Singapore (1960)

NOT MUCH TO DO IN THE FILMPadmini and Shashikala

NOT MUCH TO DO IN THE FILMPadmini and Shashikala  

Shammi Kapoor, Padmini, Shashikala, Agha, K.N. Singh, Madan Puri

“Yeh shehar bada albela, har taraf haseeno ka mela” echoes in the auditorium in Mukesh's sonorous voice as the Air India flight lands in Singapore. An Eagle Films (F.C. Mehra) Indo-Malaya co-production in which later day hit filmmaker Prakash Mehra worked as a production controller, it had eight songs. They were penned by the Shailendra-Hasrat Jaipuri team and set to music by Shankar Jaikishen, none of which really meets their acclaimed standards. Except of course, the Mukesh number “Yeh shehar…” The other appealing song is by Lata and chorus, “Dil ka khazana…jeevan mein ek baar aana Singapore”. It was picturised on Helen.

This was, perhaps, one of the earliest Hindi films to be extensively shot on foreign locales which even Dwarka Dwicha's deft camerawork failed to exploit in this 135-minute long black-and-white movie. The heritage sites, lush green gardens, street life also look mundane. Scenes shot in ramshackle Bombay studios with familiar junior artistes are badly handled.

Shammi sizzles

Neither Surender's story nor Vijendra Gaur's dialogue carried much substance. It was, however, the beginning of a long professional relationship between the hero and the director. Shammi Kapoor after 23 flops, and an image change-over, courtesy S. Mukherjee-Nasir Husain, clean-shaven sporting trendy T-shirts and newly-found stardom post “Tumsa Nahin Dekha” and “Dil Deke Dekho” literally carried the film on his shoulders. It was also his second success after one hit “Howrah Bridge” with Ashok Kumar and Madhubala and eight flops. The whodunit begins with Ramesh, manager of Shyam's (Shammi Kapoor) rubber estate in Singapore informing him about a hidden treasure, and his disappearance. Shivdas (K.N. Singh) a casino owner and Maria's (Maria Menado) henchman Chang (Madan Puri) overhear Ramesh's conversation with Shyam. Ramesh, who is in love with Shivdas's younger niece Shobha (Shashikala), is kidnapped but not before he hides the layout in a cigarette case.

Shyam boards the next flight to Singapore, Maria being his co-passenger. He is received by Chacho, his manager (Agha). Shyam's search for Ramesh leads him to Lata (Padmini), a night club dancer, and Shivdas's elder niece. It is love at first sight which turns into hatred when Shyam is arrested for the murder of Shivdas who had stolen a fabricated layout but in the process is spotted by Shobha. She is caught and locked up in the den with Ramesh. She also witnesses Shivdas being shot but the body soon disappears.

Shyam gets arrested but the police believe in his story, and help him resolve the whole mystery which leads to the rounding up of all the villains while they are escaping with the treasure aboard a ship in the high seas.

In between the meandering screenplay, from serious to the inanely comical, the main artistes hardly get any scope to perform. Padmini only has some crying and hysterical scenes, apart from singing and dancing. Shashikala has been wasted in this film. Even stalwarts like K.N. Singh and Madan Puri playing second and third fiddle to Maria Menado look more like caricatures rather than seasoned performers.

“Singapore” largely rides on the strength of Shammi Kapoor's brilliant performance, the histrionics displayed here being the harbinger of his later day matchless performances that bestowed on him the dependable, unmatched star status.


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