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25 August 2011

Teesri Manzil (1966)

Directed by: Vijay Anand
Music: RD Burman
Starring: Shammi Kapoor, Asha Parekh, 
Helen, Premnath, Prem Chopra
This is one of my favourite Shammi Kapoor movies - I know I say that for almost anything Shammi, but really... like all Shammi Kapoor movies, it had a fantastic music score (Trivia: Shammi Kapoor wanted his favourite music directors Shankar-Jaikishen taken on board; RD Burman had to actually audition to get this film.), it was helmed by Vijay Anand, who is one of my favourite directors, it had Helen, and not just as an item girl (though I was so unhappy that they gave her only *one* song in the whole movie) and it was a suspense thriller. Sigh. What's not to like?

It's a dark night and a car is being driven madly around the bends of hilly Mussoorie. The girl, for the driver is a she, pulls up in front of a hotel and rushes inside; cut to a shot of her body as she lies dead in a pool of blood mere moments later.

As curious onlookers go rushing out, and the credits roll, the camera pans to a man who is half hidden behind the windows of the third floor of the hotel. Who is the girl? And what is the drummer's relation to the incident?

Months have passed; the girl's grieving fiance (ah, the man at the window) is at her house trying to fix his marriage to his late fiancee's sister (Asha Parekh). The grieving sister is not as enamoured of the proposal, though he tries to ingratiate himself with her. 

The lady is on her way to Dehradun, so her father stymies the matter of her engagement for the time. And so we are introduced to a pair of dancing feet (attached to a very personable young man) - which runs afoul of the aforementioned lady.

They travel to Dehradun together in a first class compartment, accompanied by a co-passenger afflicted with a non-stop fit of giggles. The lady doesn't like that either!

After an eventful journey with some more laughter, a brutal beating, a supposed murder, a walking corpse, a gracefully fainting lady, suppressed evidence... they  reach Dehradun, lady and loafer, the best of friends.

Until the 'corpse' surfaces...
Sunita (for that is the lady's name) is not amused. However, her friend has come to receive her and she goes home with her; only to share with her the reason why she wants to go to Mussoorie from Dehradun. Her elder sister Rupa had gone to Dehradun in the holidays. There, she had met and fallen in love with Rocky, the drummer. Now she was dead, and Sunita wants Rocky to pay.  And she has her college's girls' hockey team all prepared to meet her in Mussoorie.

Soon, paths meet at Park Hotel. Rocky a.k.a Anil overhears the story; and what Sunita intends to do next. He is not the only listener. That night, Sunita is in the hotel dining room, and Rocky cons her into believing he is Anil Kumar 'Sona' the son of a millionaire. And Rocky, well, he is...

though Anil is forced to sing because ....

And soon the real Rocky is wooing Sunita as Anil; there is plenty of deception and pranks (from both of them) and songs (Aaja aaja main hoon pyaar tera, Deewana mujhsa nahin, Oh mere sona re sona re sona re) and  coincidences galore. 

Sunita even pretends to be friendly with Anil so she can finally get even with 'Rocky'. But pretense soon turns into reality as Sunita begins to return Anil's feelings. They come back from an unexpected overnight trip and Rocky walks in to his room to find...

And the only thing that the waiter can tell him is that there was a man smoking a cigarette outside his room. The man in black again! Who is he? And what does he want? 

Rocky is in a bind. What is he going to tell Sunita? He knows what she thinks of 'Rocky'. She hates that very name, and would willingly kill him if she could. He is scared to tell her the truth because his truth has no proof to back it up. His conversation with his friend is overheard but when Rocky opens the door, all that is there to see is a whiff of cigarette smoke...

As he turns to go into his room, he runs into Ruby (Helen) once again. 

And she is not the only one about that night...

*(Now here, the DVD breaks up unexpectedly. The mystery is elucidated below.)

Meanwhile matters are coming to a head. Sunita has informed her father about Anil, the 'nephew' of Kunwar Mahendar Singh. And he has invited them, uncle and nephew, for dinner. Rocky throws himself at the Kunwar's mercy. And the Kunwar who is a jolly good fellow agrees to come meet Sunita and her father and tell them the truth - not only about who Anil really is, but also the truth about him and Rupa, and what really happened the night she died. But the evening doesn't quite go the way Anil expects it to - and he begs Sunita to meet him at the hotel the next night. He will tell her everything. 
However, things do not go well for Anil's alter ego Rocky either. Ruby refuses to dance if he does not play the drums. And Sunita is coming to the hotel. 
Anil / Rocky is left with no choice. He decides to write her a letter telling her the truth. If she still comes to the hotel, then he will know that she has forgiven him. If not... 

He hands the letter to the waiter to be delivered to Sunita. Ruby, beautiful desperate Ruby, who is in love with Rocky, gets to see the letter first. And she has a few aces up her sleeve too. And let the chips fall where they may. (Forgive the mangled metaphor.) After all, all is fair in love and war.
Rocky is eagerly waiting to see if Sunita will come even after she learns the truth. And when she does... (This has to be my absolute favourite song from this movie!)

Only, he does not know that Sunita had been handed the letter only just then...

How will Sunita react now she knows the truth? And what really happened that night Rupa died? Did she commit suicide? Or was it murder? And what do these people have to do with her death, if at all? 


After all, Ramesh (Prem Chopra) had publicly threatened Rupa. 

And how much does Ruby know? Or are they all red herrings and Rocky the real culprit?

*There is more of a mystery here than Vijay Anand intended. Rocky finds his room searched and suddenly, you are at a fair where Rocky is singing a song on the ferris wheel. And equally mysteriously, there is Kunwar and Sunita's father and Ramesh and you are scratching your head wondering what is going on. Well, when I first saw the movie on Doordarshan, there was a whole bit in between scene 1 (room ransacked) and Scene 2 (at the fair). And I knew I had seen it on VHS before. (Thank heavens I still have the cassette. But no screen caps :( )

This is the scene where Premnath is introduced as the Kunwar. Anil and Sunita have made plans to spend the day together, and have made up excuses to get rid of her friends. Unfortunately, they are caught. Since they are all hungry and thirsty, Sunita points out that they could all go to Anil's uncle's mansion; Anil tries to dissuade them, but they do not listen. So he goes ahead, sees the Kunwar go away, and cons the servant into letting them all in. But the Kunwar returns, having forgotten something, only to hear the noise. He goes in to see his house taken over by a bevy of girls. Anil is embarrassed, but the Kunwar is laughing. He was young once too, he says, and he accepts the title of brevet uncle that is handed to him. Anil thanks him, and they leave. 

Back at the hotel, Sunita's father has arrived with Ramesh. Sunita bluntly refuses to have anything to do with him. Her father is quick to see that she has given her heart elsewhere and asks her to invite Anil over. Anil has gone to meet Sunita at their usual meeting place; there, he runs into another woman whom he mistakenly teases; some villagers come to her rescue, and chase Anil away. When he meets Sunita, he is still recovering from the experience - he yells at her; she promptly yells back. And she runs away - Anil chases her - the villagers now chase him again, thinking he has found another victim - and they all land up at the fair where.... well, you know. 

I do not know if the entire movie is available on any DVD.

And while the songs were not quite as integrated into the storyline as I would have liked, it is still a good watch. The picturisations were absolutely stunning, as I would have expected from Vijay Anand, and I am sure Shammi Kapoor did not mind RD Burman quite as much when he heard the tunes that the latter had composed for this film. 

So with a story that moved at lightning pace (with a few stops for the songs), several red herrings, solid clues, excellent casting, cinematography, direction, music and a reasonable amount of suspense which they managed to keep going until the end (oh why couldn't they have chopped off the l-o-n-g fight sequence, and added the missing chunks to the DVD?) - what was NOT to like about Teesri Manzil? I like that the denouement comes so unexpectedly and that the red herrings are so wonderfully fishy. I love that, in the manner of the best mysteries, it is the most unexpected person who is the criminal. And I absolutely adore that the change in that man is so drastic and that he is able to hide his real nature until the last minute when he is sure that victory is at hand.

As usual, with my Shammi Kapoor film reviews, some eye candy:

And because I cannot resist these sets: 
or Shammi Kapoor on these sets:


  1. Mmmm! One of my favourite Shammi Kapoor films, too. I've seen it many, many times - fortunately, frequently enough on DD or VHS to remember what happened in those scenes missing on DVD (and VCD) versions. I think the suspense is really rather good, and this is one of Helen's most memorable roles - where they got her to do more than just shimmy a little.

    P.S. My husband showed me this link the other day. You might find it interesting too:


  2. It's horrible, isn't it, the way they truncate films on DVD? You expect that it will be cut on the VCD, but one always has hope that a 'DVD' means you are getting to see the whole film! It is especially irritating when it is a scene that leads to another, and (if you are watching for the first time) you are wondering what the he!! just happened.

    Thanks for the link. :) Would it surprise you to know that the book was one of my purchases this trip?

    And by the way, your books have been ordered on Flipkart, and will be delivered to my brother - ya-a-y. I will still have to wait until October to read them. :(

    ps: I really have to figure out whether my name should be Anu Warrier or Anuradha Warrier!

  3. Mmm, I saw this one! And I saw it on VHS *dancing around the room* so I didn't miss anything! And the print was amazingly good considering this was an old tape that my husband's aunt had lying around. She thought I was nuts when I asked her if she had any 'Shammi Kapoor films' even if they were on tape! I have also got my hands on Ujala, Pagla Kahin Ka and Dil Tera Deewana - all VHS tapes. I hope they are all in as good condition as the Teesri Manzil tape. I have asked my brother to convert these into DVD if he can.

  4. Uh-oh, I don't think they are the best Shammi Kapoor films out there. But hey, if you haven't seen them before, then go for it. And tell me what you think.

  5. I saw this on VHS too, so I didn't miss anything. :) And it was a 'Dubai Print' - so it had sub-titles too. Not very good ones, but still... thank heavens I don't need to depend on them. I loved this film. Except that I wish they didn't keep killing Helen off!

  6. Yes, one sort of expects VCDs to get truncated (though not in the way the Gumnaam VCD I'd bought so cheerfully - the only complete songs were the Helen ones and the title song), but DVDs? Why not have the entire film there? Who knows... but it's bloody irritating to KNOW that scenes have been arbitrarily edited out by whoever's produced the DVD. Sometimes the idiocy of these editors is baffling: leaving silly comic scenes (which add nothing to the plot) intact, while removing important scenes where the story actually moves forward. (That reminds me: if you haven't seen it yet, don't bother buying Post Box 999 - that's like that).

    Thank you for buying my books! :-) I hope you enjoy them!

    P.S. What do you prefer? Anu? Anuradha?

  7. I wish they didn't keep killing Helen off!
    LOL - I think that is something quite a few of us have kept saying. Wasn't she gorgeous?!

    I remember 'Dubai Prints' :) But at least you got to see the whole movie!

  8. My theory is that the VCDs and DVDs are made by frustrated filmmakers / wannabe heroes etc.; I wish the DVD producers would learn that from the West - get out a DVD not only with the full movie but also the deleted scenes, any footage with the cast and crew - imagine how nice it would be to have a DVD of Teesri Manzil with no cuts, and some trivia from the sets? For people like me (and I am guessing, for you), that would be like manna from heaven!

    Luckily, producers like Aamir Khan are making sure their films come out with all the frills on the official DVD.

    As for your books, I am sure I will enjoy them, Madhu, and I am not just saying that. I still have your story about Alexander stored on my comp (it gets transferred every time I change my machine); I really liked the background that went into a seemingly simple love story. And I am eagerly waiting to get my hands on the books.

    Namewise, Anu is my preference, actually. I always find myself wondering who they are talking about when they say 'Anuradha'. :)

  9. Can you please upload the deleted part of the film from a VHS convert? It would be a great favor for new timers who never saw the original VHS cut.

  10. Welcome to my blog. I wish I could fulfil that request - but I have no idea how to convert a VHS into DVD format; nor how to rip that part to upload onto the blog. My knowledge of such things is severely limited. :( Your best bet would be to find a VHS tape of Teesri Manzi somewhere. I know they are still available.

  11. So, did this ever happen?

  12. I was hoping Tina would come around to reply to you, Stephen, but I haven't seen her around here for sometime. Your guess is as good as mine; however, considering that she should have come around dancing had she managed to convert the tapes, I expect that she hasn't.


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