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22 March 2018

Nau Do Gyarah (1957)

Directed by: Vijay Anand
Music: SD Burman
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
Starring: Dev Anand, Kalpana Kartik, 
Jeevan, Shashikala, Lalita Pawar, 
Krishan Dhawan, Madan Puri, 
Jagdish Raj, Helen
For all my love of Dev Anand movies, there is one Dev Anand film that I haven’t watched quite as often. Which is strange because Nau Do Gyarah is not only helmed by Vijay Anand, it belongs to the era of DASS – my husband’s short form for ‘Dev Anand Shwet Shyam’. (Dev Anand Black & White). Not to mention the songs, which are my constant companions on my long drives. So, needing some Dev Anand love, I watched this again.

The movie begins with Madan Gopal (a rakish Dev Anand) being thrown out of his lodgings. This is a frequent occurrence – he never seems to have enough money to pay the rent, and at some point, the landlord/landlady wisens up. His present landlady (an exasperated Tun Tun) has had enough of his excuses.

Madan goes to his other lodgings (he appears to have rented two), only to find that the landlord had locked him out there as well. During Madan’s peripatetic existence, a friend had been collecting the mail on his behalf. Amidst that correspondence is a letter from a Seth Manoharlal – Madan’s uncle in Bombay.
The letter comes as a shock, albeit a pleasant one. Seth Manoharlal’s will, initially favouring Kuldeep, his sister-in-law’s son, he writes, is going to be changed. He is bequeathing his immense fortune – Rs9 lakhs in property and a further Rs2 lakh in the bank – to Madan instead.

On the promise of future wealth (and strutting in some borrowed plumage), Madan gets a loan from his initially-incensed boss to buy a rather picturesque lorry. All his worldly possessions bundled into the truck, Madan sets off for Bombay to claim his fortune.
Madan’s friend, meanwhile, is at a wedding when he sees Madan drive past. He flags Madan down and invites him to have a cold drink before he leaves. The bride –  an heiress, says Madan’s friend – is being wedded off to an unscrupulous Bombay hotelier.

The bride, Raksha (Kalpana Kartik), meanwhile, has been apprised by a friend that her prospective groom Surjit (Jeevan) is demanding more dowry. In fact, he’s threatening to leave with the baraat if his father-in-law-to-be doesn’t pony up. 
Raksha also overhears the conversation between Madan and his friend, from which she learns that Surjit is totally unscrupulous and her life will be ruined if she marries him; that in her place, Madan would have run away and, that Madan is driving to Bombay.

Soon, Madan is on his way. And we are treated to Madan's warbling as he gives us a driving tour through Delhi and beyond. 
As his song ends, he makes an unpleasant discovery – he has a stowaway, a young Sikh youth who introduces himself as ‘Sardar Nihal Singh’. Upon searching Nihal Singh’s belongings, he comes across a box of jewellery. He guesses it is stolen property, but Nihal Singh is self-assured, and has an attitude that so intrigues Madan that he allows Nihal Singh to travel with him. And he soon discovers that Nihal Singh has his uses. 
 
Madan makes one mistake, however. He allows Nihal Singh to persuade him to let him drive, only to find his ‘new’ truck lurching off the highway into the jungle below. Taking stock of the damage, Madan thinks it better they stay put for the night.

As they proceed to the back of the truck to rest for the night, Nihal Singh inadvertently lets his disguise slip. Madan, puzzled, overlooks that until… 
You know what happens next, right? After all, mausam bhi hai, mauka bhi hai, aur dastoor bhi. So, they bicker, they banter, they sing romantic duets on moonlit nights and by the time they reach Bombay, are the best of friends.
Raksha not having anywhere particular to go, Madan drives straight to his friend, Radheshyam’s (Madan Puri) house. There, he gets an unpleasant shock – his uncle has been dead for nearly a month and a half, says Radheshyam, and the house, the property and the bank balance all belong to Kuldeep, according to Seth Manoharlal’s will. Radheshyam brushes aside the news in the letter – Kuldeep and his mother have both denied a second will exists.
The friends agree that there’s something fishy going on. Radheshyam tells Madan that Kuldeep, his mother and siblings, all live at their Mahabaleshwar property, where they are in dire need of an estate manager. The only hitch is that any applicant would have to be married. Apparently, the previous incumbent had run off with a maid, leaving them short two servitors.
With the air of pulling a rabbit out of a hat, Madan introduces his ‘wife’.  Raksha is both amused and intrigued. She agrees to take part in the charade. A visit to the uncle’s lawyer before they leave for Mahabaleshwar elicits the information that while Seth Manoharlal had mentioned changing his will, he had died before the lawyer could meet him. No other will had come to light.
At Mahabaleshwar, Madan and Raksha are met by Kuldip’s mother (Lalita Pawar) – a wheel-chair bound, hookah-smoking gorgon who checks their references before handing them off to her daughter, Kamala.

Kamala shows them around the house, pointing out a locked room on the way, which she claims is haunted.  Then she takes them to their room – in the singular. Which leads to Madan sleeping in the bathtub (and singing for company) when he’s not searching for the missing will. 
Madan manages to enter the locked room unseen, but is forced to retreat, puzzled – the room, while empty, has been searched thoroughly at some point – the pillows and mattresses are ripped, tiles have been gouged from the floor, bricks dislodged from the walls… He is very nearly caught but an opportune telephone call rescues him.

The trunk call is from Kuldip’s girlfriend, Suneeta/Neeta (Shashikala). Kuldip wants her to come meet his mother. Neeta is a club dancer, working in a hotel owned by Surjit, Raksha’s erstwhile groom. Neeta is a gold-digger, but Surjit, using her car for his own nefarious purposes, blackmails her into staying with him.
Meanwhile, Madan has uncovered something strange –  Kuldip's hotel manager tells him that all the old servants were sacked. Madan tracks down one of them – Piruchand, who tells him that on the night Manoharlal died, he had heard the Seth quarrel with his sister-in-law. But Manoharlal had collapsed from the exertion, and Piruchand had been asked to fetch him a glass of milk. The Seth had died during the night.
Kalicharan, the gardener, says Piruchand, had talked to the Seth for nearly five minutes the day before his death. Unfortunately, the man was always mentally imbalanced, and after the Seth’s death, Kuldip had accused Kalicharan of stealing some documents and fired him. He, Piruchand, had also been fired that day. 
 
It’s all very maddening. Disappointed, Madan returns home only to be waylaid by Neeta. And Raksha.
And when he does meet Kalicharan, all the poor man can do is to warn Madan not to trust a woman or the earth, and mumble that the soil had betrayed him.
By now, Surjit has ensconced himself in the bungalow as Neeta’s cousin. And he has recognised Raksha. The Gorgon has been suspicions of Madan and Raksha as well, though the couple had managed to ease her doubts then.
Now what? Will Madan find the will if there is one? Or will Surjit entrap him on abduction charges?

There’s much to like about this film, not least the suspense and intrigue. Scripted by Vijay Anand, who held out for the directorial baton until his older brother acquiesced, Nau Do Gyarah saw the debut of one of the most influential voices in Hindi cinema. Barely 23 years old, Vijay Anand had wet his feet assisting his elder brother, and writing scripts in his spare time. It was clear that he had a firm grasp over the medium. 

Witness the cabaret sequence, Kya ho jo phir din rangeela ho,  which opens with the backup dancers playing different instruments, followed by a shot of a cigarette holder, and smoke rings wafting up into the air, with the camera panning to the elaborate set pieces before focusing on a sophisticated Shashikala and later, a young and charming Helen (a guest appearance; in fact, her only appearance in a Nav Ketan film Reader Ravindra Kelkar reminds me that Helen appeared in Jewel Thief).
  
Or look at the wide shots of the long, winding staircase and his clever use of light and shadow to frame his characters to heighten the tension. Or even the climax, which is shot in real time – five whole minutes of nail-biting suspense.
Kalpana’s Raksha was not just a regulation heroine who changes into a simpering miss after she falls in love. She is strong, independent, and is not willing to be walked over – whether it is by Surjit, Madan, or even her father. This was perhaps the only film in which I really liked Kalpana Kartik. I found myself saying 'Atta girl!' more than once.
Dev is Dev in all his glory. Handsome, suave, and charming. There is electricity crackling between the two, and their comfort with each other is very evident in their banter and their squabbling. It looked like they were enjoying each other’s company. However, this film was Kalpana Kartik’s final adieu to acting. 

Shashikala, as the vamp, also came up trumps from an opportunistic young woman to someone who's blackmailed into doing something far more dangerous than she'd ever been involved in, to willing helpmate, her change was gradual. Much is left unsaid, her expressions doing the talking for her. This was the only film in which she would co-star with Dev Anand.
Finally, the music! SD Burman came up with eight wonderful songs that ranged from a cabaret number to a romantic ballad to the bantering Q&A between the lead pair to the quintessential road song. In the hands of a director like Vijay Anand, the songs were very intelligently used as well, and picturised quite uniquely.  The situational lyrics were by Majrooh Sultanpuri, who wrote his first lyrics for the banner. And strangely enough, both Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar would playback for Dev Anand.

In backing his brother despite his apprehensions, Dev Anand gave us a director to watch out for; a fresh voice who showed he knew how to tell an entertaining tale in an entertaining manner.

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