The Train

Director: Ravikant Nagaich
Music: RD Burman; Lyrics: Anand Bakshi
Year: 1970
Running Time: 139 minutes

This film occurred near the beginning of Rajesh Khanna’s reign as a gigantic superstar before he flamed out after a few brief years at the top. Here he is C.I.D. Inspector Shyam but for some reason doesn’t tell his girlfriend Neeta this small fact about his life as they meet daily in an out of the way spot where they can dance badly without anyone seeing them. Neeta is played by Nanda who looks much too unattractive and matronly here to be a good counterpoint to Khanna’s sleekness. Their lack of chemistry is painful to witness and only a faithful script keeps them together. Shyam gets assigned to track down jewel thieves who have the habit of stealing them on the Delhi to Calcutta train and leaving the previous owners quite dead. The gang is led by a mysterious man who keeps to the shadows but his subordinates played by Madan Puri and Helen as the femme fatale Lily keep the loot coming in. When not robbing jewels, the two of them also work at the Hilltop Hotel – Madan as the manager and Lily as the entertainment.

Somehow Shyam realizes that the hotel is the hub of crooked activity and upon entering sees Lily performing O Meri Jaan Ko Main ne Kaha in which she sings “I am so fabulous” (the playback singers are Burman and Asha). In an unlikely twist, Lily turns out to be an old college chum of Shyam who had vanished without explanation and has been learning about the hard knocks of life ever since. Madan assigns her to keep an eye on her old crush which she is happy to do because she has never gotten over him. The romance between Shyam and Neeta hits a dead end when he learns that her father is a convicted killer and after looking into it tells her that her father is clearly guilty because he was discovered with the knife in his hand over the dead body. Obviously, he hasn’t seen many Perry Mason tv shows. When Neeta tells him her father discovered the body and pulled out the knife Shyam goes “oh, that sheds a whole new light on the case”! Not the cleverest boy our Shyam. Later after another train theft he forces a witness to track down a woman who was likely involved. Enter the supposed comic relief in the form of Rajendranath. What Shyam doesn’t realize is that the woman looks exactly like his Neeta dressed up like a hooker at a bachelor party.
This 1970 film can be summarized fairly quickly – bad movie, great music. Bollywood was to begin undergoing large changes in the 1970’s with films moving towards a much rougher hard nosed attitude leaving the lush romanticism of the previous decade behind. But this film still has its feet firmly placed in the 1960’s style – in some good but primarily some bad ways. The good is easy to spot – a large role for Helen with two terrific songs for her and another song for Aruna Irani. These two actresses were two of the premier vamps in the 60’s as well as two of Bollywood’s best dancers and Burman often seemed inspired to write some of his best music for their numbers. That is certainly the case here as these three songs are fabulous. Much of the rest of the film though is an awful mash of rotating close-ups, stiff acting, clumsy narrative and dimwitted logic with some laughably dreadful choreography in the songs that Rajesh Khanna is in.

My rating for this film: 4.0