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19 August 2011

Apradhi Kaun? (1957)

Directed by: Asit Sen
Music: Salil Choudhary
Starring: Abhi Bhattacharya, Mala Sinha, 
Gajanan Jagirdar, Tarun Bose, Lillian,
Kumud Tripathi, Dhumal
I took this on a whim - it was produced by Bimal Roy, and I have a fondness for his type of cinema; it had music by Salil Choudhary, one of my favourite music directors; it starred Abhi Bhattacharya and Tarun Bose, two of my favourite 'character' artistes - and with the former as 'hero' to boot! - and it was a murder mystery-cum-suspense-thriller - my favourite kind. I also didn't know quite what to expect from the movie. But despite the fact that it had Mala Sinha (who, I must confess, is *not* among my favourite heroines), I was prepared to be entertained. In the end it more than exceeded my (limited) expectations.

The police were not a set of inept bumbling fools; the detective hero was unusually intelligent, though I did feel like hitting him on the head with a hammer a few times, the vamp had more to do than the heroine and was completely stylised (the way I like my vamps to be); she also bore a marked resemblance to Katrina Kaif (including the way she spoke); the hero's sidekick was less irritating than he usually is, in these sort of films, and the suspense was not bad at all!

As should be the case with all suspense films, the story begins on a dark, foggy night, replete with creaking gates and spooky mansions.

A dirty, crippled man shows up at a mansion, whose owner Shrinath (Jagirdar) is quickly shown to be not-at-all-a-nice-person. Shrinath is not too happy to see him, and from their conversation, it is clear that not much love is lost between them. Their late father's will had disowned the two older sons, Dinanath and Pitambar and left everything to the youngest son Shri. However, Dinanath is sure that there was a later will which disinherited Shrinath leaving Dinanath and Pitambar the actual beneficiaries. Shrinath pooh-poohs his brother's claim, but since he is clearly down on his luck, allows Dinanath to stay with him.
We are soon introduced to Shrinath's coeur d'amour - Lily (Lillian), the nightclub dancer.
And the stage is set for the frothy Mera dil dil dil la dil lekar... And Shrinath seeks Lily's help in setting up a meeting with Rai Bahadur Janki Nath (Murad) who has schemed with him in forging his father's will. The meeting does not go off quite as Shrinath expects.
Lily is not too happy at the fracas, but Shrinath persuades her to help him get into Rai Bahadur's house later that night. Lily leaves Rai Bahadur sozzled; however even this does not quite help Shrinath. As he is trying to break into the safe, Shrinath is interrupted by Rai Bahadur, and in the ensuing fight, Rai Bahadur is shot.
Shrinath flees with the will. Calling his manager, he orders him to send a telegram to a private investigator named Rajesh.
He also summons his doctor and insists that his life is in danger. The news of Rai Bahadur's murder spreads in the city, and Lily warns Shrinath not to visit her for a few days. She is quite displeased that the murder took place at all. She would never have helped him, if she had known...

Back at Rajesh's office, his assistant receives a visitor; she is Shobha (Mala Sinha) who has an unusual request for the detective.
He is surprised, but gently points out that a detective's job is to help the law, not break it. She insists, thinking he is holding out for more money, and is quite put out when he refuses. Soon after she leaves, he receives Shrinath's telegram summoning him to Jeetpur. He is taken aback by the coincidence - Shobha also wanted him to go to Jeetput.  Now, more than ever, he has an incentive to go to Jeetpur.

Shrinath is running scared; he is not sure how much the police know. He is pleased to welcome Rajesh, who has come along with his assistant, Balram, to take up the assignment.
Shrinath tells Rajesh about fearing for his life, though he does not know why, or whom to suspect; after telling his manager to settle Rajesh in, and retires to his room, where he has an altercation with the doctor.
The doctor is furious at what he sees as his employer's betrayal. The manager is eavesdropping on their conversation, and Rajesh meets Shobha on his way to his room. They are both taken aback.
Rajesh is still awake when the quiet of the night is disturbed by some unexpected visitors - with even more unexpected news.
Rajesh is bemused. The man he is supposed to guard is now the offender. Accompanied by the police, he and the manager go upstairs, only to find that there is no answer to their knocks. The manager provides a duplicate key, and they open it to find Shrinath stabbed to death. 

Now, they have suspects, motives, and opportunity. Inspector Sinha, who is Rajesh' friend, takes his advice and leaves Shrinath's room open; Rajesh, who is lying in wait, is not very surprised when Shobha enters the room to pilfer something. 
He accosts her and persuades her to tell him the truth. It adds a twist to an already complicated tale. And while they are talking, a strange vision is seen at the window of the room - a Black Shadow who disappears when he is chased.

The next day the police arrive to interrogate everybody in the house.  
Who really killed Shrinath? Was it Shobha? Or the doctor? Or the manager? Or even the Black Shadow? 

There is the deaf and dumb servant (Dhumal)...
who is not quite what he appears to be... 
And Lily definitely knows more than she is telling. Rajesh goes to the hotel to meet her, and discovers that she is a tougher nut to track than he thought. He 'persuades' her to come stay at the mansion. She comes reluctantly. How does she know the manager? What is her connection to the Black Shadow? And why was she in the doctor's room?

Will Rajesh ever be untangle the different strands of an increasingly complicated case? 

Maybe he will, maybe he won't. He does find time to romance Shobha, though...
or vice-versa, while his assistant Balram is busy chatting up Kammo, the maid.
 Aakhir, apradhi kaun?

It is not the greatest of mysteries out there; there are far too many red herrings; and Rajesh does seem to be a sort of an idiot sometimes - why, for instance, doesn't he check out the obvious? But he does have a lot of fun hiding with Shobha in the undergrowth...
It is an entertaining two plus hours; there is more than one murder, lost relatives come crawling out of the woodwork, the servant is not the only one who is not what he appears to be...

The songs were fun and do not take away from the narrative at all, even if a couple of them were superfluous to the plot. And I liked Lily - she was so much fun!; she is also totally hardboiled, and nothing fazed her, not even Rajesh's intrusive questions. And Balram - I wonder who the actor is. I thought he was great!

*Poster courtesy: tarunbosecinema.blogspot.com


  1. I first read a review of this film sometime back, when memsaab posted one. I haven't got around to buying it yet, but now I will! I love suspense films (yes, you probably guessed that too), and though I'm not much of an Abhi Bhattacharya fan, I like Mala Sinha when she's not being weepy. And Lilian looks lovely! Enough reason to look out for it. Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. I had no clue what this film was about, and the synopsis on the back was intriguing. I liked Abhi Bhattacharya in this film - he wasn't being moralistic or preachy :) And yes, Mala definitely wasn't weepy - she was quite saucy, in fact. But I would definitely watch the movie for Lily and Balram.

  3. I saw this, Anu, and was disappointed; they could have made it so much better. But I loved the dhun reh gayi magar song. It is so much better 'viewed' than it is heard, isn't it?

  4. LOL on the comment about the song! I hated it whenever I have heard it, but watching it was *so* much fun! Yes, they could have made it better, but at least, it was watchable.

  5. As you know I have been in and out of blogosphere so missed this post not surprising since this was posted soon after mum passed away. I stumbled upon it while I was doing a search on Apradhi Kaun a few days back and was glad to read dad is one of your favourite character actors. This was dad's first film and..... well I think I will write about it in my blog. Hope it sees the light of day wish me luck dear Anu.

  6. Shilpi, last year has been such an awful year for you. I hope this one is better. I am so, so looking forward to your blog; how can I push you into beginning it? :) Take care, and my best wishes that this year will bring you much happiness.

  7. Arunkumar Deshmukh3 March 2012 at 11:26

    Anu ji,
    This is my first comment,though I have visited this blog many times earlier.
    I like the way you review the films. 'Apradhi Kaun' is my fav film,which i had seen in a theatre when it was released.I,even today,like the song 'phir wohi dard hai...'.I also liked the comedy of Kumud Tripathi as ,as you rightly said,it did not irritate or disturb the plot.
    Thank you.
    -Arunkumar Deshmukh

  8. Arunji, welcome to my blog. And thank you for posting a comment, and for the compliment.  As I said, I bought it on a whim, and was very pleasantly surprised. Phir wohi dard hai is such a situational song - I never used to like it until I saw it on screen. Now, it's one of my favourites. :) Please keep visiting.

  9. Naresh P Mankad1 March 2013 at 10:27

    I guess this type of suspense was not used earlier so it might have had its appeal in that time. Manna Dey sings the type of song that would have gone in the situation  normally to Mohammad Rafi - " Phir wohi raat hai, phir wohi hai dar."  Now that you wrote about this movie, I'll have to watch it again to refresh my memory.

  10.  I think it stands the test of time, Naresh. It's quite well-made for its genre, and much better made than a lot of other present-day films that purport to be suspense thrillers. Manna Dey did a wonderful job with phir wohi raat.


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