Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Humraaz (1967)

A BR Chopra movie from the late 1960s, ‘Humraaz’ starred Sunil Dutt, Rajkumar, and Vimi (an actress I did not know at all before watching this film) in principal roles. Before I go on with my mumblings about the movie, I would like to mention two things about it that I found to be quite strange.

First. I have never seen a more disjointed movie. Essentially a murder mystery, the real action starts very late into its runtime. The first half of this lengthy enterprise is a slow romantic drama that takes place in the serene locations of Darjeeling.

Second. The first half an hour of the movie has three songs almost back to back. Now, there have been many movies that have used songs quite generously in their narratives, but I for one don’t recall seeing any other movie that has three songs with almost no spacing between them. And this one was supposed to be a murder mystery. However, it must be said that all the three songs are memorable ones.

“Neele Gagan ke Tale…dharti ka pyaar pale…”
“Naa Muh Chupa ke jiyo… aur naa sar jhuka ke jiyo…”
“Tum agar saath dene ka waada karo… “

But despite these two obvious shortcomings, Humraaz is a pretty good watch overall… Captain Rajesh (Rajkumar) and Meena (Vini) are in love and marry each other in a secret ceremony, without taking the approval of Meena’s father. The very night of their marriage brings bad news and Captain Rajesh has to leave for the front to fight the war. Subsequently, Meena receives News that her husband had lost his life while fighting in the war. Completely devastated, Meena, who by that time had discovered that she was pregnant, is forced to confide in her father. In a real predicament and fearing a loss of face in the society, Meera’s father decides to hide the whole affair. A few months later, he also tells her daughter that she had given birth to a stillborn child.

Some time soon, Kumar (Sunil Dutt) and his troupe- famous theatre performers from Mumbai, visit Darjeeling. Predictably, Kumar falls in love with Meena, starts to woo her, and finally manages to convince her of his love. They get married, much to the glee of Meena’s father, and then the story shifts to Mumbai. There, Meena starts accompanying Kumar to all his theatre performances, and ends up becoming a guiding strength in his life. Three years of marital bliss pass, and Meena receives the News that her father is terminally ill. She visits him and he makes a shocking admission that, three years back, she had not given birth to a stillborn child, and that he had lied to her. The child, her daughter, was with an orphanage in Mumbai. Wasting no time, Meena visits the orphanage and meets her daughter Sarika.

She starts frequenting the orphanage, and even takes Sarika home to make her meet Kumar. Kumar really takes to Sarika’s innocence and vivaciousness, but refuses to adopt her citing the problems that may arise in the future when they have their own kids.

A twist in the tale is executed when Meena runs into Captain Mahindra, and old confidante of Captain Rajesh, her first husband. Subsequent to her meeting with him, Meena stops accompanying Kumar to his performances and starts to make some clandestine visits in the city. Here things pick up pace and a series of quick happenings culminate in Meena being found murdered at her home, in circumstances which throw the needle of suspicion towards none other than Kumar. What happens next is the crux of the movie and is what makes it worth a watch.

The story, it can be said, is formulaic till the murder happens, after which things become really interesting and engaging. The last one hour or so has a frantic pace and keeps the viewer glued to the proceedings. The climax and the revelation of the culprit is not something on which most viewers would be able to make an accurate conjecture. All loose ends are tied-up pretty nicely and no questions are left unanswered.

BR Chopra was known for making musical suspense thrillers, and Humraaz is considered to be one of his better works. What makes this movie work apart from its last one hour is its music, and the performances by the cast, especially by Sunil Dutt who is fantastic in his portrayal of a suspect trying to prove his innocence. Flashes of his genius can be seen in the scenes of his on stage performances, especially towards the part when he starts to suspect his wife of some misdoing. His subsequent on-stage performance of Othello is stellar.

Rajkumar is a true scene-stealer and makes his presence felt. The actress Vini plays the damsel in distress pretty well, though in certain sequences, she appears a bit wooden. Balraj Sahni is featured in an extended cameo, as the investigating officer, and needless to say, he is just superb. Rest of the cast, including Mumtaz, provides able support.

Parting Note: ‘Humraaz’ is a pretty good suspense thriller with good music, suitable for a lazy Sunday afternoon viewing. 


  1. I like Humraaz too, though I agree that the first part of the film - that long-drawn out romance between the Vimi and Sunil Dutt characters - got a bit too tedious. But the songs still made it tolerable. The suspense after she meets Captain Mahender again starts building up brilliantly.

    Oh, I wish this film had starred someone other than Vimmy! I thought she was so absolutely wooden and expressionless - the only time she seemed to be at ease was in her scenes with Sarika. I wonder what the problem was - was she uncomfortable with the men?!

  2. I think Vimi looked too wooden as she took the character of the damsel in distress to heart- maybe it was her claim to fame and she wanted to do a really earnest job- As far as the reason you pointed out- then she shouldn't have chosen the profession she did :)

    But learnt a little bit of trivia from a member on another blog- that she died soon after- young and alone- maybe a hint there-

    As far as the songs go- yes they are wonderful- but they still didn't hold attention for me- as I am not really used to watching such old movies yet :) I am getting there- I guess after watching so many 'dusted off' movies, you would have developed quite a taste for such long drawn out romances :)

  3. Oh, as I pointed out in my comment, I don't like long-drawn out romances! But I specifically liked the songs in this film, so they made that first half bearable for me. Besides which, you don't need to see 'dusted off' movies for long drawn out romances: that is one trope Hindi cinema doesn't seem to have got over yet!

  4. "that is one trope Hindi cinema doesn't seem to have got over yet!"

    What a timely comment, evidently today's release Mausam is a long drawn romance, if there ever was one!!