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BANNER

22 July 2012

Bees Saal Baad (1962)

As I mentioned before, it is all dustedoff's fault that I suddenly felt the need to be haunted. While I did not / could not watch the film she reviewed, I did go back to watch some old favourites. Some were deliciously suspenseful, some not quite as much, and some, frankly, were yawn-inducing. Most of them had one mitigating factor, though. They had great songs. This particular film is one of the better examples from this genre.
1962
Directed by: Biren Nag
Music: Hemant Kumar
Starring: Waheeda Rehman, Biswajeet,Madan Puri, 
Manmohan Krishna, Asit Sen, Devkishen, Sajjan
Bees Saal Baad is not a ‘horror’ movie, though it is billed that way; at the most, it falls into the genre of 'suspense thriller'. It is also not a remake of The Hound of the Baskervilles (in any of its screen adaptations), though it is certainly inspired from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel. Equally certainly, many plot points are similar. The movie, however was a remake. Of a Bengali film called Jighansa (1951), directed by Ajoy Kar, and starring Manju Dey and Bikash Ray. (So said a Bengali friend, though I haven’t been able to verify it.)

As the movie begins, we see a man in the tall grasses, obviously looking for something. He’s no fool though; he has a revolver with him for his own protection. Even as he cautiously ventures deeper into the grasslands, a not-so-ghostly long-nailed hand comes out from behind the trees.
He manages to get off two revolver shots, but it’s 'Exeunt man'. His corpse is dragged off by a man wearing distinctive two-toned shoes, who drives away in a horse-carriage. 

Soon after, a young man arrives at the little railway station at Chandangarh. 
Kumar Vijay Singh (Biswajeet) has come to Chandangarh to take charge of his patrimony. He is met by Dr Pandey (Madan Puri) the local physician; Kumar obviously recognises him, since he greets him in a very familiar manner. 
Unknown to either of them, they are being watched by a very, very sinister one-eyed man...
Dr Pandey drives Kumar to his ancestral mansion. He devotes the journey to informing Kumar about the ‘curse’ that has killed his grandfather, father and uncle. All of them had been lured from the haveli (mansion) into the adjoining marshes, and murdered... 
Dr Pandey also makes it a point to mention that if Kumar was to die, the property would be his, as the next in succession. He also warns Kumar that his life is in danger. What a convivial conversation to have, surely. 

When they reach the haveli, Kumar is introduced to Lakshman (Devkishen), the one remaining servant. The others left after the murders. Lakshman looks half-insane, spending most of his time looking sideways at Kumar and pronouncing the most depressing statements ever. 
The night passes slowly enough, but everything seems brighter to the beleaguered Kumar in the morning. Especially his chance meeting with the lovely Radha (Waheeda Rehman), who is busy singing while everyone else seems to be working. 
Mischievously, Kumar pretends to be blind and deaf, but she soon sees through his pretence and runs away. 

Radha lives with her uncle (Manmohan Krishna) who is the village vaid (physician). They share a very affectionate relationship; he looks upon her with indulgence, and she takes care of him, scolding him affectionately for not taking care of himself. 
Radha is not the only ‘new’ character that Kumar meets that morning. He soon runs into Mohan Babu (Sajjan), who wants to end the khandaani dushmani (family feud) with Kumar’s ancestors. 
He doesn’t seem very prepossessing, and Kumar is not too enamoured of his new acquaintance. 

With good reason, though Kumar does not know that yet. Mohan Babu is not quite the man he seems – in public, he is seen hobbling around on his crutches. In the privacy of his own home, he walks around merrily on his own two feet. In cahoots with him is his servant, the one-eyed man who was spying on Kumar at the station. Like his master, the servant also seems to alternate between being handicapped, and not. 

Also hanging around the haveli  is a newcomer to the village. A detective, Gopichand (Asit Sen) has arrived in Chandangarh attracted by the offer of a reward to anyone who caught the culprit (or culprits) who was responsible for the jagirdars’ (landowners) murders. 
Amused by his insistence on pursuing the case even if Kumar dies before he can solve it, the latter allows Gopichand to stay at the haveli

By now, however, Kumar must be beginning to wish he had never heard of his ancestral mansion! There isn’t any electricity in the blessed place, and Lakshman spends all his time going around lighting the many chandeliers, and the hanging kandeels. To add to the general mood of spookiness, Kumar can now hear the sound of a woman sobbing. It seems to come from inside the haveli but despite his best efforts, Kumar cannot figure out from where. Not only that, there is a ghostly female voice warning him that no one ever escapes, followed by the eerie sound of ghungroos (anklets) echoing in the grasslands. 

Lakshman does solve one mystery for Kumar – the origin of the ‘curse’ that has killed the jagirdars. Kumar’s grandfather was a womaniser, and took the ‘advantages’ of his jagirdari very seriously. 
Twenty years earlier, as the lord of the manor, the local women were often prey to his lust. One day, he kidnapped a young girl, the daughter of the chieftain of a neighbouring village; she managed to escape into the grasslands, but he, chasing after her, raped her, and she fell (or was pushed) to her death soon after. Her father, Radheshyam, came to the haveli, begging for his daughter’s honour. The arrogant jagirdar had the poor man flogged and thrown into the grasslands, where, it is said, he died. Since then, the jagirdar and his heirs have been killed in the same place. Kumar is thoughtful. It still does not explain how his grandfather, father and uncle died, and he, for one, does not believe in spirits.

When Kumar runs into the vaid the next morning, the latter tries to keep him away from the marshes, to no avail. Kumar is bent on getting to the bottom of the mystery. It seems that he is not the only person in the marshes that night. The place is positively over-populated. He hears a conversation between two people; another man runs into him and is as taken aback at seeing him there as Kumar is upon seeing him; he sees a light flashing from the ramparts of the haveli... Also on the prowl is Dr Pandey, who cannot offer a good reason for his presence in the marshes, and Gopichand jasoos (literally ‘spy’), wandering around the haveli looking for clues. 
Despite his suspicions increasing day by day, Kumar finds the time to meet Radha; they soon proceed from bickering with each other every time they meet, to falling in love; despite herself, Kumar charms his way into Radha’s heart by teasing her, and singing to her, and Radha is wooed away from her initial pique and shyness.
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Kumar is no closer to solving the mystery surrounding the jagirdars' deaths than he was before, though Gopichand finds the answer to the mystery of the flashing lights. It is Lakshman who is responsible, and what is more, there are answering flashes from the marshes too.
The stakes have increased, and so has the spookiness. Kumar not only hears the sound of the ghungroos, a haunting melody now beckons him to the same marshes where his grandfather, father and uncle have met their doom. He has even seen a woman in the shadows.
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Who is she? To whom was Lakshman signalling? Why is Mohan Babu pretending to be a cripple? Who is the mysterious man killed in the marshes? Who killed the jagirdars of Chandangarh? Was it Dr Pandey? Will Kumar be the next victim? 

An atmospheric thriller, Bees Saal Baad had great songs by Hemant Kumar who is also the music director (Beqaraar karke humein yun na jaaiye is a particular favourite, for very personal reasons). 

The cinematography deserves a special mention, establishing the underlying sense of terror, and adding to the whole ‘suspense’ aura of the film. I particularly liked the very marked difference between day and night, the cheeriness of the former juxtaposed against the dark spookiness of the night. The shots of the different characters against the skyline was also particularly effective.    

A beautiful Waheeda Rehman does not have much to do, but is more than just competent; she is effortless at what she had to do. Her expressive face moves quickly from (pretend) anger to smiles to tears, and back.
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Biswajeet (in his debut) was not as annoying as he usually is (to me). In fact, he is quite competent in his role as the young heir. His Kumar is matter-of-fact, is not very foolish or superstitious, takes adequate precautions for his own safety, and is not given to trusting anyone blindly. Biswajeet also had wonderful chemistry with Waheeda, and that helped a lot in the romantic scenes.
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His trysts with Waheeda are sweetly romantic, and there is a spark between the two that makes you root for them. 

The plot was not ruined either by the addition of too much masala, though I must admit that Asit Sen grated on my nerves after some time. There are plot holes, of course (Why, for instance, if Radha intends to keep Kumar away from the marshes, does she sing a song that particularly draws him there?), but not that many that it took away from my enjoyment of the film. 

There was more than enough suspense to hold my interest, lots of red herrings (that had reasonable explanations) to suit most palates, and a *quite* surprising ending. Not bad for a mystery story.

23 comments:

  1. Aasheesh Kumar22 July 2012 at 16:36

    Very disappointing movie.Somehow the effects never worked out.The actors too looked very ordinary.

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  2. I'm sorry you didn't like it. But the 'actors looked ordinary'?? Waheeda? Ordinary?!!

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  3. I'm sorry you didn't like it. But the 'actors looked ordinary'?? Waheeda? Ordinary?!!

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  4. Aasheesh Kumar22 July 2012 at 19:56

    Waheeda to me never looked a star material.She never had the face or physique to look someone great.There are better looking women in my neighbourhood.And Biswajeet ...well nothing to write about.He looked lousy in all his movies.
    Bees Saal Baad is just a hyped up movie.It has nothing for viewers.

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  5. That is your opinion. :) Others like Waheeda just fine, and think her beautiful. So, this is one place where there is no one opinion that is right. Beauty is subjective anyway.

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  6. Ah, Anu. Thank you for reviewing this. A suspense film that I really rather like - it's pretty good, and I agree with you that the Biswajeet-Waheeda jodi really worked. Liked them a lot in this. And Hemant's music is awesome.

    Guess what, as I was reading through your post, I realised that both of us have taken some similar screenshots in our reviews (here's mine: http://dustedoff.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/bees-saal-baad-1962/). And our reviews have a similar tone, too - down to the 'day and night/light and shade' bit. But I seem to have been way more picky about plot holes. ;-)

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  7. I couldn't click on that link ( it kept showing up as an error) so I went off to to your blog to check - you are right about the screenshots, especially the jagirdar and the woman's shadow. And many of my other screenshots are just minor variations of yours. They are actually at the same points! Aark!

    So also the point about the cinematography - I don't know why that was what struck me about the film, but it did - perhaps because it was a black and white film and it really added to the spookiness? Plus the fact that Bees Saal Baad was only inspired from The Hound of the Baskervilles - the novel, not the film.

    I don't like these many coincidences, especially when your post was written way before mine! :( Drat and double-drat! I don't think I will review any film that you have already reviewed anymore. I know we tend to think the same way, even write the same way sometimes, but I'd rather not my posts were considered 'inspired' as well. :(

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  8. I remember, growing up I read so much of Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Ngaio Marsh, Rex Stout and the kinds that my mother was seriously worried I would end up being either a "serial killer" or a "Gopichand Jasoos". So,when Bees Saal Baad was broadcasted on tv, I wasn`t allowed to watch it under "horror movies are not for kids" pretext. Bees Saal Baad, when I grew up to be neither, but still had the same urge to devour mystery(especially the murder kind), I finally got to watche the movie and found myself extremely underwhelmed. May be it was the built up expectation or the fact that I had already seen dozens of such films, keeping aside the spooky feel and good music(which is a hallmark of most good classic hindi horror/mystery), the film was actually very ordinary(not Waheeda Rehman of course!). Though the end/identity of the killer was surprising, but still it wasn`t satisfying.

    This is my main complain with most movies of this genre, that after providing a solid built up, they falter miserably(some more than others) at the end. Its like that baloon which grows big and big as you pump gas but because you can`t tie it up, either it loses all its air or just bursts into pieces. If a mystery can give an air tight answer to not just who but why and how too then I can forgive most of its shortcomings in the narrative . Watching/ Reading mystery/suspense is like solving a puzzle for me, all pieces have to fit, atmosphere is secondary. Hence, as a pretend horror movie or as a regular hindi movie, Bees Saal Baad is quiet successful but, as a mystery, it is just average(But again it never claimed to be a pure mystery).

    PS: Lol! Just realized that your post was about haunted movies and not about murder mysteries in general. So forgive my rant.Well, now I won`t need to express my opinion when you actually write about a mystery movie in future(you will, right?).

    Ok! so Bees Saal Baad was a good horror movie,but this movie, Gehrayee (1980), is the one which I watch when I really want to be haunted. If you haven`t watched it please do so, it is available on you tube.

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  9. I think the problem is they make no use of their red herrings - some of them are rather decent, but others seem to just be there, floating in mid-air, with nothing to tie them to. Still, I rather liked this film, and on re-watching it, didn't find it difficult to sit through.

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  10. We, as the readers, do benefit by these coincidences!!

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  11. Within the constraints of a Hindi Movie set-up, have to have a thread of hero-heroine romance to run through with enough songs to do justice to the popularity of the main leads, Biren Nag certainly had done a commendable job.
    I liked the movie, when we saw that as collegiate adolescents and then when several re-runs, at different stages of the life. Of course, to those who have the benefit of seeing some of the classic English movies in this genre, the movie may appear a bit trite. But, then if at all any comparison be made [Why should anyone?], the comparison must rest with our own home-grown films only. I would certainly put BSB very high in my rankings. Incidentally, this team’s next venture ‘Koharaa’ did not meet with the similar popular or critical acclaim.
    The theme song – Kahin Deep Jale - used to be the highlights of many a ’stage’ performances for years to come, with lights of the hall dimmed out as the song would start creating a mood of ‘suspense’ in the hall.
    ‘Sapne Suhaane Ladakpan ke’ has that effervescence of the bubbling village nymph. Incidentally, when I saw Aadmi (1968), the song that introduces Waheeda in the movie – Kari Badariya - http://youtu.be/faXfWJuD0V4 - had unconsciously reminded of this song for an inevitable comparison. I liked ‘Sapne Suhaane Ladakpan ke’ then, and even now, over ‘Kari Badariya’. { I do like ‘Kari Badariya’, as standalone song.] – The point I am trying to make is the success of Biren Nag in creating the ‘right’ spirit [pun intended].

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  12. Arjun Narayanan23 July 2012 at 03:27

    I have not seen Bees Saal Abd. but the songs in this movie are definitely great... Kahin deep jale kahin dil and Zara nazron se keh do ji are the best of the lot... Hemanth Kumar made some really successful movies in the 1960s and this was one of them

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  13. The point I am trying to make is the success of Biren Nag in creating the ‘right’ spirit [pun intended].

    You are right, Ashokji. Hemant Kumar's songs, and the background music also helped to set the 'mood' of the film. I truly enjoyed Bees Saal Baad<'i> even though, at the back of the mind, I kept realising the similarities to

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  14. Yes, it was his production; I guess he had seen and liked the Bengali original; actually, I wonder if anyone would tell me whether there was a Bengali original!

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  15. It is kind of you to say so, Ashokji, but I'm not a great fan of them. :(

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  16. Yes, I found the film quite entertaining - and very spooky too.

    >(Why, for instance, if Radha intends to keep Kumar away from the marshes, does she sing a song that particularly draws him there?)

    But she doesn't. When the song comes as a new addition to all the other horrors the remark made was...'but why is the song leading away from the daldal where the murders used to take place, it doesn't make sense'

    Waheeda looks exquisite. Couldn't believe that someone doesn't like her.
    Biswajeet is really very very acceptable here as also in Kohraa. It were his later films especially coloured that gave him pink lipsticked lips and thus the image.

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  17. As I said, I was quite deliciously spooked. :) I agree about that remark about the song, but when the chap is safely inside the haveli, it made no sense to sing a song and get him out of the house in the first place.

    About Waheeda - I couldn't believe my ears - well, my eyes. Someone thought Waheeda was ordinary! I went back and looked at all the screencaps I had of her - and I am a (straight) woman!

    Biswajeet too was less effeminate than is his wont. It was not just his pink lipstick; it was his general demeanour that made me want to go off and pelt him one! I rather liked him in this. I haven't seen Kohra but by the time Mere Sanam rolled around, I couldn't bear him!

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  18. Yes there is a Bengali movie called Jighansha - I had seen it a long time ago. If memory serves me correctly, the plot is similar to Bees Saal Baad.

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  19. Oh, good, thanks for confirming that for me. My friend did tell me that was the 'original' but then he is always claiming the Bengalis have 'been there, done that' and of course, did it better than everyone else, so... :))

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  20. "I know we tend to think the same way, even write the same way sometimes,
    but I'd rather my posts were not considered 'inspired' as well. :(
    "

    Anu, you are the last person I would think was 'inspired' by anything I wrote. It just so happens that we think in an uncannily similar way.
    Talking of the dark/light tones of cinematography, that was one thing that also struck me pretty forcibly for Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam - the haveli is pretty dingy, all shadows and gloom, while Jaba's home is light and airy. An interesting reflection of the lives of the respective residents.

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  21. 'Uncanny' is right, Madhu. Thanks for the vote of confidence, though.

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  22. I just realised that I know next to nothing about Bees Saal Baad, though it feels so close to me.
    Many years back on Tabassum’s Phool Khile hai Gulshan, Gulshan, Manmohan Krishna got interviewed and he said that this is his favourite role. He compared an actor’s enaction of a role to that of polishing a copper vessel and he said that the role in Bees Saal Baad was a big copper vessel. Funny similies!
    And then they went ahead and revealed the ending! I was so shocked by this move of theirs that it literally got burnt in my memory and thus have no motivation to watch this film.
    But after reading your review of the film would love to watch it!

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  23.  Oh, do watch it, Harvey. It's worth it even if you know the ending.

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