I have been on this spree of discovering movies that I had watched a long time ago, or watched in bits and pieces on Doordarshan before the cable TV revolution hit India, its been bitter-sweet finding these gems and reliving moments I had almost forgotten. Most of these films (full and complete) are on YouTube.
My mother is a big fan of Shammi Kapoor, we always had songs from his films playing or his movies on the VCR but I never paid attention, dismissing them as something ‘momesque’. So my current fascination with Shammi Kapoor has my mother amply amused – she says — perhaps finally I am getting wiser in my old age. Two films that really caught my attention were Teesri Manzil and Professor. I will discuss Teesri Manzil in this post and save Professor (which I loved even more, thank you @iamrana for recommending it) for another one.
Teesri Manzil’s suspense filled plot injected with great music makes such a delightful watch – why was Kunwar Sahab being so sugary towards Rocky? I rolled my eyes on the naivete of Sunita trying to fix Rocky with the girls hockey team, the fur-boa clad Helen with her arched eyebrows and pink luscious lips, the man with the cigar, what happened to the hormonally-charged Roopa? And in between those songs – O mere Sona re’s sweetness, the come-hither allure of O Haseena Zulfon waali …uff it was too much for me, I need to see this movie again. As I expressed this to mum, she commented that Teesri Manzil (TM) was released in 1966 – the year she graduated from the Academy in Mussoorie as an officer with the Indian Administrative Service. She said that they stitched their kurtas air-tight on the body quite like Asha Parekh in the movie, I commented on her wasp-like bum, ah well Mum said – those were the days when the bum still needed to be covered:
I compared TM to Kahaani and Talaash (Aamir Khan (the actor-producer of Talaash) being the nephew of Teesri Manzil’s producer – Nasir Hussain), these are movies I enjoyed, slick stories, packed plots, movements, light play, camera angles, quick and long shots, and that haunting music that ties it all together. While TM had an aggressive psychopath entangled with victimization and love, Kahaani dealt with revenge, and Talaash about grief, these stories had hooks that did not let the audience totter off. I was taken in by the effortless style of Shammi Kapoor. There was no acting, this was all – him. As I watched Jewel Thief I found Dev Anand affected, contrived, his mannerisms annoying, I pushed my mind to explore how I felt about this in the present context – Shammi would be like Aamir and Dev like Shah Rukh – this juxtaposition made me feel at ease, like I understood my position a bit better. Wikipedia informs me that Dev Anand was offered this role but turned it down, what a disaster that would have been – for me at least! It also speaks about Geeta Bali (Shammi’s wife) passing away during the making of this film, how difficult it must have been for him to carry forth despite the grief. This movie also was the platform for the blossoming love between Salim Khan and Helen. How charged it must have been to be on the sets and have all these narratives come together to create silver screen magic.
There were things I wished for the movie – I felt Helen should have had a meatier role, she is so lust-worthy in the scenes she is on that as an audience I was left craving for more, why did Roopa call Rocky on that night why didn’t she does tell him about what she had seen on the phone? Why did she have that urgency? Why did Rocky resist Roopa? What was the attraction towards Sunita? Had the movie addressed those questions maybe it would have said too much. I understand that this is a tight-rope walk. Each time I think of what I could have added to this movie to make it better I land up with the perfection of Majrooh Sultanpuri‘s lyrics: “toh lehraake, ho balakaake, mera saaya tere badan se lipat jaayega.” There are few things that can be so sublime.
I am not under the spell of Shammi Kapoor, I enjoy him but I’m not the sort of loyal fan mum continues to be, I do though enjoy this style of movie making, the fact that in 2013 I can still sit in Amsterdam and feel the passion of the script. This is what Indian cinema is all about, as much as I cringe at some of the films, there is still a whole host of movies that make me so happy and proud.