Director: Raj Khosla
Music: O.P. Nayyer
C.I.D. is another well regarded and much loved
film from the Golden Age of Bollywood black and white movies but I have to
admit that it didn’t land a punch on me. I was honestly surprised because
it doesn’t take a lot for me to enjoy these films – good songs, actors I
like and a story that pulls me in. In fact, it has good songs from O.P. Nayyer
and two of my favorite actors from this period – Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman
– but the story felt badly jumbled and the romance never comes to a boil.
But mainly the film just irritated me for a simple reason.
Dev Anand plays Inspector Shekhar of the C.I.D. A post-modern policeman –
well groomed, decent, thoughtful, handsome, honest as a church mouse – just
what you want the Indian police to become. Next to the other officers he
looks like a shiny convertible. Clearly a man on his way up. And he is the
hero of the film so you expect him to be good at his job. But he isn’t even
a little bit. He is an idiot in so many ways – he brings in a witness to
a murder to pick a suspect out of the line-up and has him do it right in
front of the killer so that the killer knows who he is. Well you know that
won’t go well later. Two times he is in position to catch the bad guys but
allows a woman to deter him because he doesn’t want to hurt her feelings.
He does the old switch a witness into a different hospital room to catch
the killer but neglects to put a policeman into her room and leaves the door
open for the killer to see her – while he hides in the other room. So you
get the idea – all this stupid stuff was done – not because Shekhar is supposed
to be bad at what he does – the film never infers that – quite the opposite
- but in order to push the film along through various melodramatic turns
like a fat man getting into size 32 pants. It is taking us from A to B in
a way only a movie can. Hoping the audience doesn’t notice or care.
Now admittedly, many of the old Bollywood films had narratives that limped
along dependent on amazing coincidences and with plot holes large enough
to march an army through – part of their charm at times - but I was
expecting more from a film produced by Guru Dutt, though directed by Raj
Khosla. Guru Dutt is a true legend of Indian cinema. Chances are if you ask
a fan of Bollywood film for a recommendation for a serious artistic film
they would offer up a film from Dutt. To put it in terms a non-Bollywood
fan would understand, he was the Orson Welles of his time – both a director
and actor with his own unique vision that often ran counter to the money
men. His films Kaagaz Ke Phool, Pyaasa, Aar Paar, Mr and Mrs 55 and Baazi
are considered classics – and he only directed eight films in total (unlike
Welles he died young).
And I have not seen one of them. I have gingerly approached them like a sleeping
crocodile waiting for the right time – but thought why don’t I begin with
a film he produced? And it wasn’t very good primarily due to this poorly
scripted story that is dependent on the Hero doing stupid stuff. Ok – none
of what I have written makes any sense to anyone unless you have seen the
film – I understand that but had to make mention of it because I read a few
reviews by fans and no one seemed to notice any of this – they all loved
it. So maybe I am asking for too much. On with the plot.
An editor of a major paper is about to publish an expose of a secret gang
leader but is murdered before he can do so. The murder is witnessed by Master
who describes his occupation as a cutter of cloth – pockets mainly – i.e.
a pickpocket – played by Johnny Walker, the comic relief in literally over
300 films. It was actually Dutt who gave him his stage name after seeing
him perform as a drunk. Shekhar arrives and sees the killer drive away and
so carjacks an automobile that a woman is sitting in and goes after them
– at some point she gets annoyed and pulls the keys out and they stall –
rather than being angry he laughs and they watch a musical number. She is
Rekha – portrayed by Shakila – and you know this will be the romantic angle
because she is cute and kind of goofy and as colorless as water. And as it
turns out the daughter of the police superintendent played by K. N. Singh
who I just saw as the villain in Howrah Bridge.
Lots of other things go on but the only thing worth mentioning is that there
is a villainess – played by Waheeda Rehman in her debut. She is fabulous
– dark eyed, dangerous and sultry - and was to go on to a great career. Dutt
had discovered her and was seeing how she did in this smaller part. By the
end you are thinking – Shekhar yes she did some really bad things - probably
have to go to jail - but please dump the boring Rekha and wait for her –
she is clearly aces. At the time Dutt was married to the playback singer
Geeta Dutt, who sings on this film and was the voice of My Name is Chin Chin
Chu – but Dutt had a lengthy affair with Waheeda that destroyed his marriage
and the career of Geeta. The music from Nayyer is good but I thought the
picturizations were rather common – no big group flashy numbers – no great
dancing – no Helen.