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11 August 2015

C.I.D. (1956)

Directed by Raj Khosla
Music: OP Nayyar
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri, Jaan Nisaar Akhtar
Starring: Dev Anand, Shakila, Waheeda Rehma, 
KN Singh, Johnny Walker, Kumkum, 
Mehmood, Bir Sakhuja
This is probably my favourite Dev Anand movie. I love everything about it - the fast paced plot that doesn't let you think, the songs, one lovelier than the other, Dev Anand (of course!), the new 'vamp' who went on to become one of my favourite actresses, the completely different (for those times) look and feel of the film. Guru Dutt had been experimenting with noir from his first film Baazi, so when he began his own production house with Aar Paar, he continued with its elements. C.I.D was directed by his assistant, Raj Khosla, whose independent directorial debut this was, and the latter continued in his mentor's footsteps. Unlike Kala Bazar  or even Kala Pani, this film does not preach - not even a little. It is what it is - a good old-fashioned murder mystery, and you get to know very soon who the arch villain is. Then, it is the old cat-and-mouse until the very end.  
What a beginning! The film starts off with staccato telephone calls – all bearing one single message. “He’ has to be persuaded. Either with money, or… Sher Singh (Mehmood) is chosen to be the persuader.
The 'persuadee' is the editor of Bombay Times, a Mr Srivastava, a man of integrity who believes that crime must be exposed, even if those behind it wear the mask of respectability. Srivastava has never met a bribe that he couldn't refuse. He now receives a call - from Sher Singh, offering him a final choice - take their offer or choose death.
Ending the call with Sher Singh, Srivastava makes a quick call to Detective Inspector Shekhar at the C.I.D. (Criminal Investigation Department) office. What he hears prompts Shekhar (Dev Anand) to take Havildar Ram Singh (Prabhu Dayal) and leave for the newspaper office at once. 

Meanwhile, Sher Singh has made his way to Srivastava's office. There, when Srivastava brushes aside the bribe, Sher Singh stabs him and leaves. The noise is overheard by a petty thief named Master (Johnny Walker), who had crept into the newspaper office looking for something to steal. He'd laid hands on a typewriter, and as he hides under a desk typewriter and all, he manages to get a clear look at Sher Singh as he passes. 
Sher Singh bumps into Shekhar and Ram Singh as he gets into the lift, but they don't pay much attention to him then. When they reach Srivastava's office, however, and find that he is seriously injured, Shekhar realises that the man they passed must have had something to do with it. Leaving Ram Singh to handle things at the office, Shekhar goes after the stranger, only to find him getting into a car that was obviously waiting for him. Shekhar had come to the newspaper office in a taxi, and therefore cannot follow the suspect. Thinking quickly, he commandeers the car of a young woman (Shakila), who is rather miffed at being kidnapped - in her own car, to boot. 
Initially, she contents herself with passing snarky remarks about Shekhar's face and profession; soon, totally fed up, she removes the keys from the ignition and flings it out of the window. Which, basically, means she's cut off her nose to spite her face - it's raining like a billy-o, and since Shekhar, quite unchivalrously, refuses to go look for the keys, she's forced to scramble around for it - unsuccessfully. Wet and shivering, she returns to the car, where she spends an uncomfortable night in the backseat. 

Shekhar doesn't have a comfortable night either - despite his earlier cavalier attitude, he gives the young woman his coat to keep her warm, whilst he falls asleep over the steering wheel. Next morning, they are woken up by a melodious alarm, at the end of which, the young woman, having found the keys on the ground near the car, drives off leaving Shekhar stranded.

When Shekhar finally returns to the newspaper office, rumpled and dishevelled, it is to find Inspector Jagdish (Jagdish Raj) on the job, interrogating the office peon, and collecting clues. Shekhar discovers that Srivastava had been planning an explosive unmasking of a 'respectable' member of society. Srivastava, being a cagey man, had not divulged the man's name even to his senior staff. Shekhar finds a cigarette butt on the floor. Srivastava didn't smoke, so it had to belong to his nocturnal visitor. Besides, the cigarette smells peculiar. 

Ram Singh had made an even greater discovery in the night - Master, trying to escape unseen, from his hiding place under the desk. 
Inspector Jagdish takes over the interrogation at the police station, which is interrupted by Master's girl friend, Kumkum. (Like Shakila in Aar Paar, her character is not given a name.) Master is in serious danger of being arrested and jailed for Srivastava's murder, partly due to his own puckish sense of humour. 
Luckily, Shekhar walks in and recognises him as a petty thief/pickpocket. In conversation with Shekhar, Master admits that he had been inside the newspaper office while the murder was being committed, and that he'd not only witnessed the man going into Srivastava's office, but had also watched him come out; he is sure he could pull the man out of a line-up. Shekhar can only hope that when Srivastava regains consciousness, they will be able to close this case. He sends Master off, warning him that he will have to bear witness in court as well. (Which gives a relieved Master a reason to sing.) 
Soon, Shekhar's superior officer, the Superintendent of Police, Mr Mathur (KN Singh), arrives, the harbinger of bad news - Srivastava had died without regaining consciousness. The investigation is set back. However, Shekhar tells Mathur that they have to look in the upper echelons of society - Srivastava was planning to unmask a very wealthy man, probably one who was beyond reproach. There's also the charas-laced cigarette. Shekhar has asked Ram Singh to pull out the names of drug dealers and addicts from the police records. Mathur wishes him good luck.

Soon, Shekhar chooses one such man from the known drug dealers and with his help, infiltrates a charas den. There, he recognises Sher Singh as the man he had brushed past in the newspaper office's lift, and arrests him. Master is brought in to identify Sher Singh, which he does, though he is quite naturally apprehensive.
With Sher Singh in custody, and identified positively by Master, Shekhar is on his way to Mathur's house when he runs into the young woman whose car he had hijacked the other night. She, in turn, thinks he is following her, especially when he follows her right into her house. It turns out that she is Rekha, Mathur's daughter. Her father rids her of her apprehensions regarding Shekhar - he is a very capable Detective Inspector.
Love is all very well, but Shekhar has a 'situation' - Sher Singh may be in a police cell, but he's steadfastly remained mute. While Shekhar is wondering how to break Sher Singh, he receives a phone call. 

She has information regarding the murder. She cannot come to the police station; would Shekhar visit her? She has sent her car. Shekhar can, and will. Only, he has no clue where he's being taken - the car has shaded windows. At the end of this strange journey, he meets a beautiful young girl (Waheeda Rehman). 
The conversation that follows is even stranger - she's heard that Shekhar is fond of parrots. Indeed, he does own one. She's heard that he has recently come into possession of another parrot - one that is mute. Would he sell it? She's willing to pay any amount - Rs10,000, Rs20,000, 50,000... It takes Shekhar only a couple of seconds to realise she's referring to Sher Singh. Shekhar's not for sale, however. 

The next thing he knows, he's in Mathur's house, being cared for by Rekha. It turns out that he was found unconscious on the Bombay-Agra Road; Shekhar has a faint remembrance of drinking a sherbet that had been offered to him. 
It is Rekha's birthday that evening, and an avuncular Mathur invites Shekhar to freshen himself up and come down to join the party. There, he's introduced to one of Mathur's closest friends, a Seth Dharamdas (Bir Sakhuja), a wealthy philanthropist. 
Also attending the party is a very beautiful young girl, Kamini, who is one of Rekha's closest friends, though they haven't been in touch for four years.
If Shekhar recognises her at once, it is clear that Kamini is uneasy in his presence as well. She makes an excuse to leave the party, and Rekha is furious that Shekhar suspects her friend. While she is trying to convince Shekhar that Kamini cannot be guilty, Seth Dharamdas is furious that Kamini is here at the party; he warns her that being suspected by Shekhar can lead to everyone's ruin. (A-ha! Of course, having watched enough Hindi films, one knows that a character named Dharamdas has to be up to no good.)
Shekhar is detained long enough by Rekha that he cannot follow Kamini then, but when Rekha insists that he not follow Kamini at all or she will never see his face again, Shekhar leaves with a non-apology. Rekha is furious (This is not how heroes are supposed to behave!) and flounces back into the house. 
The next morning, Shekhar quickly makes reparations.

You haven't forgotten Master, have you? Well, he's busy romancing his lovely girl friend, when he receives a visit from a couple of strangers who insist upon his going along with them. At Kamini's house, the gang waste no time in bribing Master; he's clearly warned against going to court. 
Though initially reluctant, a well-placed bullet makes him change his mind. Quickly. 

As Master scoots out of the house, Dharamdas puts in an appearance. Are they mad? he queries. Threatening witnesses is not going to work. This case must not go to court. It must be settled in custody itself. Kamini is shocked.
Meanwhile, at the police station, Sher Singh is being interrogated by Shekhar. Resolutely remaining silent despite Shekhar's exhortations, Sher Singh begs to be left alone; he knows nothing. The interrogation continues until Sher Singh is almost too weak to stand. Shekhar calls the havildars to take Sher Singh back to his cell.
His tiredness drops off when he sees who is sharing his cell. A euphoria that lasts but a few moments. 

The next day, the newspapers have a field day - a man's death in police custody makes headlines, and SP Mathur is furious, while Rekha is upset. Back at Kamini's, Dharamdas is positively gleeful - he's killed two birds with one stone. Kamini is not happy at all; is this how he treats his associates? Dharamdas is unrepentant. He has no associates. He only has employees, and if he suspects any of them will endanger him, they will face the same fate.
What about her? queries Kamini. Will that be her fate too? Dharamdas patiently explains that it is important that Sher Singh was silenced. If he had remained in custody, he would have spilt all he knew before long. If that happened, it would be the end for Dharamdas, Kamini, and all their other associates. Besides, Inspector Shekhar had recognised Kamini; he too had to be put out of the way. 

Soon, Shekhar's trial is under way; he stands accused of murder. Despite pleading his cause, it is clear that the decks are stacked against him. On the eve of the judgement, Rekha offers him her unstinting support. Shekhar is practical - there can be no relationship between a disgraced police officer and a police superintendent's daughter. As he sends Rekha away, Master comes to visit him. He's practical too; if Shekhar is indicted, then he'll be sent to jail. The person who's behind Srivastava's murder, the same person who had a prisoner murdered in his cell and framed Shekhar for the crime, will then be free to continue his illegal activities. Shekhar cannot afford to go to jail; he has to discover the identity of the master criminal.
Shekhar is intrigued; who is Master talking about? Master tells Shekhar all about his visit to Kamini's house, though he doesn't know who she is, or where he was taken; he's sure that house is central to this entire case. Persuaded by Master, Shekhar jumps bail. The next morning, the newspapers have bigger headlines, there's a warrant out for Shekhar's arrest, and SP Mathur is beyond furious. 
He wants Shekhar - dead or alive! Dharamdas needs Shekhar back in prison; he's willing to help the police catch Shekhar. It looks like time is running out for the fugitive; as SP Mathur puts it so pithily - Shekhar's fate is sealed; he has the police on his heels, and the jail ahead. 

Is that really so? Will Shekhar fall prey to Dharamdas' machinations? Or will he uncover the dastardly villain and prove his innocence? How? Will SP Mathur believe him?

C.I.D.'s suspense lies not in the viewers trying to guess who did the crime. Instead, we are told the who and the why almost at the beginning. It is the cat-and-mouse game of unmasking the criminal that provides the suspense - how is Shekhar going to get to him, without any clues as to who he is?

C.I.D. is a fast-paced thriller, though the plot suffered from serious under-writing in a couple of places. For instance, when Inspector Shekhar is framed for Sher Singh's murder, the motive that the prosecution ascribes to him is the weakest link in the story, and one that any good lawyer worth his salt should have been able to smash to the ground. Of course, without the good inspector being found guilty, you could not have the rest of the film, so it becomes a convenient peg to hang the story upon. Having said that, the fast-paced action and deft direction make it easy to forgive such lapses.
Like in Aar Paar, the heroine is pretty much a cipher, arm-candy for the requisite songs. It is the 'vamp' who has a strongly etched role, with multiple layers to her character. We learn that she is an orphan who has been picked up and groomed by Seth Dharamdas. She appears quite content as his mistress, following his orders to the T. Yet, faced with a moral issue, she questions him, even going as far as to ask whether he will treat her the same way. No, he says, she's his jaan. Kamini is an intriguing character, keeping Shekhar (and us) guessing about her motives. This was Waheeda's first movie in which she had a full-length role. (She had acted in songs and bit roles in Telugu and Tamil earlier.) For a debut, this was a scintillating performance. While noticeably stiff in a couple of scenes, there is a definite hint of the talent that was just waiting to be unleashed. 
Dev Anand. What can one say? Gorgeous to look at, dashing, debonair... one can keep adding adjectives. As a man on the trail of an enemy who is lurking in the shadows, Dev keeps his Shekhar keen and focused, to the extent that he antagonises his girl friend; when asked to choose between his duty and her, he unapologetically chooses the former. As the fugitive on the other side of the law, with his former colleagues snapping at his heels, and his arch nemesis seemingly always a step ahead of him, he brought in a sense of urgency, of frustration, and of fear, to his performance. His mannerisms hadn't evolved yet, and therefore, Dev's performance in this film is one of his most restrained. 

Johnny Walker is here as well, an integral part of  Guru Dutt's films from the time the latter was introduced by him in Baazi.  Unlike Aar Paar, Johnny Walker had a reasonably long role here, with the ubiquitous Mohammed Rafi number picturised on him. He and Kumkum (seen again here after her single-song appearance in Aar Paar) make a cute pair, with Kumkum bursting into Marathi ever so often.
As always with Nav Ketan's or Guru Dutt's films, one expects good music. Not just that, one expects that songs are not inserted gratuitously into the narrative. C.I.D. quite sensibly follows that pattern. Raj Khosla obviously learnt his lessons well; he too is known for his song picturisations. OP Nayyar provides a stellar score, from the initial Boojh mera kya naam re to the mysterious Kahin pe nigaahein kahin pe nishaana. Like in Aar Paar, the city of Bombay is depicted lovingly, as much a character as in the earlier film. Indeed, it even gets an ode written especially to it - Ae dil ae mushkil jeena yahan. Leke pehla pehla pyaar showcases the Esplanade on Marine Drive, while both Boojh mera kya naam re and Aankhon hi aankhon mein display the urban 'countryside'. 

In Nasreen Munni Kabir's documentary on Guru Dutt (In Search of  Guru Dutt) made for BBC's Channel 4 (which was part of the Yashraj Films' DVD of this film), Raj Khosla has a great anecdote to narrate about the picturisation of Leke pehla pehla pyaar. Apparently, before its picturisation, Dev Anand asked him what he was doing in this song. Raj Khosla said, "The song is doing everything; you just walk." For the entire song, about three minutes or so, he keeps walking. After a few shots, Dev turned to Khosla and said, 'You want me to walk a mile or two or what? What am I doing in this song? So Khosla told him, 'You're walking! You're not going to sing." Dev acquiesced. The director was the boss. Since Dev had a habit of moving his hands around, Khosla had also warned him to keep his hands still. Dev told him 'I can't sing; I can't move my hands; I'm just supposed to walk?'  'Yes,' Khosla repeated, 'That's it. You are just supposed to walk - and look handsome.'  Well, Dev did that last bit very well indeed.
I do have a bone to pick with the senseless censors - in deleting Jaata kahan hain deewane for such a trivial reason as 'Kuch tere dil mein fiffy, kuch mere dil mein fiffy' [because they assumed that 'fiffy' meant something obscene], they left, if not a glaring hole in continuity, a rather abrupt shift in scene.

The scene where Inspector Shekhar is brought to Kamini's house the first time, there is a conversation regarding parrots that can talk and those that can't. After Shekhar refuses the bribe, for that is what it is, he gets ready to leave. Kamini stops him. The next thing we know, he's in Mathur's house. These two scenes bookend Jaata kahan hain deewane. In between these, is the scene where Kamini offers him the drugged sherbet, all the while singing and dancing to keep him from leaving. 

Now, I'm as sure as I can be that I have seen this song in the film when I first watched it. I cannot imagine Doordarshan would have shown the uncensored version of the film on television; I also do not think that my memory is such that I can actually visualise the way that song was picturised without having seen it at least once. So that is an unsolved mystery right there.

The costumes were designed by a woman credited just as 'Bhanumati' - she would eventually evolve into Bhanu Athaiyya, the Academy Award-winning costume designer of Attenborough's Gandhi.  Choreography was by another legendary figure - Zora Sehgal, later acclaimed as an actress. Talking of the dance in the film, it was rather interesting to see Waheeda move/dance to Kahin pe nigaahein kahin pe nishaana. A trained dancer, one can see the grace in her hand movements in certain parts; in others, she achieved what my husband described as 'an almost Nargis-like stiffness'. Was it deliberate? Since Kamini, Waheeda's orphan character in the film most certainly wouldn't have learnt classical dance? 

C.I.D. went on to strike box-office gold, and an exuberant Guru Dutt presented his friend and associate Raj Khosla with an imported car. I have very few misgivings about this film, certainly none that I want to pick at. Despite certain flaws, this is one of the best films in its genre, and has aged amazingly well. If you are ever in the mood for a suspense thriller, do watch. 

(p.s. You can watch it online on Tom Daniel's channel.)

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