IS Johar and Asrani (who won the Filmfare Award for the Best Comedian). Bhatia, with a limited oeuvre to showcase as a director, did manage to create some scenes of real humour, which were based on situations and witty dialogues, with no space for slapstick. Further the fact that he had a limited talent pool at his disposal makes the effort more commendable. The trump card in his arsenal was undoubtedly Johar, who, with his deadpan expression and one-line wisecracks was a scene stealer. Credit for his formidable performance should also go in equal measure to S. Khalil, who penned the dialogues.

Adapted from a a Gujarati play, the film essentially revolves around the lack of trust Geeta (Radha Saluja) has for her husband, Sunil (Kiran Kumar) and how he is forced to deviate from truth to convince her of his intentions and actions. The drama commences when Sunil, on an evening jamboree, is forced to spend a night away from house when the giant wheel on which he is taking a ride malfunctions. Seated along with him is a lady and the two exchange notes to kill the hours, till the technical glitch is rectified. When a weary eyed Sunil reaches home the next morning, he is hounded by an infuriated Geeta, who refuses to believe that he could actually been perched on top of a malfunctioned giant wheel, for a full night. To convince her Sunil spins a fictitious tale of a night out with an old (non-existent) friend, Champak Bhumiya, and doles out a crazy sounding address.

To give a shade of truth to his concocted tale, Sunil presents his foreign returned friend, Amit Desai (Asrani) as Chamak Bhumiya to Geeta. However, in the midst of all these shenanigans Sunil underestimates Geeta’s suspicious mind as she had already sent a telegram to the address Sunil had blurted in exasperation, which, in a comic twist turn of events, turns out to be genuine with ironically Champak Bhumiya (Paintal) as its resident. Thus with the actual two Champak Bhumiya –– one genuine and the other fake –– come face to face the scene is set for a few laughs.

The film is let down by the thin storyline, which might be sufficient to hold audience interest as a play, but is grossly inadequate for a full length feature film. Further, the plot is deeply undermined by the unnecessary introduction of two characters, Pinky (Geeta’s sister) and her fiancée, Captain Ranjit (Narendranath cast as a very paunchy army man).

Of the cast, Kiran Kumar (son of veteran actor Jeevan) shows fleeting glimpses of talent. Unfortunately, in trying to copy the mannerisms and style of the reigning icon of that era, Rajesh Khanna, Kumar ends up making a limp movement of his arms and hands. Kumar later made a successful switchover to Gujarati cinema, where he had a successful and fruitful reign coming back years later in Hindi films like “Tehzaab” and “Khuda Gawah” playing either a villain or a character role.

Radha Saluja who had proved herself in Punjabi movies, looks dour throughout “Aaj Ki Taaza Khabar” as she lacks the chutzpah and panache required to essay the role of Radha.

The viewers were struck by the tardiness of songs in the film despite the credits boasting of music by Shankar-Jaikishan and lyrics by Hasrat Jaipuri with the exception of the perky, “Mujhe Meri Biwi Se Bachao”, sung by Kishore Kumar.


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